All posts by marthaschaffer

About marthaschaffer

I am Associate Director of Composition at Case Western Reserve University, teaching in the English Department and the Seminar Approach to General Education and Scholarship (SAGES) Program.

Contemporary American Rhetoric: A University Seminar

I am teaching a new course in the Case Western Reserve University SAGES Program.  SAGES stands for Seminar Approach to General Education, and it is a unique melange of general education, writing across the curriculum, composition studies, and seminaring (my newest verb).  SAGES University Seminars offer students an opportunity to explore a topic intensely through reading, writing, and critical thinking.  There is no separation of writing instruction from the larger curriculum, and students gradually narrow their topics of study into their major area, where they complete a capstone project.  The writing becomes more independent.  We begin with realizing that there are academic conversations, and end (education-wise anyway) with making a unique contribution to one of those conversations.  In developing a University Seminar for SAGES, I wanted to explore not only academic conversations, but also the conversations that students as people and community members encounter so that they  might see writing as a way of engaging in social and cultural conversations.  Thus, Contemporary American Rhetoric.  In this course we will explore public and political conversation at the local level (campus, hometown), the state level, and then the national (maybe even global?) levels and learn to analyze conversations using concepts from ancient rhetoric AND to actively enter those conversations confidently, with knowledge, and with a desire to participate in our communities.  One of our writing projects over the course of the semester is to use a blog to flesh out ideas, share ideas, and quite simply use writing as a tool for thinking in a digital and social space.  I intend to keep up a blog along with the students.  I am excited to get things started in the course and to learn about what matters to different people, how we can respectfully debate and proactively learn and understand public policy issues, and what we can do to have an impact on the communities we inhabit.