Course Overview

ENGL 1101, Section SF1
Georgia Tech, Summer 2017

Lauren Neefe / Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow /
Office hours: Tue. & Wed., 12:30–2pm or by appointment
Highland Bakery by Tech Tower

MTWR 10:05–11:55am / Hall Bldg., Rm 103
PORTFOLIOS DUE Fri., July 28, by noon (12 p.m.)

Either taken for granted or else overshadowed by the visual, what we hear is crucial to understanding, misunderstanding, and making ourselves understood. This introduction to multimodal communication and expression will emphasize the role of sound and listening in Georgia Tech’s WOVEN (Written, Oral, Visual, Electronic, Nonverbal) approach to composition and critical thinking. Each of three units — on silence, listening, and voice — will explore the challenges of hearing more consciously and conscientiously in order to develop ideas and arguments. We will analyze discussions of sound in a variety of genres and media, from podcasts and film to traditional and graphic essays in print, as rhetorical models to imitate in developing skills and strategies for making focused claims and supporting them with evidence.

All readings will be listed and available on the Schedule page of this website unless otherwise specified.

You should bring your laptop as well as paper and pencil/pen to every class.

You should have access to the Microsoft Office software suite and the Adobe Design suite, either on your computer or via one of the university’s media labs.

I am a Romanticist, which means that of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world of English literature, I chose to specialize my expertise in the culture, ideas, and writing of the Romantic period: that is, the turbulent, revolutionary, ambitious years between the American and French Revolutions (1776, 1789) and the institution of the Fugitive Slave Act in the United States (1850).

It also means that I want to help you cultivate, in John Keats’s inimitable words, your “negative capability,” that is, your tolerance for “being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” This is NOT to say that I want you to avoid “reaching after fact and reason.” Those two friends are essential elements of any successful rhetorical appeal. It IS to say that I want you to carve out space and time for taking risks in your thinking, your process, your writing, and your collaboration, because that uncomfortable space of uncertainty is precisely where you learn. Engineers and product designers like to call this space of risk taking “tinkering.” In this course, I encourage you to develop your capacity for uncertainty both on your own and in your interactions with your peers. It is as important to me that you learn from one another what I can’t teach you as that you learn from me those things I absolutely can.

My greatest ambitions for the course and for the class, therefore, are that you surprise me, that you surprise yourself, and that we surprise one another with what we didn’t know we could think and do.

In addition to those outcomes determined by the Writing and Communication Program and Georgia Tech more generally (available for public viewing here), the following learning outcomes may be expected in this course:

  • An understanding of the usefulness and value of active listening to a variety of rhetorical situations
  • An increased awareness of the rhetorical power of sound (i.e., sound makes arguments against and alongside images and words)
  • A developing sense of one’s voice, oral, written, and bodily
  • The cultural significance of standard, formal, and vernacular registers of a language.

The Writing and Communication Program at Georgia Tech teaches communication as a multimodal practice. In other words, we want you to develop a sense of communication as the synergy of several modes, assembled into the acronym “WOVEN,” which stands for Written, Oral, Visual, Electronic, Nonverbal. You may therefore expect the activities and assignments in this course to engage you in rhetorical situations by way of several, but not necessarily all, of these modes. This course highlights the nonverbal and oral modes.

Written communication. You need to make writing your friend, and you need to learn how to get good at it. In this course, you’ll do a lot of different kinds of writing, directed at different kinds of audiences and structured around different purposes: free writing, blog posts, blog comments, an episode proposal, slide text, a script for your podcast, and reflections on your process, strengths, and weaknesses throughout the course. The final portfolio requires a 1,200- to 1800-word reflection on the work you have done over the course of the semester.

Oral communication. You need to make speaking your friend, and you need to learn how to get good at it. In this course, you’ll be asked to speak in a variety of situations, but you’ll also be asked to pay close attention to the way others speak. You’ll record an audio blog post, review your peers’ work, participate in class discussion, speak briefly in front of the class to introduce a performance, and record conversations with your classmates for a podcast segment.

Visual communication. You need to make design your friend, and you need to get good at making the form and the content of your arguments, in whatever mode or medium, work together. In this course, you’ll create a video that engages your classmates, use your body to convey an idea in front of your classmates, embed and caption images in blog posts, create compelling, succinct slides to pitch a story concept.

Electronic communication. Software is probably already your friend, but you need to refine and advance your facility with the applications you know and expand your toolkit of applications. In this course, you will use video and audio software, this site’s blog platform, Prezi presentation software.

Nonverbal communication. You need to make sound and silence your friends, and you need to start getting comfortable in your body when it’s your turn to speak. You also need to become aware of your body when it’s your turn to listen to others speak and perform. In this course, you will perform a silent argument in front of the class, interpret how images advance arguments independently of words, think about how sounds advance arguments without words — and actively listen to your instructors and your peers throughout.