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Writing 340: Contemporary Writing Studies

Catalog Entry

Writ 340 introduces students to the contemporary history of and various trends within writing studies, with a particular focus on composition theories prevailing from roughly 1960 to the present. Students first examine the historical events that helped shape composition classrooms before exploring a variety of theoretical approaches to understanding and teaching writing. The course engages students in analysis, comparison and contrast, classification, reflection, and argument in projects that include written, oral, and multimodal assignments and projects. Students conclude the semester with an argumentative exploration of their own position(s) within the theoretical fields of writing studies in terms of understanding their own writing histories and possible futures as well as a final reflection about their growth as writers and theorists of composition throughout the course.

The course emphasizes understanding contemporary composition theories in order to situate students’ writing experiences within those theories and to guide their current and future writing practices.

Course Goals

  • To develop an understanding of contemporary composition theories, their use in writing instruction, and their impact on writing experiences;
  • To recognize, through comparison, contrast, and classification, the ways in which composition theories overlap and diverge;
  • To analyze prior writing experiences in order to identify and explore their theoretical context(s); and
  • To evaluate current theoretical approaches in order to develop a coherent individual composition theory.

Course Projects

Since understanding and applying composition theories relies upon analysis of and reflection on past and current writing experiences, the major assignments provide space for the exploration of those experiences. The assignments build sequentially, using analysis, reflection, evaluation, and argument. In addtition to weekly writes about one or more of the readings, students will complete a prior assignment analysis, a group theory presentation, a theoretical position statement, and a final reflection.


Berlin, James A. Rhetoric and Reality: Writing Instruction in American Colleges, 1900-1985. Southern Illinois UP, 1987.