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English 137H

Course Coordinators: Debra Hawhee and Jessica O'Hara

What is English/CAS 137H/138H?

An innovative first-year honors course, English/CAS 137/8H offers comprehensive training in the oral, written, visual, and digital communication skills necessary for the 21st century. The course lasts is sequential and lasts over two semesters; ideally, students will remain in the same sections—with the same instructor and classmates—for both terms, providing an opportunity for thoughtful community building and learning.

Who can take ENGL/CAS 137H/138H?

The course is open to first-year Schreyer Honors College students and Paterno Fellows Aspirants.

What else do I need to know?

The first part of the sequence, ENGL/CAS137H (Rhetoric and Civic Life I), focuses on understanding rhetoric in a variety of cultural contexts. Students will practice incorporating visuals in oral presentations while also learning to analyze how visual rhetoric works in the world around them. In the process of becoming “critical citizens,” students will research, discuss, and analyze public controversies. The course provides explicit training in general library and digitally based research methods, as well as interview-based research. In addition to formal writing and speaking assignments, students in the course will hone their interactive rhetorical skills by using a blogging platform to explore a topic about which they are passionate, to engage course readings together, and to share work in progress.

The second course in the sequence, ENGL/CAS 138H (Rhetoric and Civic Life II) expands knowledge and aptitudes built in ENGL/CAS 137H by asking students to use rhetorical skills and principles to develop strategies for persuasion and advocacy in the context of civic issues. The course continues the multimodal emphasis (the focus on oral, written, visual, and digital communication) used in 137H and adds new components as well.  Students develop a repertoire of communication skills through hands-on practice at composing and delivering speeches and essays, and they work with digital media to create multimedia texts, podcasts, and websites. Students reflect on these different modes as themselves rhetorical choices. The course's civic and ethical components take center stage as students learn how to deliberate important public issues thoughtfully and with civility and respect. They learn the difference between persuasion and advocacy and develop strategies for both in the context of pertinent local, national, and global issues. They will participate in a public deliberation forum on topics they generate and vote on. The forum will be organized to allow small deliberative action groups as well as large forum-style meetings. The course focuses on ethics in many contexts—e.g., community action and public deliberation; ethics of persuasion; ethical controversies in the disciplines. A portfolio assignment is designed to permit assessment of learning outcomes and encourage students to move toward qualifying for the College of Liberal Arts Excellence in Communication Certificate.

For more information, see the Rhetoric and Civic Life website.

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