Course Lecture Titles
24 Lectures, 30 minutes / lecture
1. How to Write about Anything
What makes a particular piece of writing ‘good’? As you explore Professor Armstrong’s roadmap for the course, examine how a range of writing samples-including an essay by Virginia Woolf, poetry by Homer, and even a short note from a teenage girl to her mother-demonstrate essential aspects of effective writing.
2. How to Be an Effective Reader
Active, insightful reading skills are essential to any writer’s success. View the craft of writing from the reader’s perspective and train yourself to recognize nuanced moments and ideas in literary texts, including Moby-Dick and Le Morte Darthur, as well as the subtleties hidden within a practical set of driving directions.
3. How Literature Can Help
Investigate the dominant characteristics and conventions of five major genres of literature: prose, poetry, drama, essay, and autobiography. Then discover how, when used properly and with restraint, the distinct approaches of these genres can offer you a strong foundation and helpful inspiration for all sorts of writing projects.
4. Shaping Your Voice
Focus now on prose-the most common form of writing people engage with. Why is a writer’s voice such an important part of his or her work? How can you create a distinctive voice? What can authors like Hemingway, James, and Salinger teach you about the varieties of narrative styles?
5. Knowing Your Reader
A common danger for a writer is not respecting your audience. Learn how to avoid this pitfall by deducing the intended audience for Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Black Cat’ and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper,’ and by closely reading student essays that miss, misjudge, or offend their intended readers.
6. The Art of the Essay-How to Start
Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal’ and Thoreau’s ‘Civil Disobedience’ are two of the most famous argumentative essays in the Western literary tradition. Using their opening passages, examine why it’s so important that your opening argument be specific, be substantive, and pass what Professor Armstrong calls the ‘What?/So What?’ test.
7. How to Organize an Argument
Continue unpacking ‘A Modest Proposal’ and ‘Civil Disobedience’ (along with Paine’s ‘Common Sense’)-this time to learn how to write an organized and effective argument. Once you’ve mastered this skill, you’ll be able to more effectively guide your readers, as well as avoid structural flaws that may distort your goals.
8. Supporting Your Argument
To write persuasively, you have to effectively explain your supporting evidence. Three skills you focus on in this lecture: explaining how a piece of evidence works in your favor; providing a direct connection between your evidence and your conclusion; and acknowledging the arguments of others to strengthen your own.
9. Finishing Strong
Enhance the way you finish essays with three key strategies. A ‘negative consequences’ conclusion underscores the negative things that can happen if readers fail to support your argument. A ‘no viable alternatives’ strategy suggests that alternatives to your proposal aren’t likely to work. And the ‘positive consequences’ strategy emphasizes new possibilities.
10. The Uses of Poetry
How can poetry help you write better, even when you’re not writing poems? Here, Professor Armstrong uses poems to show that how you arrange your words can have as much of an impact as what they say. Also, delve deeper into the importance of tone and poetic devices like metaphors and similes.
11. Poetic Diction and Syntax
Continue your exploration of poetry and the ways it can enliven and strengthen writing. With the aid of poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins, Lewis Carroll, and e. e. cummings, grasp how specific words (with their literal and associated meanings) can make your writing more engaging-especially when they are used in an unconvent