Everyday narratives are those informal stories we tell each other about ourselves and our quotidian experiences. They may be about little things (like gossip and idle chit-chat, or what happened to you when you went to the store), or more profound things (like how you faced imminent danger or negotiated a poignant moral quandary). Such seemingly innocuous narratives reveal facets of life that we normally take for granted but which prove, on closer inspection, to have tremendous impact on who we are, our social relations, and the way we think. In this module, we will analyze everyday narratives in terms of identity politics, how they instantiate social power, and how they frame epistemological knowledge not normally associated with narrative as a mode of representation. Students will generate a corpus of genuine sociolinguistic narrative data and analyze it in an interdisciplinary framework, including sociolinguistics, psychology, anthropology, rhetoric, narrative theory, and cognitive sciences. Emphasis will be placed on three areas: the deployment of everyday narrative for identity politics; the role of everyday narrative in social organization; and the cognitive and discursive affordances and constraints of narrative in contexts not normally associated with narrative as a mode of representation/informational organization.
Rhythm of the Class
The writing you do in this class will be based on a close examination of data that you collect, together with secondary sources that you use to help you analyze that data. In general, the activities in class will consist of discussions in class about the readings, analyses of data, and examining the writing that you produce. In your writing assignments, the typical pattern will start with a low-stakes assignment to get a sense of the task, followed by a high-stakes assignment which undergoes at least one round of edits and revisions. These will in turn build up to your most substantial work, a research paper that advances an original argument about data that you (and classmates) have collected. The final assignment will be a reworking of this research paper as an opinion piece for a public audience, and you will be expected to submit it for publication to a newspaper (or other publication) of your choice. The module will be intensive, enlightening, and fun.
Learning to Write
Like all WCT modules, the overarching purpose of this module is for you to develop skills in academic writing. The main genre of writing that you learn in this module is evidence-driven academic argument; through learning this genre, you will pick up skills of analysis, argumentation, rhetorical organization, and persuasion that can be applied to writing tasks in various disciplines. Accordingly, the module emphasizes writing as a process. You will produce and revise drafts for each of the writing assignments, and thereby learn the requisite stages of the writing process: brainstorming, planning, data analysis, thesis statement formulation, initial drafting, revision after receiving criticism, and final editing. In addition, you will learn a core vocabulary for important rhetorical moves and strategies in order to be able to discuss writing, Approximately 70% of class time is devoted to teaching you how to develop questions and problems, read actively, write in an academic mode (especially argumentation), use sources according to disciplinary protocols, and use disciplinary methodologies appropriately. Through a series of sequenced assignments, you will read, respond, and question ideas generated by published writers and apply it to a data set generated by you and your classmates. This data set serves as the material about which you will formulate academic arguments and author your writing assignments.. Even as you draft your own essays, you will read and review your peers' writing. Each graded piece of writing goes through multiple drafts, and each student will engage in four formal conferences with the instructor to talk about specific aspects of your analyses, writing and argumentation.
This course is conducted seminar-style, and thus requires a high degree of participation and engagement. There is no passive learning offered here, no lectures. The class meetings are discussion-based, with a close analysis of your writing and issues germane to writing skills. In short, your participation drives the class, and one of the goals of the module is for you to develop academic habits and practices that will help propel you through your USP and NUS careers.