This Week

This is an overview of readings, deliverables, and in-class work for the week of

For additional details about this week’s work, please see the course calendar.


ENGL 3090-Expository Writing: Writing About Material Culture

Fall 2014 │ T/TH 4:00-5:15 │ CLSO 303

Instructor: Dr. Robin Wharton

Office: 25 Park Place #2434

Office Hours: M/W 9:30 to 10:30, T/Th 2:30 to 3:30


Course website:

Assignment submission, unless otherwise noted: Marca

Course Prerequisite: English 1102

I reserve the right to change the policies, schedule, and syllabus at any time during the semester.


ENGL 3090 builds on the competencies developed in English 1101 and 1102, with a special emphasis on composition intended to explain, inform, and describe. As with any kind of writing, expository writing is rhetorical; it has a purpose, audience, author(s), and context. Consequently, this course will continue to develop your ability to identify, analyze, and respond to rhetorical situations.

Regarding the purpose of the writing we’ll be doing this semester, the other primary subject matter of this course will be the material world of objects through which we move in our day to day lives. We will consider why we are driven to create, use, consume, and accumulate things. Why and how do we form emotional attachments to inanimate objects? What do the possessions we own say about us–about our social and economic status, our cultural and ethnic identities, our psychological profile? To what extent is human behavior and expression dependent upon tools, prostheses, and other material goods? Does being human require a world of objects against which or through which we can define ourselves? These are the sorts of questions the field of material culture has evolved to answer, and these are the questions we will take up and examine in our reading and writing.

Finally, we will consider the place of expository writing as part of a larger multimodal project of exposition. In addition to writing, we use a variety of other modes–oral, visual, electronic, nonverbal–to interact with and communicate about the material world. Developing your ability to integrate your writing with these other modalities will improve your rhetorical expertise.

Learning Outcomes

This course follows the guidelines established by the English department for courses in the rhetoric and composition track. The learning outcomes for this course can be found here.

Language conventions

This course presumes that because you were exempt from or passed English 1101 and then passed English 1102, you have a basic knowledge of standard American English, including but not limited to variations in sentence structure, subject-verb agreement, pronoun-antecedent agreement, parallel structure, dangling modifiers, grammatical expletives, possessives and plurals, punctuation, capitalization, word choice, and various other grammatical and mechanical problems. If you are someone for whom this knowledge and practice are a struggle, this course gives you time to improve. If you do not, your grades will be severely affected. You have resources available at GSU to help you improve your knowledge. In the Writing Studio ( you can work one-on-one, in private, with a tutor to improve. Writing Studio tutors can also help you to help you refine already strong competence, moving from good to excellent. The Purdue OWL ( has resources to assist you with identifying and correcting common grammar, punctuation, and usage errors, and to help you with formatting citations and bibliographies.

Texts and Resources

Please see the Texts and Resources page.

Overview of Projects and Grade Calculation

Over the course of the semester, you will be completing a series of projects, each of them building towards and contributing to a multimodal object analysis and your final portfolio. Failure to complete projects early on will make completing later projects that reuse or remix work from previous projects more difficult. It’s especially important, therefore, to keep up with the work in this course.

Each project includes multiple parts, including drafts, peer review, and reflection. See the Project Descriptions page for details about the process, deliverables, and deadlines associated with each project.

  • Project 1: Blog (Individual): 15%
    • Semester-long project
    • Weekly deliverables (alternating weeks between posting and commenting)
    • 12 Topics
    • 6 Posts
  • Project 2: Twitter Essays (Individual): 5%
    • 2 September through 11 September
    • Drafts due 2 September, and 9 September
    • Peer reviews due 3 September, and 10 September
    • Revisions due 4 September, and 11 September
    • Reflections due 11 September
  • Project 3: Photo Study (Individual): 10%
    • 2 September through 2 October
    • At least one photo captioned and uploaded to Flickr daily throughout the course of the project, see Project Descriptions for further details.
    • Reflections due 2 October
  • Project 4: Timeline (Individual and Collaborative): 10%
    • 30 September through 16 October
    • Drafts due 7 October, 14 October
    • Peer reviews due 8 October, 15 October
    • Revisions and reflections due 21 October
  • Project 5: 3-D Modeling (Individual): 10%
    • 21 October through 6 November
    • Drafts due 30 October
    • Peer reviews due 31 October
    • Revisions and reflections due 6 November
  • Project 6: Multimodal Object Analysis (Individual): 25%
    • 11 November through 4 December
    • Drafts due 18 November
    • Peer reviews due 21 November
    • Revisions and reflections due 4 December
  • Project 7: Final Portfolio (Individual, in lieu of a final exam): 15%
    • Semester-long project
    • Drafts due 4 December
    • Final Portfolios due 16 December
  • Participation and Lightning Projects (Individual and Collaborative): 10%

Policies (including attendance policy)

In this course, students are expected to adhere to the Georgia State University student code of conduct.

This includes the university attendance policy. Excused absences are limited to university-sponsored events where you are representing GSU in an official capacity, religious holidays, and legal obligations such as jury duty or military service days. Absences for all other reasons will be counted. You are permitted four absences without penalty. Missing more than four classes will result in a deduction of one-third of a letter grade for each additional absence. Missing eight or more classes will result in automatic failure of the course. In the event of extended illness or family emergency, I will consider requests for individual exemption from the four-absence limit on a case by case basis.

Students who wish to request accommodation for a disability may do so by registering with the Office of Disability Services. Students may only be accommodated upon issuance by the Office of Disability Services of a signedAccommodation Plan and are responsible for providing a copy of that plan to instructors of all classes in which accommodations are sought.

English Major Senior Portfolios: (include this statement on your syllabi, too) The English department at GSU requires an exit portfolio of all students graduating with a degree in English. Ideally, students should work on this every semester, selecting 1-2 papers from each course and revising them, with direction from faculty members. The portfolio includes revised work and a reflective essay about what you’ve learned. Each concentration (literature, creative writing, rhetoric/composition, and secondary education) within the major may have specific items to place in the portfolio, so be sure to check booklet located next to door of the front office of the English Department. Senior Portfolio due dates are published in the booklets or you may contact an advisor or Dr. Goodman, Director of Undergraduate Studies. See the English office for additional information.

Receiving a grade of “incomplete” – in order to receive an incomplete, a student must inform the instructor, either in person or in writing, of his/her inability (non-academic reasons) to complete the requirements of the course. Incompletes will be assigned at the instructor’s discretion (if you have specific criteria for assigning incompletes, put them here)and the terms for removal of the “I” are dictated by the instructor. A grade of incomplete will only be considered for students who are a) passing the course with a C or better, b) present a legitimate, non-academic reason to the instructor, and c) have only one major assignment left to finish.

Your constructive assessment of this course plays an indispensable role in shaping education at Georgia State. Upon completing the course, please take time to fill out the online course evaluation.

Specifications on some course-specific policies are below.

Mobile Computing Policy

If you have them, you may bring laptops or mobile computing devices to class for use in in-class activities.

Project and Assignment Submission

All final projects must be completed and received by their due dates in order to pass the course. All parts of a project (i.e., drafts and reflections), including ungraded parts, must be completed by their due dates in order to pass the project.

See individual project descriptions for how to turn in each deliverable.

All projects and deliverables must be turned in to me before the due date and time. I will not accept projects or assignments in my mailbox or over email unless noted in class or in the assignment or project description. If you know that you will be unable to turn in a project or deliverable on time, please contact me in advance of the date in question: we may be able to make arrangements for you to turn your project or deliverable in at another time.

Work turned in after the due date/time will be penalized as noted below:

  • 1 day late (including work turned in after the due time): 10% off total project grade
  • 2 days late: 20% off total project grade
  • 3 or more days late: failure of the project.

These are not class days.  They are “real” days, and include weekend days.  If there’s an assignment due on Monday, Tuesday is 10% off, Wednesday is 20% off, etc.

Participation and Office Hours Visits

Participation includes taking part in in-class discussions, completing assigned reading, exercises, and other homework assignments, participating in group activities, and developing a professional relationship with me through office visits, email communication, and asking questions before, after, and during class.

Please take advantage of my office hours: they exist for your benefit. While I won’t do your work for you (e.g., I won’t proofread your documents), I will respond to your specific questions. In my experience, students who regularly use office hours tend to do well in the course. If you’re not able to come during my scheduled office hours, please contact me, and we’ll arrange another way to meet.

Class Schedule

See Course Calendar for reading and assignment/project due dates.

Image credit “Coffee cup jungle on my desk at work” by Geir Halvorsen on Flickr:

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Dr. Robin Wharton | 25 Park Place #2434 | Office Hours: M/W 9:30 to 10:30, T/Th 2:30 to 3:30