Fame and Infamy writing academic arguments

ENC 1101: Dr. Shannon Butts

Course Description

This course examines the rhetorical and practical elements of writing effective arguments for contemporary academic audiences. The theme for our course is Fame and Infamy. Throughout, we will use ideas surrounding fame to organize what and how we write. The concept of fame is more than who is trending, topping the charts, or getting the most media coverage. While Beyonce and the President are certainly famous, popular issues such as climate change, gun control, or the rising cost of education also draw attention. Fame can describe the latest celebrity or the biggest political issue. In addition, fame can mean a favorable, widespread appeal, or a disruptive, infamous, scandal. Working with concepts of fame and infamy, our class will analyze, research, evaluate, and compose arguments that engage popular culture and practice writing for social change.

The first part of our course will define arguments for an academic audience. To foster our development as academic writers, we will establish a writing culture in which we learn how to analyze both our own and our peers’ writing. In the second part of the course, we will explore various forms of analysis used in academic reasoning. In particular, each student will use a classification analysis to define or evaluate a culture or idea associated with fame that will be his or her focus for the rest of the course. We will then use a causal analysis to determine what brings about a problem the particular culture faces. In these units, we will apply our knowledge of rhetoric and persuasion to real-world issues and write for social change.

In the culminating section of the course, we will be writing to change the world in a very literal way. In a proposal argument, students will describe a significant problem and a reasonable solution. Applying all of the skills developed in the first parts of the course, students will put their ideas into action in such a way that moves an audience to act, not hypothetically, but in the real world and for a real audience. As we practice our argumentative skills by writing for social change, we will also improve our critical thinking through reading, writing, and discussion, and will attend to basic research skills, including documentation and avoiding plagiarism. Additionally, we will examine and practice academic conventions of word choice, sentence structure and variation, and paragraph formation. Texts will include traditional sources such as a writing handbook, textbook, and reader, but we will also examine the arguments in other texts—in popular culture, advertisements, and websites, for example.

Course Materials

Kirszner, Laura and Stephen Mandell. Practical Argument. 3rd ed. Boston, Bedford/St. Martins, 2017. Print. [You may use the UF edition or the regular 3rd edition.]

Bullock, Richard, Michal Bordy, and Francine Weinberg. The Little Seagull Handbook, 3rd ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2017. Ebook.

All other reading will be available on Canvas

Course Outcomes

  • Plan, draft, revise, edit, and proofread forms of argumentative essays
  • Read, write, and think critically
  • Adapt writing to different audiences, purposes, and contexts
  • Use evidence to effectively support argumentative claims or theses
  • Write an organized, logical argument
  • Avoid plagiarism and create direct, grammatically-correct sentences
  • Write coherent, cohesive, and clear paragraphs
  • Demonstrate a clear, graceful writing style
  • Effectively revise and edit their own writing and the writing of others

Major Assignments

Argument Analysis

In this paper, students will analyze how a particular essay tries to persuade its readers through the use of argumentative claims and evidence.

Understanding how arguments work is the first step to creating our own effective arguments. Thus, for this assignment, you will analyze the structure and content of a MEME! More than mere images and words, memes often connect to larger issues, make specific claims, or try to persuade an audience through a combination of elements and appeals. In this paper, students will pick a meme and analyze how the meme tries to persuade readers. In your analysis you should:

  • Identify the thesis of the meme in question - what is the argument the meme responds to? What is the meme doing and how? Is the meme effective?
  • Use evidence to defend the thesis - describe the larger argument the meme responds to and how the meme contributes to the conversation. Show how the meme makes a point.
  • Assess whether the meme is logical and effective.

A superior analysis may also identify the assumptions made in the text and assess whether readers are likely to agree with those assumptions. Your analysis should present a thesis and offer convincing evidence in support of every claim that you make.

Evaluation Argument

In this assignment, students will choose a problem (or trend) to investigate and will describe the problem in terms of what it faces or creates, using classification as a descriptive strategy. Attention to essay structure, the use of evidence, and logic will be especially important for this paper. In this assignment, students will evaluate a program, issue, or trend. For a program, consider an institution you know well (for example, a school, business, church, or recreation center) and that you believe works especially well or poorly. For a problem or trend, consider the "why" of how or what an idea works. Evaluate how a problem is a problem or how a trend came to be. Imagine that you are writing for an administrator with the power to reward or shut down an operation or change elements of the issue or trend. Defining ideas and terms and creating clear criteria to evaluate your topic are key to creating a clear evaluation essay.

First, identify the categories by which you will analyze the institution. For instance, if you are evaluating a school gym for the school board, you could set up criteria such as space, equipment, and accessibility. Use headings to organize your paper according to your analytical criteria. Analyze the idea by applying each criterion, offering specific examples as evidence. You are not simply determining whether it is a good or bad program or facility; instead, you are developing an analysis of the situation to convince the administrator to act in a specific way. At the end of the essay, you must provide the administrator with a summary of the analysis and a recommendation to act upon.

Causal Analysis

In the third paper, students will devise an argument that either traces what caused a problem or projects what potential impact/effect(s) a problem could have on society as a whole. If done successfully, students will have established a convincing line of logical reasoning that also attends to rhetorical subtleties.

Writing Self Assessment

Looking back at the first three papers, students will analyze their progress in the course thus far. Specifically, students will identify areas of their writing that need work and describe a plan for improvement.


For the final paper, students will consider a contemporary problem and argue (1) that the problem exists, (2) how to solve the problem, (3) that the solution is feasible, and (4) that particular benefits accrue to relevant stakeholders—paying particular attention to rhetorical scope, audience, and logical organization.