College Writing: Argument & Analysis ENGL 112, Spring 2017, New Mexico Tech

Dr. Shawn M. Higgins

  • Preferred Pronouns: He, Him, His
  • E-mail:
  • Office: Fitch 212
  • Office Phone: 575-835-5455
  • Office Hours: MW 0800-1400 and by appointment.
  • Office Hour Sign-ups (via QR code below or link):

Office Hour Meetings

All discussions of in-class work, participation, essay drafting, and grading take place during office hours. The instructor submits no written comments back to students without having met in office hours. Students should arrive to office hours on-time with note-taking materials. Students should take notes on the content of the discussion.

Course Learning Outcomes

A) Read and think critically, B) Define problems, C) Examine claims and evidence, D) Organize and evaluate information, E) Persuade, inform, and/or engage through rhetorical strategies in writing and speaking, F) Tactically craft grammatical, syntactical, and dialectical structures, G) Analyze an audience for situation, purpose, and point of view, H) Plan out writing as part of a cycle, I) Collaborate with others, J) Revise compositions with specific improvements, K) Integrate research correctly and ethically, L) Engage in reasoned civil discourse while recognizing the distinctions among opinions, facts, and inferences.

Course Summary

This is a 3-unit, lower-division, undergraduate course in the field of Humanities. This course has a prerequisite of ENGL 111 or a placement from SAT or ACT scores. This course serves as a prerequisite for many other courses on campus as part of the required writing sequence. This course helps to complete the Area 1 — Communications section of the General Education Core Curriculum requirement for a Bachelor of Science degree.

This course specifically introduces students to concepts of visual rhetoric through the mediums of memes, advertisements, comics, and graphic narratives. Students will investigate how argument and analysis functions differently in the combination of image and text as opposed to a "standard" academic style essay. Naturally, this course involves a great deal of reading, discussion, writing, and revising as part of the writing cycle. Each aspect of the cycle must be completed in order to be successful in this course.

Notes on the Course from Dr. Higgins

  • Do your best, and I’ll always respect that. Greatness comes from perseverance.
  • Think of writing like a sports contest. There are moves, strategies, and penalties to consider. Learn the game and play to win!
  • Take risks. You have a great deal of freedom in this course to work through texts in your own way. The ultimate goal of this course is to display your deep and critical thinking through writing. The risks I am asking you undertake include venturing into new cultural endeavors of argumentation and communication. While aspects of language such as grammar, spelling, and meaning are hard to throw away entirely, take calculated risks in making language yours!

Required Supplies

  • 8.5" x 11" lined paper, pencils/pens, highlighters (at least 3 different colors), sticky notes.
  • An Internet-ready device with battery life supporting a 75-minute class.

Required Texts

Course Schedule

(In general, all readings/viewing should be done before class on Tuesday so that we can draw from any/all texts in discussion throughout the week).

(Subject to change. Last updated 17 April 2017)

Week 1 (Jan 17 & 19): Introductions, Defining Your Terms [In-class 1: Picture relay game, syllabus, define an abstract] [In-class 2: Course term definitions, following directions, writing for clarity] [Texts: UC “Setting the Record Straight” 2-23, Tiki-Toki Timelines, Meme Generator]

  • Create a meme reflecting on our reading and write a 200-word analysis of your product. Meme Novices: Use Meme Generator, Meme Experts: Use imgflip

Week 2 (Jan 24 & 26): Icons, Abstraction, and Universality [In-class: Why MLA? (Form), inclusive & exclusive cartoons, new abstract concept symbol design] [Texts: UC “The Vocabulary of Comics” 24-39]

Week 3 (Jan 31 & Feb 2): Concepts, Senses, and Words [In-class: Christian trap music (form) vs. Baroque music, Masking and attention to detail, simple styles for simple stories?, [Texts: Kandinsky "On the Problem of Form" (1912, PDF), UC “The Vocabulary of Comics” 40-59]

  • Choose a company/product logo (Logopedia or other sources) and write a 200-word analysis of its position on the three vertices of reality, language, and the picture plane

Week 4 (Feb 7 & 9): Closure, Reasoning, and Cultural Relativity [Texts: Schwartz Media (1983, PDF), UC “Blood in the Gutter” 60-93]

  • Complete a 200-word close reading of Schwartz's text, paying as equal attention as possible to both positive and critical comments. A close reading involves either direct quotation or paraphrasing, including page numbers in either case. Then, analyzing his writing on macro and micro levels (e.g. themes, issues, assumptions / word choice, emphasis, rhetorical juxtaposition), explicate what you find enlightening while also highlighting moments where you might build upon/tweak/correct his work/arguments.

Week 5 (Feb 14 & 16): Depiction, Perception, and Narrative Linearity [Texts: Tezuka Buddha Vol. 1.1 "Brahmin" 8-58 (1987, PDF), UC “Time Frames” 94-117]

  • Before class on February 14th, write a 200-word argumentative piece on the merits/demerits of linearity in narrative progression. Revise and resubmit that piece before class on February 16th

Week 6 (Feb 21 & 23): Stylizing Writing 1: Line, Shape, Color, Synæsthetics [Texts: UC “Living in Line” 118-137; Lacher “I’m Comic Sans, Asshole” (McSweeney’s, 2010)]

  • Choose a symbol from and write a 200-word analysis of its graphical characteristics, its cultural knowledge assumptions, and its position as a picture or symbol

Week 7 (Feb 28 & Mar 2): Stylizing Writing 2: Low/High/WTF Art [Texts: UC “Show and Tell” 138-161]

  • No post this week!
  • Bring in a product and give a 3-minute presentation about its choices in styling and advertising. Consider the text, images, style, flourishes, shape, etc… and all the connotations you think go along with those choices. Be sure to point out both effective and ridiculous choices if applicable.

Week 8 (Mar 7 & 9): Art and the Creation Cycle [Texts: UC “The Six Steps” 162-184]

  • Begin considering the idea/purpose, form, idiom, and structure of your final researched project. Think this over long and hard during Spring Break.

Week 9 (Mar 14 & 16): Spring Break (No Classes)

Week 10 (Mar 21 & 23): Commerce and Technology [Texts: UC “A Word about Color” 185-192, Birk American Qur'an (2015) in class]

  • Write a 200-word argumentative piece for or against the use of color in academic essay writing.

Week 11 (Mar 28 & 30): The Power of Understanding [Texts: McLuhan Understanding Media 7-21 (1964, PDF), UC “Putting It All Together” 193-215]

  • Write a 300-word analytic piece answering McCloud's question, "Why is this medium we call 'comics' so important?"

Week 11 (Apr 4 & 6): Library Research and Annotated Bibliographies [Texts: Read Trinity]

  • This annotated bibliography begins the "crafting" of your researched project. It will be due on April 18th at the beginning of class.
  • Bring (Print) two different types of annotated sources to class on Thursday. These should be formatted according to MLA's 8th style guide. Find information here:

Week 12 (Apr 11 & 13): Writing Center Tutor Visit [Homework: Continue crafting annotated bibliography and researched project]

  • Class cancelled on Thursday, April 13. I will be presenting research at the Association for Asian American Studies conference in Portland, Oregon.

Week 13 (Apr 18 & 20): Multimodal Text Writing [Texts: Lunsford Everyday Writer "18: Writing for the Humanities"]

  • Discuss Trinity in class.

Week 14 (Apr 25 & 27): Writing in the Humanities [Texts: Lunsford Everyday Writer "22: Making Design Decisions"]

  • Bring in a complete draft of your researched project. We will be peer-editing them in class, bringing a shine to the "surface" of your work.

Week 15 (May 2 & 4): Making Design Decisions [Texts: Lunsford Everyday Writer "24: Communicating in Other Media"]

  • Bring in a complete draft of your researched project. We will be peer-editing them in class, bringing a shine to the "surface" of your work.

Week 16: Researched Project Submissions

Grading Policy

  • 15% = In-class participation (verbal and written production, not just listening/staying awake)
  • 50% = Weekly assignments (9 responses and 1 annotated bibliography, 5% each).
  • 25% = Researched Project of 2,500 words all-in (This grade is broken down as follows: 10% for structuring elements, such as brainstorming, storyboarding, drafting, and peer-editing practices; 10% for putting the essay together as a finished and cohesive draft, and another 5% for essay finishing, such as office hour meetings and revisions).
  • 10% = Text Presentation (a five-minute presentation on a given reading. One minute spent introducing the subject of focus in an engaging fashion, three minutes summarizing the text, one minute positing reflections and questions for consideration).
  • A (100-94) | A- (93-90)
  • B+ (89-87) | B (86-83) | B- (82-80)
  • C+ (79-77) | C (77-73) | C- (72-70)
  • D+ (69-67) | D (67-63)
  • F (62-0)

Homework Policy

When submitting a Microsoft Word file, please format all documents in MLA style and submit them through Canvas. All documents that disregard these guidelines without approval will lose up to 10% of points.

Due to the sequential, cyclical nature of this course, it is imperative that assignments be finished on-time. One assignment leads to the next. Steps in the cycle cannot be skipped.

Classroom/Office Hours Recording Policy

According to N.M. Stat. Ann. § 30-12-1(C), "The reading, interrupting, taking or copying of any message, communication or report is unlawful without the consent of one of the parties to said communication" (Updated 7/11/2016). My lectures, notes, handouts, and displays are protected by state common law and federal copyright law. They are my own original expression, or when they are taken from another source, they are documented accordingly. Students are authorized to take written notes in my class; however, this authorization extends only to making one set of notes for your own personal use and for no other use. "Smart pen" digital recording/writing utensils are not allowed in this course or in office hour meetings. If you wish to record my lecture, you must receive written authorization at the beginning of each class session; authorization during one class period does not extend to another separate period. If you are so authorized to record my lectures, you may not copy this recording or any other material, provide copies of either to anyone else, post these on any form of social media (regardless of privacy settings), or make a commercial use of them without prior written permission from me.

I want this classroom to be accessible for all students, including those with learning differences (disclosed or undisclosed) and/or those needing accommodations. Please feel free to meet with me at the beginning of the semester to discuss more long-term concerns.

Created By
Shawn Higgins


Created with images by MITLRproductions - "Batman - Comic Book Bam!"All photos by Shawn M. Higgins

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