Sample Syllabi

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First Year Writing II (ENGL 1102)

Invention, Exploration, and the Elements: The Rhetoric of Science from the 18th Century to Today

The first mercury thermometer; the discovery of Uranus; miniaturization of clockworks; the leyden jar; carbonated water; the hot air balloon; gas lighting; vaccines – all of these are examples of scientific advancements and inventions made in the 18th century that are still important to both the study of the natural world and society today. Every innovation and invention that influences our lives in the 21st century has its roots in the scientific exploration of the past. 2019 is designated the International Year of the Periodic Table, celebrating 150 years since Gregor Mendeleev drafted the first version of the chart hanging in every Chemistry classroom across the world. HalleyBut even before that design event in 1869, the 18th century was fulminating with the exploration of our planet and observable extraplanetary space. And, as Sam Kean writes in his book about the history of the Periodic Table, The Disappearing Spoon, “No less than a scientific, there’s a social history of the elements” (203).

Using the Georgia Tech Writing and Communication Program’s WOVEN curriculum, students in this course will consider the rhetorical principles of communications about science, conduct individual and collaborative research projects into the social history of science from the 18th century to today, and engage in the design and creation of multimodal artifacts to convey what they discover. These artifacts will include: discussion posts, videos, wiki/blog pages, and their own periodic tables (of information other than the elements). Students will begin by reading Kean’s book, then delve into the history of many of the events, lives, and experiments he narrates. Whether it’s broadsides detailing predictions about solar eclipses throughout the 18th century, journals published by learned societies, or caricatures satirizing smallpox vaccines, this class will analyze media conveying scientific knowledge from the 18th century and design their own multimodal artifacts that do the same.


The Age of Letters: Epistolarity in the 18th Century

The epistolary is often regarded as an eighteenth-century phenomenon. Rachael Scarborough King recently argued that letters function as what she calls a “bridge genre,” creating connections between forms, as well as functioning as a nascent genre from which others grew. Novels, poetry, newspaper articles, pamphlets all were composed in the letter form. Ordinary people wrote to each other about history and nature, business and religion, personal triumph and tragedy, love and politics. With literacy and global expansionism on the rise, more and more of the population in Britain and around the world began to participate in a culture of epistolary exchange that spread ideas spanning mountain ranges and oceans. The eighteenth century was an age of letters as communication, as well as of lettered people. This course will explore eighteenth-century epistolarity through its many genres: fictional, actual, poetic, political, and cultural. Engaging with eighteenth-century letter texts, students will analyze and discuss the methods by which letters were exchanged, how fiction explored epistolary culture, where letters served as devices to promote conversation, how letter-writing permeated eighteenth-century society, how ideas about consciousness and the self could be portrayed through letters, and how letter writing persists in twenty-first century communication, even if we do not realize it. Using the Writing and Communication Program’s WOVEN curriculum, students will analyze and replicate letters in the projects they complete for the course, which may consist of textual annotation and analysis, video design and creation, map-making, and blog post composition. These projects will require individual or collaborative work, depending on the assignment, and students can expect to present their ideas to the class, both formally and informally.


Our Literary Mothers: British Women Writers in the 18th Century

In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf suggests that women writers should lay flowers on the grave of Aphra Behn, in tribute to Behn’s position as the trailblazing woman who supported herself by her writing. Since Woolf’s acknowledgement of Behn’s contributions opening up the intellectual, financial, and literary worlds to women, many other women writers of the eighteenth century have been touted as putting cracks in the canon: Anne Finch, Frances Burney, Charlotte Smith, Elizabeth Montagu, Mary Wortley Montagu, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Mary Shelley are only a few of the women whose writing changed their world and the world of literature in the period. This course will explore eighteenth-century writing by women in conjunction with the texts these women inspired, reacted to, and revised, placing examples of the period’s literature in conversation with each other. Though we will be reading texts by and about men, women, and non-binary individuals, our focus will be on how women writers negotiated their place within the culture of the long eighteenth-century. Using the Writing and Communication Program’s WOVEN curriculum, we will explore multiple genres of communication including drama, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, editing, and discussion. Students will analyze and replicate these styles of communication in the projects they complete for the course, which may consist of textual annotation and analysis, video design and creation, map-making, and blog post composition. These projects will require individual or collaborative work, depending on the assignment, and students can expect to present their ideas to the class, both formally and informally.


Birthday Suits: Materiality of the Body in the 18th Century and Today

In Samuel Richardson’s 1740 novel Pamela, a character mentions needing a “birthday suit,” by which he means a new suit of clothing to wear when attending events celebrating the King’s birthday. Yet, in today’s parlance, the term has come to signify nakedness, the human body in its natural form, thus suggesting the idea of bodily materiality encompasses a multifaceted landscape. Using our WOVENText curriculum, we will consider how eighteenth-century models have been transformed – or not – leading to the ways bodies are presented and represented in the twenty-first century. How do modern image texts, including videos, cartoons, ads, and photographs, provoke similar questions about size, shape, costume, attitude, class, gender, and race as eighteenth-century understandings of bodily materiality? How do scenes from television shows such as Grey’s Anatomy resemble dissection theatres in the eighteenth-century? How do today’s clinical trials for medical treatments compare to rhetorical and empirical methods that were developing during the 1700s? Why do publications such as The Spectator comment on dress and gender performance like modern periodicals do? What techniques do writers such as Jonathan Swift share with cultural critics today? The class will also include a visit to the Bodies Exhibit in Atlantic Station, in addition to challenging students to produce various multimodal artifacts that explore historical trends in the scientific study of the body, gender performance, and visual portrayal of bodies in literature, nonfiction texts, and print culture.


Harry Potter and the Material Object

Though we often believe that we, as individuals, are separate entities from the things in our lives, everyday objects – books, computers, phones, silverware, clothing – are integrated parts of our lives and existences. In this course, we’ll consider how J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, a cultural phenomenon that has affected a wide audience in the twenty years since it was first published, transcending age, gender, race, and class barriers, portrays objects and the interactions between objects and characters in Rowling’s novels. Materiality functions much differently in the fictional Wizarding World than in reality, so that a book or a broomstick might engage with a character independently of their wishes, and things (with a few exceptions) can be created, erased, or transformed with a thought. We’ll be reading the novels and exploring some theories of human/object interactions, as well as learning new ways to think about the material world and communicating those idea through multiple modes, both digital and analog. Students will design and create their own material objects, present them to an audience, and analyze how objects and humans’ interactions with them can reveal meaning and significance in both fictional worlds and the world which we inhabit. Things are everywhere – how are we connected to our things, and how are they becoming part of our selves?


Your Obedient Servant: Movement of Information in the
Age of Print Media and Beyond

What does it mean to convey information between people: between individuals, between the masses, between nations? In an age when a message can be sent with the push of a button, when we can communicate via emojis, and we can block access for those whom we chose, the notion that news could days, weeks, months, or years to arrive at its destination – or maybe never arrive at all – is occasionally hard to fathom. This course will examine the ways in which letters, the postal service, newssheets, periodicals, and pamphlets gave rise to email, tweets, video chats, and websites as means of disseminating information, both personal and public, over the last two centuries. Using multimodality and the WOVEN curriculum (Written, Oral, Visual, Electronic, and Nonverbal), we will consider how twenty-first-century means of communication have been shaped by those of the eighteenth and nineteenth century. How did ideas, social norms, public policies, and scientific advancements spread before the internet – when a pen and ink was the only way to communicate over distances? Why and how was the promulgation of print and visual culture intertwined, and why do we still read the letters of ordinary people who lived in the eighteenth century? What can the method by which information was conveyed show us about the modes through which we communicate today? How can twenty-first-century technologies of communication teach us about our relationships with our friends, families, communities, and the world? We will discuss these topics and others in this ENGL 1102 course.


First-Year Writing I (ENGL 1101)

Did We Print Enough Pamphlets for the Revolution?: The Rhetoric of Social Justice from the 18th Century to Today

We will explore the fundamental rhetorical principles of communicating about social justice, beginning with Mary Astell and Mary Wollstonecraft’s feminist tracts in the 18th century. The threads of contemporary thinking about human rights originated in the Enlightenment, when the foundations were laid for such documents as the United States Constitution and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To “read the Peterlooriot act” refers to an 18th century law banning large gatherings of people in the streets; the First Amendment guarantees freedom from government censorship due to British laws prohibiting certain types of speech. Broadsides, periodicals, novels, poetry, and pamphlets spread ideas that bolstered support for and criticism of women’s rights, abolition, gender construction, and political change, creating a basis for the turn to digital means of disseminating revolutionary ideas in the 21st century. Engravings and caricature both conveyed information and criticized society through satire, just as media such as The Onion and The Colbert Report do today. The need for social justice is not a new phenomenon, nor is activists’ desire to bring change to cultural structures; the means of disseminating ideas have simply evolved.

While many early discussions will revolve around Anglo-American-centric calls for social reform, later class meetings will explore global social justice issues, including women’s rights, worker’s rights, voting rights, LGBTQ rights, educational reform, and climate/ecological justice. Tech’s location in Atlanta provides unique access to civil rights memorials and museums, so this course will include a trip to the MLK Jr National Historic Park or the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. In addition, given our focus on issues of social justice and the wide range of potential topics for discussion, while I will assign foundational materials, you will have the opportunity to collaborate on the structure of the course. Using the Georgia Tech Writing and Communication Program’s WOVEN curriculum, students will gain an understanding of multimodal forms of communication and be able to model Written, Oral, Visual, Electronic, and Nonverbal modes in their own work. Students will research social justice movements from both an historical and a contemporary perspective, focusing on rhetorical principles of communication, in order to understand how media work to perpetuate or undermine existing systems, to provoke change or maintain the status quo. Artifacts designed and created individually or collaboratively may include videos, podcasts, tweets, posters, or webtext, among other means of representing social justice aims, with the ultimate goal of designing a comprehensive social justice media campaign. Students will analyze, design, and create their own examples of social justice communication across a variety of topics. Together, we will determine what texts we read based on your specific interests, what artifacts you will design and create, and criteria for evaluation and success for your work, in this student-centered course.


Biomedical Innovations and the Question of Ethics

Utilizing texts that question, challenge, and document changes in biomedicine and the ethical considerations of such innovation since the 1950s, students will hone their skills in rhetorical practices across multiple modes of communication. This class will seek to emphasize the importance of communication skills in the dissemination of information about these new and exciting technologies. These will include written projects, visual essay design, journal blog posts, presentations with visual components, and a group research project culminating in a podcast episode. Innovations in biomedicine seem to appear almost daily on the evening news, on radio broadcasts, across our newsfeeds, and in fictional narratives. From gene therapy to designer babies, therapeutic uses of blood doping to scandals in cycling, the effects of scientific advancement and their engagements with existence as we know it permeate facets of our lives, some of which we might not even realize. As we consider what drives these developments and what are the underlying ethical implications of pushing the boundaries of the human, students will design, create, and communicate their ideas on the subject through various modes and media.


Technical Communication (LMC 3403)

Technical Communication and Social Justice

Justice statue with code on monitor device in background

Our course addresses issues of social justice and the ways they affect communication in the workplace as well as influence scientific and technological innovation. For example, facial recognition software misidentifies Black men, airport security scanners misgender trans* people, and healthcare AI demonstrates biases based on factors such as race, body type, and gender. Researchers recently viewed social media accounts of women with MDs and suggested that images of these women in bikinis affected their ability to practice medicine, while other researchers attempted to correlate women’s attractiveness and prevalence of endometriosis. Data visualizations related to infection rates of COVID-19 do not always contain information about the populations who are infected, and can sometimes be misleading or difficult to read. Hardships related to climate change disproportionately affect disadvantaged populations. Studies relying on data collection often analyze numbers without considering the broader contexts of that data and the research itself, e.g., who is collecting the data and why? About whom is that data collected? What power is wielded by the researcher and over whom? How will that data be used? And how is the knowledge produced from studying data communicated ethically, equitably, and accessibly to both expert and non-expert audiences?

We will focus on analyzing and producing examples of clear, effective technical communication in multiple genres and directed at various audiences. Some of the questions we will address include: How does technical writing in your discipline involve and produce issues of social justice? What genres are appropriate for your rhetorical situation, and how do you identify your rhetorical situation? How do you inform different audiences about policies related to race, gender, age, or ability? How can you effectively relay information about complex subjects to non-expert audiences? How can you identify ineffective or discriminatory communication strategies and suggest alternative options? We will discuss these questions and others, learning effective multimodal approaches applicable to a wide range of communication genres, audiences, and contexts. Our class discussions will concern topics that might be uncomfortable, which means that professionalism and respect for each other will be vital.


Graduate Academic Writing (CETL 8721)

Graduate Academic Writing

This course is designed to familiarize graduate students in the sciences and engineering with various genres of academic writing and communication. By conducting rhetorical analyses of example materials across genres, students will understand the conventions by which each of these genres is produced and how to assess the rhetorical situations surrounding them. Students will work to improve their existing writing and communication skills in these genres, utilizing the writing process through multiple stages (including revision and peer review), as well as improve their abilities to collaborate with colleagues. We will discuss principles of rhetoric and why these are important for communicating in the scientific and engineering communities, both for the university setting and academic writing for a broader audience.