Program Mission

The First-Year Writing program at the University of Connecticut administers the different ways of fulfilling the University of Connecticut First-Year Writing requirement, offers classes that prepare students to fulfill the requirement, and coordinates with other campus programs to develop students’ writing skills throughout their time at UConn.

The University of Connecticut First-Year Writing requirement is a four-credit, single semester writing seminar; students may choose either an interdisciplinary seminar (English 1010: Seminar in Academic Writing) or a seminar somewhat more literary in nature (English 1011: Seminar in Writing through Literature). English 1010 emphasizes the intellectual purposes and discursive formations of academic writing; English 1011 does the same, making use of literary texts as a wellspring for writing and discussion. Both seminars, however, engage students in the work of academic inquiry through the interpretation of difficult texts, participation in the issues and arguments that animate the texts, and reflection on the significance for academic and general culture and for themselves of the critical work of reading and writing. Assignments in both courses highlight the work that writing does in academic, literary, and general culture, and they are arranged in sequences as a series of intellectual tasks. Read the full English 1010 & 1011 Course Description for more about these courses.

Students who do not feel ready to take English 1010 or 1011, or need more time to develop their writing abilities than one semester provides have the option of taking English 1004: Introduction to Academic Writing, a four credit seminar that guides students in developing their writing practices and introduces them to meaningful participation in critical conversations, before taking 1010 or 1011 to fulfill the requirement. Students with SAT verbal scores below 440 are required to pass English 1004 before continuing to English 1010 or 1011.

In addition to achieving some specific writing goals, such as the ability to write critical essays that demonstrate a thoughtful engagement with complex readings of some length that reflect points of view on material new for the students, the seminars are designed to help students develop, through revision and reflection, an understanding of themselves as writers and thinkers. Consequently, no matter how strong or weak students may be as readers and writers when they begin the seminars, they should all be more powerful and self aware writers, readers, and thinkers by the end of the course.

The First-Year Writing Seminars stress the value of revision as a means of achieving depth of understanding in reading and coherence, clarity, and control in writing. Revision is, so to speak, where the action is in writing, for it is through revision that we develop a more nuanced understanding of the texts under consideration and the shared world the texts draw us into. We might think of reading and writing as a kind of conversation between the text and the reader about a world that both text and reader are in the process of understanding. Rather than promoting an adversarial or exclusively evaluative model of writing, with such questions as “What are the weaknesses of the author’s argument?” or “Do you agree or disagree with the author’s position?” (although such questions could certainly be part of a series of questions), the seminars encourage students to think of themselves as participants–as they, in fact, are–in a collaborative process of questioning and discovery, at times working with and at other times working against the views and voices in the readings and among other students in the class. One goal of the seminars, then, is to provide a context within which students can work with academic texts, texts that constitute the work and the voices of the university. The students’ task is to enter into the conversation. To do this, they must see for themselves that the meaning of a text, no matter the discipline, is not contained exclusively in the words on the page, like peaches in a hermetically sealed container, but that meaning exists only through readers’ active participation. Texts live through the work of readers. In reading anthropology or physics or literary criticism, for instance, students will have to become, as reader response theory would have it, co-authors; they will have to construct a “reading” that makes the text meaningful. And in order to make their reading meaningful to others, they will need to write their own text for others to read, extending the conversation.

For the programs we coordinate with throughout the University, please see our Associated Writing Programs.