ENGL 5100: The Theory and Teaching of Writing

ENGL 5100, “The Theory and Teaching of Writing,” is the graduate seminar that joins the scholarship of teaching and writing to the work of teaching a FYW course. All new graduate teaching assistants in the English Department are required to take the course during their first semester. (Students who have taken a similar course before can apply for an exemption.) Ideally, anyone who teaches a FYW course should have some experience with ENGL 5100 or an equivalent course. ENGL 5100 is usually taught by the Director and Associate Director of First-Year Writing.

Course Description and Goals

ENGL 5100 has two goals: to provide insight and support for the day-to-day practice of teaching writing while also encouraging critical reflection on the values, principles, and implications of teaching writing. One assumption behind those two goals is that practice and theory are not dichotomous. Any practice,whether particular teachers are aware of the fact or not, enacts a theory even as writing theory is itself a practice.

Each informs the other. What we are positing as a unit (theory and practice as one), we often tend to experience as a split. We feel very practical pressures in our classrooms as we struggle with deciding what to assign, how to work with readings, what to do with student papers, how to grade as fairly as possible, and so on. These practical pressures serve as a centripetal force that centers our attention on the seemingly closed world of the classroom. But there are also centrifugal forces at play when we consider the multiple contexts that surround the classroom; these contexts, whether they’re disciplinary (the values associated with “English”), institutional (the demands of the university curriculum), social (the larger world outside of the classroom), or (and) personal make it impossible to see the classroom as a neutral site of learning where the only questions are about the effective presentation and objective evaluation of language. Versions of these centripetal and centrifugal forces are always at play simultaneously forming what Mikhail Bakhtin would call “an embattled unity” or what Judith Butler might see as an opportunity for parrhesiastic struggle. We like to think of the practical and theoretical as always in dialogue, each animating the other. One way to think about our class then is as an effort to understand that dialogue, to participate in it, and to direct it in ways that will make our immediate experiences intelligible and productive and that will also provide a conceptual ground work to sustain our teaching and scholarly careers.

By the course’s end, we hope you will be able to

  • Articulate a clear sense of your project as an educator and as a scholar
  • Theorize your own practices as a teacher of writing and, to a lesser extent, as a writer
  • Situate yourself into the continuing conversation about the teaching of writing, particularly within this program’s practices
  • Reflect on the implications of your projects and your role in the academy

Readings / Bibliography

The reading list below is a compilation from multiple semesters of ENGL 5100 and is not necessarily taught in one semester, but will give you both a sense of the course’s work and values and a list of readings to pursue as you have time and interest.


  • Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays
  • David Bartholomae, Writing on the Margins: Essays on Composition and Teaching
  • Judith Butler, Giving an Account of Oneself
  • Deborah Coxwell-Teagueand Ronald F. Lunsford, eds. First-Year Composition: From Theory to Practice.
  • Joseph Harris, Rewriting: How to Do Things with Texts
  • Byron Hawk. A Counter-History of Composition: Toward Methodologies of Complexity.
  • T.R. Johnson, ed. Teaching Composition.

Essays,  Articles, and Book Chapters

  • Theodor Adorno, “The Concept of Intellectual Experience,” “The Essay as Form,” “The Handle, the Pot, and Early Experience,” “Punctuation Marks”
  • Jonathan Alexander and Jacqueline Rhodes, “Flattening Effects: Composition’s Multicultural Imperative and the Problem of Narrative Coherence”
  • Chris Anson, “Response Style and Ways of Knowing”
  • David Bartholomae and Anthony Petrosky, introduction to Ways of Reading: An Anthology for Writers
  • Walter Benjamin, selections from The Arcades Project and from Archive
  • Don Bialostosky, “What Should College English Be? Should College English Be Close Reading?”
  • Pat Bizzell, “The Intellectual Work of ‘Mixed’ Forms of Academic Discourse”
  • Deborah Brandt, “When People Write for Pay.”
  • Bill Brown, “Thing Theory”
  • Judith Butler, “Responsibility” and “What is Critique? An Essay on Foucault’s Virtue”
  • Michel de Certeau, “What We Do When We Beleive”
  • Suresh Canagarajah, “Theorizing Translingual Practice”
  • Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on Societies of Control”
  • Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, from A Thousand Plateaus
  • Sidney Dobrin, “Ecocomposition Postcomposition”
  • William Duffy, “Collaboration (in) Theory: Reworking the Social Turn’s Conversational Imperative”
  • Hans-Georg Gadamer, selections from Truth and Method
  • Antonio Gramsci, “The Study of Philosophy”
  • Joseph Harris, “Revision as Critical Practice”
  • Richard Haswell, ‘The Complexity of Responding to Student Writing; or, Looking for Shortcuts via the Road of Excess”
  • N. Katherine Hayles, from How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics and from How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis
  • Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, selections from Dialectic of Englightment
  • Bruce Horner, “Re-Valuing Student Writing”
  • Julie Jung, “Reflective Writing’s Synecdochic Imperative: Process Descriptions Redescribed”
  • Michel Foucault, “Signs and Cases”
  • Bruno Latour, “Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern”
  • Tyson Lewis, “Rethinking the Learning Society: Giorgio Agamben on Studying, Stupidity, & Impotence”
  • Min-Zhan Lu, “An Essay on the Work of Composition: Composing English Against the Order of Fast Capitalism”
  • Marielle Macé, “Ways of Reading, Modes of Being”
  • Andrew Means, “Jacques Rancière, Education, and the Art of Citizenship”
  • Richard Miller, “The Dark Night of the Soul”
  • National Governors Association, selections from The Common Core Standards
  • Jacques Rancière, “On Ignorant Schoolmasters,” “The Politics of the Spider,” and “Thinking Between Disciplines: An Aesthetics of Knowledge”
  • Shelley Reid. “Teaching Writing Teachers Writing: Difficulty, Exploration, and Critical Reflection.”
  • Jeff Rice, “Occupying the Digital Humanities”
  • Thomas Rickert, from Ambient Rhetoric: The Attunements of Rhetorical Being
  • Mariolina Salvatori, “Converations with Texts: Reading in the Teaching of Composition”
  • Raúl Sánchez, “Theories of Culture in Composition Theory”
  • Joan Scott, “The Evidence of Experience”
  • Tony Scott, from Dangerous Writing
  • Geoff Sirc, “Resisting Entropy”
  • James Slevin, “A Letter to Maggie”
  • Nancy Sommers, “Responding to Student Writing” and “Across the Drafts”
  • Gayatri Spivak, “Reading the World”
  • John Trimbur, “Consensus and Difference in Collaborative Learning”
  • Susan Wells, “Claiming the Archive for Rhetoric and Composition”
  • Kathleen Blake Yancey, “Made Not Only in Words: Composition in a New Key”