WRTG 1150 First-Year Writing and Rhetoric


Christopher Ostro


The first-year writing courses at CU are designed to give you some experience writing various types of papers at the college-level.  Throughout the course you will write in various non-fiction genres.  Furthermore, I am a firm believer that a good writer is, more than anything else, a good reader.   With that in mind, we will practice close analytical reading together as a class.

In terms of a theme for the course, I wanted to pick something that would be intellectually interesting yet also challenging.  Furthermore, I needed the topic to be rhetorically complex enough that it would provide you young scholars with something to discover.  I decided that we should explore modern problems in the ancient world.  We will be reading ancient texts and modern texts that address the same concerns.  We will then discuss and debate what, if anything, examining these two works in close juxtaposition can teach us about the issue itself.  Historians often dwell on how similar or different the ancient world was from the modern.  The truth is more nuanced than that, with some things being very similar and others being wildly different.  In this course we will reflect on a variety of topics, some personal and others political, and examine these similarities and differences.  These reflections will be used as fuel for a variety of papers, with an aim towards improving your writing/research skills.

The ultimate goal of this course is that you will enter more advanced courses at CU and be able to analyze academic work and then succinctly/clearly discuss that work.  If nothing else, you will be equipped to ask the right questions.


The PWR assigns the following 6 goals for first-year writing and rhetoric course:

  • Develop rhetorical knowledge, analyzing and making informed choices about purposes, audiences, and context as you read and compose texts.
    • In this course we will be reading many texts, both ancient and modern, that have been carefully and deliberately crafted. These texts will be in a variety of genres, and will have a variety of different goals.  As a class we will unravel the intricacies of these texts so that as young writers we might consider incorporating them into our own writing.  The class will then write a number of papers in different genres, incorporating their understanding of the material.
  • Analyze texts in a variety of genres, understanding how content, style, structure and format vary across a range of reading and writing situations.
    • Towards the beginning of the course we will carefully examine the idea of “genre” through things you’re familiar with (Netflix, music, movies, video games, etc). As the class goes on we’ll take a more academic approach to the subject.
  • Refine and reflect on your writing process, using multiple strategies to generate ideas, draft, revise, and edit your writing across a variety of genres.
    • This class will be a safe place to practice and perfect your writing technique. We will have a number of workshops, group work, etc, all aimed towards helping you as a young writer develop your skills along every step of the writing process.  We will spend multiple meetings focusing on researching, drafting, peer-reviewing, and editing.
  • Develop information literacy, making critical choices as you identify a specific research need, locate and evaluate information and sources, and draw connections among your own and others’ ideas in your writing.
    • We will have a library seminar in which we examine all of the resources that are available to you as a CU student. You will also be required to take an online research tutorial.  You will leave this class with a much better grasp on how to do good research efficiently.
  • Construct effective and ethical arguments, using appropriate reasons and evidence to support your positions while responding to multiple points of view.
    • Argument is one of the most basic ways that we as humans interact. Whether it’s the commercials you hear on Pandora, the sidewalk chalk you saw on the way to class, or the late-night conversations you had with your dorm-mates, argument is a vital part of human interaction.  We will heavily deal with what does and doesn’t make a strong argument.
  • Understand and apply language conventions rhetorically, including grammar, spelling, punctuation and format.
    • Spelling and grammar are important, and almost ALWAYS, overlooked. Imagine the impression you’d have about me as a teacher if I’d opened up the first page of this syllabus with some typos and grammar mistakes.  Although it’s boring, grammar is an important part of establishing your credibility as a writer.  Although different genres of writing have different rules, most of your college writing will be academic.  That being said, we’ll still find some ways in class to try our hands at other types of writing.


Knowing Words 2016
Writer’s Help (Online Software)


  1. Paper 1 (5%): A 300-600 word paper over the first weekend where you describe what your experience as a student up until now has been like.
  1. Paper 2 (10%): A 900-1500 word rethinking of your first paper, wherein you juxtapose your experiences with those we’ve read.
  2. Rhetoric Exercise (5%): A 600-1200 word where you’ll get your feet wet with rhetorical analysis. You’ll pick a text that interests you and write about its rhetoric for the course. This will prepare you for Paper 3.
  1. Paper 3 (15%): A 1200-1800 word rhetorical analysis of ancient and modern justifications of warfare and political rhetoric generally.
  1. Final Paper (25%): A 2400-3300 word research paper wherein you explore a modern problem of your choosing in an ancient context.  You MUST run your topic by me by week 10 for approval.  We will spend the last 3 weeks of the course working on this one paper so that 25% is based on multiple assignments.
  1. Riot Tutorial (5%): You are required to complete the library tutorials by the time we begin our research paper.  Ideally you’ll have them done earlier as they will definitely help you on other papers as well.  For more information see Chapter 3 in Knowing Words.

Point distribution:

RIOT Tutorial:                                        5%

Writer’s Help:                                       10%

Participation:                                          5%

Rhetoric Exercise:                                  5%

Attendance:                                          10%

Workshops:                                           5%

Weekly Journal                                   10%

Paper 1:                                                   5%

Paper 2:                                                 10%

Paper 3:                                                 15%

Final Paper:                                          20% (5% for RD, 5% for Ann.Bib)


Now that you’ve selected your favorite Continuing Education courses, email or print the information, including class number, to more easily search Buff Portal and enroll. Still have questions? Contact an advisor.


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