Think of this course as having two sections or movements.
We will spend the first half of the semester reading Berger’s Ways of Seeing and assessing its uses and limits. Your main project as a writer will be to draft and revise a midlength essay in which you test one of Berger’s ideas against some examples taken from our current culture. (See Essay One for more details.) The final draft of this essay will be due before you leave for spring break. During this first part of the course you will also learn about the actual process of writing an academic essay: How to distinguish between, drafting, revising, and editing; how to make thoughtful use of feedback on your work; how to offer helpful advice to other writers; and how to design a stylish and effective document.
In the second half of the course, I will ask you to write another midlength essay in which you extend Berger’s approach as a critic. For this project you will need to locate at least one other writer who has drawn on an idea or term from Ways of Seeing and to show how we can use this updated version of Berger to understand some texts in our current culture. (See Essay Two for more details.) I’ve thus set aside several class meetings after spring break, marked extending JB, for us to discuss texts that you and your classmates have found. I’ve also marked several classes as studio sessions, in which I will guide you through a set of exercises in developing and refining your writing.
Your last assignment for this course will be to remediate a section of one your two essays. Remediating involves recasting a passage of written prose in some other medium—a collage of still images, perhaps, or a brief video clip, or an audio recording. The essays without words in Ways of Seeing are examples of this sort of work. (See Process for more details.)
You’ll get a lot of feedback on and support for your writing this semester. And so my expectations for the quality of your work will also be high. At the end of this semester, you should feel that you’ve been part of some interesting conversations about John Berger and our culture, and that you’ve done some writing of which you feel proud. Take the work of this course seriously, and I promise you that will happen.