How well do you know yourself? We sometimes imagine that we come by our knowledge of ourselves in quite acts of introspection, executed in long bouts of solitude. But when you reflect on what it means to be you, you do not do so in a vacuum. You rely on resources that your society has provided for you. You draw on the language and stories of your community to make sense of your experiences, needs, and aspirations. And you benefit from conversation with others, who will challenge your assumptions and provide perspectives that transcend your own. In this course, we will explore the ways in which public discourse affects our senses of who we are, for better or for worse.
Throughout the semester, students will complete a series of short, ungraded assignments, in which they will practice the diverse skills involved in writing, editing, and revising. In addition, students will draft and revise four major writing projects. First, students will analyze and critique a published personal essay, identifying ways in which the author fails to recognize or to comprehend important aspects of his or her own story. In the second and third projects, students will analyze and critique public discourses about anger and disease (respectively). Here, our goal will be to identify the unspoken (and sometimes pernicious) assumptions that underlie these discourses, and the ways in which these assumptions distort our senses of ourselves. Finally, students will write their own personal essays, in which they will attempt to grapple with the ways in which public discourse has shaped their self-conceptions.