Course Description

National discourse has unraveled so steadily throughout the years that fear has become the most common persuasive tactic deployed. Religious allegiance has overpowered reason. Irony has become a cloak used to hide in public, a preemptive white flag waived against confrontation, a self-conscious synonym for skirting responsibility in thought and action. There is no better time to ask if QWERTY is mightier than the sword, to learn from the masters of thought and expression, to practice wit. Wit involves a sharpening of the mind, not in what one thinks, but how one thinks. In this seminar, we will read fiction, essays, plays, and poetry that will inspire young contrarians toward a self-determined life.

In this cross-genre creative writing course, students will investigate and apply the rhetorical structures of wit. Rather than reading for content alone, students will read for craft and discuss how each work functions. We will use the books and essays to discuss satire, definitions and redefinitions, polemics, digression, dialogue including banter and consensus, point of view and proximity of the speaker to the narrative, and voice.

Texts and Readings:

Devil’s Highway, Luis Alberto Urrea
Essays, Michel de Montaigne (selections)
Gargantua and Pantagruel, Francois Rabelais (selections)
The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis
Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion
The Voice at 3 a.m., Charles Simic
W;t, Margaret Edson

Student Learning Objectives

1. Analyze, appreciate, and critically evaluate creative nonfiction, plays, poetry, and other written and spoken messages across interdisciplinary, cultural, and historical contexts;
2. Construct creative, persuasive, and publishable arguments and increase writing proficiency through written forms characterized by original and insightful theses, supported by logically integrated and sound subordinate ideas, appropriate and pertinent evidence, and good sentence structure, diction, grammar, punctuation, and spelling;
3. Organize their thinking to express their viewpoints clearly, concisely, creatively, and effectively;
4. Select and use the best means—including but limited to satire, polemic, digression, dialogue—to deliver a particular message to a particular audience.