James Mitchell

English 124.026: College Writing:  Literature and Technology

e-mail jbmitche@umich.edu  Web site: (http://www.umich.edu/~jbmitche)

Office:  3017 Tisch Hall Wed 12-1 and Friday 10-11 and by appointment


Description:  Beginning with the assumption that writing is a cumulative activity characterized by process, this course will introduce students to the pleasures and rigors of writing for a college audience.  Students will read and respond to novels, short stories, essays, and one anothers’ work with the goal of honing their academic writing skills.  Classes will be devoted to enhancing students’ writing strategies, sharing and discussing students’ essays, and discussing assigned literature.


Thematically the course will explore through a variety of readings how literature and technology intersect, both in fiction and in our ‘real’ lives.  Thus we will read fictional novels and short stories (such as Frankenstein and Dawn) as well as contemporary ‘scientific’ articles (for example, the human genome findings published by the U.S. Government) with an interest in how we as humans interact with science and

how scientific developments affect our human existence.  Together we will contemplate these questions (in addition to others):  How does American culture portray science and scientists?  How distinct is the divide between science and fiction?  How does technology affect our everyday lives and the ways in which we interact with others?  Who decides how technology is implemented and what are the implications of this for those unable to decide?


Required Texts (available at Shaman Drum Bookstore):

Elements of Style (Strunk & White); Pocket Style Handbook (Hacker); Through the Looking Glass (Carroll); Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde with Frankenstein (omnibus edition, Stevenson and Shelley); Dawn (Butler); He, She, It (Piercy); A required coursepack can be purchased at Accu-Copy.  I also recommend students acquire a college-level dictionary, a thesaurus, and a journal.


Class Courtesies, Absences, and Participation:

Please turn off all pagers and cell phones upon entering class. In order for our course to proceed harmoniously, please arrive on time to class.  I will take roll and tardiness will negatively affect your participation grade.  If you anticipate an absence, please let me know via e-mail.  You are allowed two absences without penalty to your participation grade (your learning, however, may suffer regardless).  Three absences will negatively affect your participation grade.  Five or more absences will result in failure of the course.  Absences will be excused only with proper documentation (UMHS paperwork, for example).  You are expected to have read completely the assigned works before attending class.  Because the success of the course depends so greatly on your collaboration with your peers and me, your active participation in class discussions and group workshops is required.





Mon 1/7

Calendar of Readings and Assignments:  Introduction

Wed 1/9

Elements of Style (first one-page paper due)

Fri 1/11

Elements; “Little Things Can Mean a Lot” (coursepack)

Mon 1/14

Through the Looking Glass (second one-page paper due)

Wed 1/16

Through the Looking Glass

Fri 1/18

Through the Looking Glass, “Politics and the English Language” (coursepack) (deadline for signed proposal of first longer paper)

Mon 1/21

Holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wed 1/23

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (third one-page paper due)

Fri 1/25

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Mon 1/28

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, “Parable of the Cave” (coursepack)

Wed 1/30

Eureka Phenomenon,” “Nature of Scientific Reasoning” (coursepack)

Fri 2/1

“Cold Equations;” “Jigsaw Man” (coursepack)

Mon 2/4

Frankenstein (fourth one-page paper due)

First longer paper due Tuesday, February 5 by 12 noon in my mailbox

Wed 2/6


Fri 2/8

Frankenstein (deadline for signed proposal of second longer paper)

Mon 2/11

“Human Genome Project” (coursepack)

Wed 2/13

“Ethics of Cloning;” “Stem Cells” (coursepack)

Fri 2/15

“Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us” (coursepack)

Mon 2/18

Dawn (fifth one-page paper due)

Wed 2/20


Second longer paper due Thursday, February 21 by 12 noon in my mailbox

Fri 2/22


Mon 3/4

Blade Runner

Wed 3/6

Blade Runner

Fri 3/8

Blade Runner (deadline for signed proposal of third longer paper)

Mon 3/11

“Forever Virgin:  The American View of America;” “The Trouble with Wilderness” (coursepack) (sixth one-page paper due)

Wed 3/13

“From Realism to Virtual Reality:  Images of American Wars” (coursepack)

Fri 3/15

“The Tyranny of the Clock” (coursepack)

Mon 3/18

He, She, It (seventh one-page paper due)

Wed 3/20

He, She, It

Fri 3/22

He, She, It

Mon 3/25

“When it Changed” (coursepack) (eighth one-page paper due)

Third longer paper due Tuesday, March 26 by 12 noon in my mailbox

Wed 3/27

“Homo Virtualis” (coursepack)

Fri 3/29

“Diary of an Immortal Man” (coursepack)

Mon 4/1

“Ideas and Trends;” “National Security Vs Online Privacy” (cp) (deadline for signed proposal of final project)

Wed 4/3

“How to Keep Vendors;” “Kafkaesque? Big Brother?” (cp)

Fri 4/5

“The Year in Technology Law” (cp)

Mon 4/8


Wed 4/10


Fri 4/12


Mon 4/15


Wed 4/17

Final Class

Final projects due Friday, April 19 by noon in my mailbox

One Page Papers:

These papers are due at the beginning of class on the announced dates.  They are your opportunity to explore in a concise manner one aspect of the text(s) you have read for that week.  Your one-page paper should contain a brief thesis and supporting evidence gathered from your reading to support this thesis.  These papers must be double-spaced and can be no longer than 320 words.  These papers are not summaries of the readings, nor are they ‘personal responses’ recording your feelings regarding the texts.  Instead, they ought to be practical applications of the analytical writing strategies you are discussing in class.  These papers will be graded on a typical ‘four-point scale:’  A=4; B=3; C=2; D=1; E=0.  You may rewrite, after reviewing your work with me in person and receiving my recommendation, up to three of these one-page papers.  Your rewrite must be submitted within a week of receiving your graded paper.  A rewritten paper does not automatically guarantee a higher grade.  You may choose to drop one of the lowest-scored one-page papers without penalty (that is, the paper’s score will be disregarded when I calculate final grades).  A paper that is not submitted automatically receives a “0” and cannot be dropped from the record.  All papers (one page as well as longer) must be submitted in MLA format (to be discussed in class).


Longer Papers:

These papers are due in my English Department mailbox by noon on the announced dates.  They allow you to explore course issues in depth and at greater length to develop progressively the sophistication of your writing by applying techniques discussed in class.  Longer paper #1 will be three pages; #2 five pages; #3 six pages; and the final project will be eight to ten pages long.  You must meet with me in advance to discuss your proposals for these longer papers.  Proposals must be approved by the announced dates.  This permits us to discuss your topics one-on-one and to work together to improve your writing and my teaching.  These papers will be graded on a typical ‘four-point scale:’  A=4; B=3; C=2; D=1; E=0.  You may rewrite, after reviewing your work with me in person and receiving my recommendation, up to two of these longer papers.  Final projects may not be revised after the due date.  Your rewrite must be submitted within a week of receiving your graded paper.  A rewritten paper does not automatically guarantee a higher grade. 


Late Papers:  Excuses for late papers will not be accepted except in extreme circumstances (sickness, family death) that are verified by documentation (UMHS paperwork, obituary).  Unexcused papers received late will be docked one full grade for each day they are late (thus a ‘C’ paper that is two days late will become an ‘E’). 

I will not accept papers via e-mail.



Grading for the course will be as follows:

Participation 10%

Longer papers (including final project) 55%

One-page papers 35%

Plagiarism:  I subscribe to and will enforce the English Department’s policy on plagiarism.