Aug 21, 2018  
Course Catalog 2010-2011 
Course Catalog 2010-2011 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Rhetoric and Composition

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Anne R. Trubek, Associate Professor; Dept. Chair
Nancy Boutilier, Visiting Instructor

Jan Cooper, John Charles Reid Associate Professor
Laurie Hovell McMillin, Professor
Leonard A. Podis, Professor


The Rhetoric and Composition Department supports the college-wide commitment to the teaching of writing. Writing is one of the primary skills needed at Oberlin and is also necessary for almost any occupation to which an Oberlin graduate might aspire. Beyond these practical values, writing serves as one of the most essential tools for inquiry in a liberal education. All Oberlin students are strongly encouraged to pursue the goal of writing well.


Writing Requirement

The writing requirement applies to all students in the College of Arts and Sciences. The requirement also applies to all transfer students and double-degree students. Students changing divisions from Conservatory to College or becoming double-degree candidates are also subject to the requirement. The Rhetoric and Composition Department administers the requirement.

  1. By a score of 5 on the English Language/Composition or Literature/Composition Advanced Placement Examination; by a score of 710 on the old SAT II Writing Test (not the current SAT)
  2. By certification of proficiency in writing from two different Oberlin College instructors who have taught the student in specially designated “writing intensive” (WRi) or “writing certification” (WR) courses in two different departments or programs. One of these may be a private reading course or a Winter Term course (by approval of the Chair of the Department of Rhetoric and Composition).

Under special circumstances students may apply to satisfy the requirement either by submitting work done for writing intensive courses at other institutions transferred for credit by Oberlin College. Students who have unusual difficulty completing the Writing Requirement should contact the Chair of the Rhetoric and Composition Department as soon as possible to determine the best means of satisfying the requirement.

Students are strongly urged to take at least one step toward achieving writing proficiency as soon as possible, preferably during their first year.

Students seeking information about the Conservatory’s writing requirement should consult “Requirements for Graduation” in the Conservatory section of this catalog.


Writing Certification Courses

Courses that bear the designation WR are those in which a substantial amount of writing (approximately 15 pages) is required but which do not devote special attention to instruction in writing except at the instructor’s option. Instructors will evaluate papers for writing ability and will decide, at the end of the course, whether the student is to receive a writing proficiency credit, independent of the course grade. To fulfill the graduation requirement, students need to earn two certification credits from writing-certification or writing intensive coursework in two different departments.


Writing Intensive Courses

Courses that bear the designation WRi are those in which substantial essay writing (approximately 15 pages) is assigned and writing pedagogy is stressed to a significant degree. The normal expectation is that the instructor will introduce the student to the methods of writing papers for the discipline in which the course is offered. Several papers will be assigned during the course; students will receive detailed evaluations of their writing skills as well as content; some time will be devoted to the discussion of student writing, both in class and in conferences; and a certain amount of rewriting/revision will normally be expected. While there is an emphasis on writing instruction in these courses, students may earn a certification credit only if the instructor judges their work to be proficient.

A list of criteria for evaluating writing proficiency is available on-line at:

A passing grade in a WR or WRi course will not necessarily result in a writing proficiency credit; certification will depend on the instructor’s appraisal of the student’s writing ability.


No major is offered in Rhetoric and Composition, but students with such interests might consider majoring in English or Creative Writing. The Individual Major is another alternative.


Students may earn a minor in Rhetoric and Composition by completing approved programs of study. Such programs will consist of at least 15 credit hours, including: at least two RHET courses at the 200- or 300-level; a course in English language history, linguistics, or philosophy of language (please see the list of approved courses in the department office); and one elective from the following: a 100-level RHET course from the sequence 101-106; a private reading in a topic of rhetoric and composition of the student’s choosing; an additional 200- or 300-level RHET course, OR another course approved by the chair. Interested students are advised to consult the department chair.

Tutor Training

Students interested in training to be Writing Associates (peer tutors) should apply for consent to enroll in RHET 401/ENGL 399.  Please consult the instructor of RHET 401 for details.

Seeking Writing Assistance

Members of the Rhetoric and Composition Department will be glad to consult with students interested in working on their writing at any level or with any faculty member seeking advice about working with students to improve their writing.

Winter Term

Staff members will be available to sponsor Winter Term Projects in writing.

Courses for First Year Students Only

The Rhetoric and Composition Department regularly offers at least one First-Year Seminar per year. First-year students seeking a small, writing-intensive course to orient them to the liberal arts at Oberlin College should seriously consider taking an FYSP. The First-Year Seminars offered by Rhetoric and Composition faculty for 2010-11 are listed below.

Writing Courses for First-and Second-Year Students

For first- or second-year students seeking an introduction to college writing. These courses focus on a variety of topics, but they all offer substantial attention to the process of writing and to critical thinking and reading. Many sections are interdisciplinary and employ a workshop/discussion format. Especially recommended for first- and second-year students who do not feel prepared to take other Writing Certification or Writing Intensive courses across the curriculum.

Writing Courses for Students Beyond the First Year

Rhetoric and Composition courses at the 200-level are intended for students beyond the first year who are interested in improving their writing skills. Issues in disciplinary discourses and composing and revising for a range of writing tasks are emphasized through frequent writing assignments, class discussions, and writing workshops. First-year students may enroll in these courses only by special consent of the instructor.

Other Courses of Interest to Student Writers

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