Writing in the Public Interest: (Re)Telling (Hi)Stories

“This class was awesome, thought-provoking, and a lot of fun. Overall was a great experience. –Writing in the Public Interest student, 2018

Course Description

History may often be written by the winners, but it is certainly written by somebody. That is, our sense of history and public memory is shaped by the ways history has been told—whether that is in formal history books and museums or in movies and tv programs, public monuments, on websites, or in shared stories of a family. And what histories are told are also effected by the material reality of what is preserved and valued over time. Historical writing and remembrance are not neutral. They are active and rhetorically purposeful practices, open to continual revision.

In this course, we will think about what it means to write history, from the perspective of writing studies. We will compose and revise representations of the history of our campus and community that help us to think about the role of rhetoric, digital media, and the sensorium of our bodies in our conceptualizations of the past and the circulation of public memory. What is remembered and how? Who cares?

View our final course projects at this website.

Major Assignments:

  • Personal archive “photo essay”- collection of 4-7 personal artifacts with framing commentary that give insight into your history as a student and writer
  • Research question/proposal- identify a person, place or event relevant to campus or the area that you want to research in the archives. Identify what you know what this topic, what you want to learn, why you think it matters, what materials do we (or another archive) have that you can work with, and how you plan to proceed (<1 page)
  • Research narrative- write a brief (1-2 page) history of your person, place or event for a general public audience. Be sure to consider in your draft why your audience might care about this history—what current issues or questions does this history speak to? what does your audience already care about that this history relates to?
  • Re-mediating history- Use 3-5 of the digital tools discussed in class to represent your history in a different way. One of these tools must be the mapping function on our SCU app, so you must consider a way to “emplace” your history across one or more locations. After experimenting with the digital tools, you will write a reflection on what these remediations make you notice—how do you understand the history differently across these representations? What new or different do you notice? What does each representation highlight for an audience?
  • Digital Curation- Individually or in small groups (2-3 people), you will rhetorically (that is, purposefully, for a given audience and in order to make a specific point) select archival artifacts/documents and narrative/digital representations of your history to curate in our online space in Omeka.
  • Collaborative Physical Curation- contribute your historical representations to the course’s collaborative curation of the A&SC exhibit room.
  • Final reflective essay- Drawing on research we read together in class, you will reflect on and analyze your research and composing experiences, developing critical insights into the experience of historiography and public writing.