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Richard Obenauf,


Our Founding Fathers considered a well-informed citizenry crucial to the survival of our republic. In this course, we will critically evaluate some of the most important essays, speeches, and other documents from American History and use them as models for our own writing. We will read texts in various genres and intended for distinct audiences to help us learn how to deliver our own messages more effectively. We will explore some of the ways that our own predispositions may affect our writing, as well as the impact of bias on the way information is presented to us. We will practice by emulating some of the most inspiring American voices to make our own writing more nuanced and persuasive.


Our reading list is traditional by design. In this class, you’ll get a chance to read and critique some of the foundational primary sources of our democracy, such as the Declaration of Independence, the Seneca Falls Declarations of Sentiments and Resolutions, speeches by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Lyndon Johnson. Other authors we’ll consider include Andrew Carnegie and E.B. White, among others (such as Jonathan Swift and George Orwell, who were not Americans). We will also look at media portrayal of current events and issues in order to understand the relationship between audience and slant, a skill that will be useful to you both as a scholar and as a citizen.


Consistent attendance and active participation are required. Students may be expected to keep a reading journal which will form the basis for a series of short reaction papers. There will be five brief exercises and three short analytical essays, the last of which you will expand into your term paper.


Richard Obenauf double majored in English and French at the University of New Mexico. He subsequently earned his MA in English and his PhD in English at Loyola University Chicago. His research centers on the relationship between knowledge and society, with a particular emphasis on censorship and intolerance.