First-Year Writing Program



The first-year curriculum consists of two courses, WR101 “Introduction to College Writing” and WR121 “Research Writing,” which are required for all Emerson undergraduates.

WR101 is a course in academic literacy with a particular emphasis on the essay of intellectual inquiry and rhetorical negotiation of cultural and linguistic differences. WR121 treats a broader range of writing tasks, authorial purposes, and imagined audiences, with an emphasis on civic engagement and public writing. It is a genre-based research writing course that examines the rhetorical situations that call on writers to do research and the various writing genres and media of communication (including websites, social networking, slide shows, video, audio, posters, comics, and other visual displays of information) available to represent the results of research.

The main purpose of the FYWP curriculum is to provide a year-long education in writing for all first-year students at Emerson that examines the production and circulation of writing and the possibilities of rhetorical agency in academic and public domains. WR101 and WR121 are General Education courses meant to contribute to the liberal arts mission at Emerson by having all undergraduates study writing for a year, with the goal of heightening their rhetorical awareness, enhancing their flexibility as writers by adding new genres to their repertoires, and developing the groundwork of a critical understanding of the uses and limits of writing in relation to other media of communication.

The two-semester sequence reflects these principles by moving from WR101, with an emphasis on working closely with texts, the nature of academic work as conversation, and the essay of intellectual inquiry, to WR121, with an emphasis on public writing, the nature of genre choice in a variety of rhetorical situations, and the multimodal possibilities of composition. The focus in WR101 on rhetorical analysis and peer review provides the groundwork and a shared vocabulary that extends into WR121. At the same time, WR101 provides students with strategies to approach writing assignments in other classes.

One of the key goals of WR101, in keeping with the liberal arts mission of the course and the college’s commitment to diversity, is for students to understand how the tools of intellectual inquiry and rhetorical negotiation can explore differences responsibly. This emphasis is evident in the experimental year-long bi-lingual sections of WR101 and WR121 taught by Tamera Marko that focus on writing across borders in a range of languages. These classes contain students from a number of countries (including mainly monolingual English-speaking students) and link first-year course work to Proyecto Boston-Medellin in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 and to the Emerson Maintenance Workers class in 2012-2013. (For more on the year-long bi-lingual class, see the class publication Heritage/Origenes from 2011-2012).

The purpose of WR121 “Research Writing” is to conduct an investigation of the rhetorical situations that call on writers to do research and of the means of representation they draw on—in written genres and other media—to disseminate the results. The course is a genre-based research writing course that emphasizes civic engagement, public writing, and activist rhetorics. The course is divided into four writing projects that call on students to write in multiple genres and often to design multimodal compositions in a variety of media. Many sections emphasize the rhetorical transformations across genres, featuring, for example, assignments to translate a scholarly study into a news report, a magazine article, a slide presentation, a museum exhibit, or a comic. Some sections include an advocacy project where students design a campaign, in a range of genres and media, to publicize an issue or call for change.

FYWP lecturers and instructors have worked with the Office for Service Learning and Community Action to link their classes to community organizations. Elizabeth Parfitt’s spring 2010 WR121 sections produced the student publication The Sky Is Wicked Huge in collaboration with BostonCares, a civic organization that promotes youth involvement in Boston public life. As noted earlier, Tamera Marko’s experimental year-long bi-lingual course has worked with Proyecto Boston-Medellin (PBM) to stage two exhibitions of emerging Colombian artists at Emerson and other Boston-area colleges and universities: “Medellin, Peace in Process: Violencia Is Not the Whole Story” in 2010, and “Mujeres: Medellin/Women: Medellin” in 2011 with a simultaneous broadcast of the exhibition’s debut in Boston and Medellin. More than 150 students have worked on PBM across seven FYWP classes since 2009, writing grant proposals to fund the exhibitions, publicity, and artist statements.

FYWP’s attention to how writing is produced, circulates, and takes on worldly consequence is evident in the publication of student writing in class magazines and other forms and in the annual FYWP Showcase of student work in WR121, co-sponsored by Iwasaki Library at Emerson, which features work chosen by many WR121 sections. This is an opportunity for Emerson first-year students to show their creativity, and they have responded enthusiastically each year since the Showcase was instituted in 2009 with collections of writing, class magazines, videos, websites, posters, comics, and so on. It is also, importantly, the largest gathering of the first-year class since orientation in the fall and thereby marks the passing of the academic year.

  • Develop an understanding of how intellectual exchange in the academy and public life operates as a conversation in which writers locate themselves in relation to what others have written and the way issues have been framed.
  • Develop the ability to analyze rhetorical situations in the academy and public life and to assess the genres of writing and means of communication available to respond appropriately.
  • Develop the capacity to design and carry out writing projects individually and with others that identify the research, rhetorical approaches, and revision strategies needed to produce writing that has consequence.

WR101 Course Objectives

By the end of the term, you will be able to:

  • Work with a range of texts, media, and cultural practices to develop writing projects that identify and come to terms with significant issues through analysis and interpretation.
  • Understand how academic and intellectual discourse operates as a conversation in which writers forward and counter what others have written in order to articulate their own approach to significant issues, and use this understanding to locate your own rhetorical stance in relation to what others have said and the way issues have been framed.
  • Identify and work in your own writing with rhetorical strategies that are typical of the reasoning in academic and intellectual writing, such as putting issues in context, stating propositions, giving reasons, evaluating evidence, justifying assumptions, negotiating differences, and pointing out implications.

  • Recognize that writing is a process by learning a) to write peer reviews that offer useful suggestions for other students’ work in progress; and b) to design revision strategies by reflecting critically on your own work in progress.

WR121 Course objectives

By the end of the term, you will be able to:

  • Analyze rhetorical situations and the choices writers make about appropriate genres.
  • Identify the type of research called for in different writing projects and use research to establish your credibility as a writer.
  • Create an appropriate writing persona depending on rhetorical situation and genre choice.
  • Understand how audiences are invoked as much as addressed depending on rhetorical situation and genre choice.
  • Identify and compare conventions across genres and media; use this knowledge to design texts appropriate to the rhetorical situation and genre choice.