WRIT 150: Writing and Critical Reasoning–Thematic Approaches (Issues in Aesthetics)

Course Description and Objectives

Most people write to do something—to enter the “conversations” of a variety of communities, and to share ideas and perspectives that may shape or change what is already known. In WRIT 150, we will analyze and practice the different skills and strategies that writers use to fulfill such writing goals in several different argumentative and analytical contexts. Instead of focusing only on the final texts that are produced, we will also focus on exploring developing processes of writing, including how to find and develop new ideas that might be of interest and values to certain communities (invention strategies, research strategies, and audience analysis); how to explore these ideas and “write to learn,” experimenting with a variety of writing features and techniques (drafting); how to adjust or change our drafts and ideas based on others’ responses to our texts (revision); and how to present our ideas in the forms that our readers expect and value (style, documentation, editing and proofreading). We will discuss and practice these skills and explore how such processes of writing and critical reasoning overlap, double back, and repeat. By the end of this course, you should have a better idea of the writing process broadly as well as a clearer articulation of what “works” for you in your own writing process.

In addition to developing writing skills and processes, this course also focuses on the ways in which we conduct critical analysis. As part of a university academic community, we are challenged to delve deep into the issues that we encounter in the world. We will use a variety of approaches for developing critical reasoning skills in this class, including participating in scholarly conversations with multiple sources and perspectives in order to make new knowledge

Issues in Aesthetics

The word “aesthetics” comes from the Greek verb αἰσθῆσθαι, to perceive. Etymologically, aesthetics is the field concerned with “perceivable things” in the world. As the word has been used in the past 2,500 years or so of Western history, it has adopted a further focus on perceiving and classifying things that are not only perceivable but more specifically “beautiful.” What is beauty? Who determines what is beautiful? These are questions that relate to aesthetics. Similarly, we should consider beauty as more than a binary classification— things can be more or less beautiful (or pleasing to the viewer), and questioning how those classifications are made is also important to the conversation of aesthetics.

The scale of beauty may be determined using objective or purely preferential standards. Do we look to symmetry, ratio, proportion, structure, arrangement, etc. for determining beauty? What is gained through those classifications? What is lost? This thematic focus of exploring concepts of beauty as well as the systems and constructs that inform cultural understanding of beauty will inform the persuasive writing that we explore in this course. As we do so, we will also consider how one can engage in critical reasoning surrounding a topic that has a tendency to drift toward personal opinion. We will explore and develop approaches to arguing about aesthetics that will hopefully contribute to our understanding of the thematic but also supply approaches to employ a broader range of persuasive argument on other topics for the future.

Relevant Documents (PDF format)


Writing Project One: Aesthetics of Physical Spaces on Campus

Writing Project Two: Limits to Aesthetic Judgments

Writing Project Three: Ethics of Aesthetics

Writing Project Four: Applying Aesthetics to Social Issues