WRT 105: Analysis, Argument, and Academic Writing: Project 1

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Fall 2007
TR 7-8:20 | UC118
Section U002 | No. 22430

Project 1: Experts Beyond Experts

I thought that what [Farmer] wanted was to erase both time and geography, connecting all parts of his life and tying them instrumentally to a world in which he saw intimate, inescapable connections between the gleaming corporate offices of Paris and New York and a legless man lying on the mud floor of a hut in the remotest part of Haiti.
--Tracy Kidder writing about Paul Farmer in Mountains Beyond Mountains (218)

When universities start collaborating with their connected communities (at home and abroad) on the most pressing issues of the day, I have seen the tables turn in ways that benefit both our innovations and the quality of our multicultural community. Why does this happen? I believe the answer lies first in the nature of the problems to be solved now and the connected question of who becomes the expert. It is hard, for example, to make progress on environmental sustainability in an urban ecosystem without addressing questions of environmental justice, and whose voice do we need to listen to in that case? How do we tackle the urban epidemic of diabetes even if we develop a better understanding through genomics of the disease itself, without contextualizing its spread within the broader questions of race disparities in health? Wouldn’t we understand the genesis of inter-religious conflict better if we engaged with refugee communities in our own cities and towns? It is virtually impossible to find a problem of major importance to our society in which the insights of a diverse, multicultural community would not be very valuable to the solutions.
--From SU Chancellor Nancy Cantor’s "Multiculturalism, Universalism, and the 21st Century Academy" (6)

The Assignment
For the fourth consecutive year Syracuse University is encouraging a new entering class of first year students to read a book in common. This year’s choice of shared reading is, as you know, Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World, first published in 2003. Having read the book it would be easy and appropriate to conclude that Paul Farmer is a remarkable man, and that the world needs more people like Paul Farmer. In this first unit of WRT 105, however, you are going to think about the book a little differently and write an essay that engages with the complexity of issues raised by and within the book. Consider the following questions:

  • Why does the University promote a shared reading for all first-year students?
  • What is the purpose of this particular book as this year’s selected shared reading?
  • What sorts of questions, conversations, and values does the University encourage you to engage with over the first couple of weeks in college?
  • In what ways does Paul Farmer’s expertise emerge from his status as an insider/outsider? How does his status create obstacles for him in his work? What does it allow him to achieve?
  • How does someone become an 'expert' in an increasingly complex and globalized world?
  • What sorts of new awarenesses, perspectives, and responsibilities do you imagine readers of Mountains Beyond Mountains might be encouraged to take away with them?

After thinking through (and writing in response to) some of these questions you will write an essay based on a claim that addresses the relationships among the following key terms: "university," "community," and "expert." You will carefully re-read the book and select claims and arguments that Paul Farmer makes about his work and about the world, as well as claims and arguments that Kidder makes about Farmer, and use them as evidence for the new ideas you are generating. You may reference your own experiences with "communities of experts" as long as they serve as evidence for a claim related to the key terms and not simply as narrative filler. This is not a personal essay but an academic essay that reflects your efforts to analyze and argue.

You may also reference Nancy Cantor’s article in Critical Encounters and/or her "Point of View" piece on the University website.

Assignment Details
The essay should be a minimum of 1000 words, 12 point font, double spaced. The essay and project 1 portfolio are due on Thursday, September 13. Please use MLA citation within the body of your essay and on a Works Cited page, and please include an appropriate title for your essay.

Invention Portfolio (IP) Contents
May include but are not limited to:

  • WRT105 information sheet
  • A list of “little gems” from Mountains Beyond Mountainsthat is, comments, claims, insights, arguments, pithy remarks that Farmer and/or Kidder make
  • A two-paragraph summary of the Nancy Cantor article in Critical Encounters with Texts
  • Notes on your visit to the library website devoted to the shared reading
  • A notes grid on Google and database searches on key terms (expert, university, and community)
  • A 250-word synthesis working with the two quotations on the top of the assignment sheet
  • Draft of the essay (2 pp.)
  • Reflective cover letter

Optional (i.e., Bonus!) Invention Portfolio (IP) Contents:

  • A new promotional blurb for the book

Evaluation Criteria

[1] Did the writer focus the essay effectively, with a clear, thoughtful claim addressing one or more of the issues of "community," "university," "experts"? Did the writer organize the essay effectively, developing logical transitions between ideas and sections?

[2] Did the writer work closely with Mountains Beyond Mountains as well as a Nancy Cantor article, quoting and summarizing where appropriate and necessary, interpreting material and/or offering it up as evidence?

[3] Did the writer compose beginning and ending paragraphs that work as a frame for the rest of the essay?

[4] Did the writer provide details, not generalizations, and new ideas, not clichés?

[5] Did the writer provide a title that provocatively and productively focused the reader’s attention?

[6] Did the writer edit for grammar, style, and usage effectively?

[7 ] Did the writer cite texts appropriately and properly using MLA citation format?

Contact Information
Derek Mueller
Office: HBC 002
Fall '07 office hours: Thur., 8:20-9:20 p.m. (after class)
Phone: (315) 443-1785