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COURSE NAME: "Advanced Composition"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2020

INSTRUCTOR: David Castronuovo
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 9:55-11:15 AM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: Placement via JCU English Composition Placement Exam or completion of either EN 103 or EN 105 with a grade of C or above

This course prepares students to read, think, and write critically. Students will develop their ability to read critically and analyze primary and secondary sources, hone their composition skills through in and out of class essays, and will complete the course by writing and revising a fully-documented and well-reasoned research paper, complemented by an annotated bibliography and literature review. EN110 focuses on the argumentative form, encouraging students to position their work within current critical discourses. The course develops the following skills: source selection and interrogation, identification and contextualization of themes, thesis development and defense, digital literacies, use of library resources, and careful citation in MLA style. Students must receive a grade of C or above in this course to fulfill the University’s English Composition requirement and to be eligible to take courses in English literature.
Advanced Composition requires students to produce in-class essays, informal and formal annotations of research sources, a literature review, and an 8-page research paper that is both argumentative and academically rigorous.  Students take weekly quizzes, post blog entries on the course Moodle page, and lead class discussions based on reading assignments. All students take a written final exam.
Students will leave the course knowing how to question, fruitfully, the accuracy and quality of their own writing and research methods.

Weekly Quizzes 10%
In-class Essays (#1 counts 5%) (#2 counts 10%) (#3 counts 15%) 30%
Annotated Bibliography 7.5%
Full Sentence Outline 5%
Literature Review 7.5%
Argumentative Research Paper (8 pages + Works Cited) 25%
Final Exam (Paper Presentation + Written Exam) 15%
* FAILURE to attend class, to submit assignments, or to participate fully in class, will result in a significant lowering of the final course grade   

A : Work consistently exceeds the instructor's average expectations for the assignment.
B : Work sometimes/often exceeds the instructor's average expectations for the assignment.
C: Work meets the instructor's average expectations for the assignment.
D: This level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material. The student at this level omits important information and makes irrelevant points. In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
F: This work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.


The instructor expects students to attend lessons with the same seriousness of purpose they would bring to a business meeting or a meeting called by an employer.

While attending class:

After the first class meeting, students may not use computers in class. (This policy is subject to change due to COVID.)

Students must put away cellphones during class; students may not use phones for any reason.  The instructor will ask students who use cellphones or smart watches to leave the classroom.

Students should come to class promptly, and be prepared to remain in class for 80 min. Students who leave the classroom before the scheduled end of the lesson will not receive attendance credit.

- Assignments:

Class members must submit written assignments on Turnitin/Moodle.  

The instructor does not accept late assignments.

- Absences: 

The instructor will only excuse absences for (1) observance of religious holidays, or (2) medical problems documented in writing by the physicians at John Cabot Health Services, or by a private physician. (The instructor requires written medical documentation in order to excuse the absence, whether or not the absence is Covid-related.)

Unexcused absences will affect the student's final course grade significantly, as indicated below.

- First absence: the instructor lowers the final grade by 1%. 

- Second absence: the instructor lowers the final grade by an additional 1%.  

- Third absence: the instructor lowers the final grade by an additional 5%.

- Each subsequent absence will lower the student's final grade by an additional 5% 

As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


A) The course has three components, and each lesson will normally touch upon all three:

1) the grammar review

2) the mechanics of writing a research paper in MLA* style (*Modern Language Association)

  3) the course theme, which centers on the problems associated with moral relativism:

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines moral relativism as "the view that moral judgments are true or false only relative to some particular standpoint (for instance, that of a culture or a historical period) and that no standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others." 

B) There are two field walks in Rome:

The Jewish Ghetto

  Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva (Michelangelo's Risen Christ


C) General Calendar

Weeks I --> III


active and passive verbs

subject-verb proximity

avoidance of status verbs

use of concrete subjects

Mechanics of Writing:

the paragraph

the topic sentence

  MLA format

Bibliographic information in MLA style: the Works Cited / Zotero

choosing a research topic

the research pitch

  finding and evaluating sources

  annotation (formal and informal)

the Annotated Bibliography

Course Theme (readings and discussion):

Peck, Emily. "Sexual Assault Survivors Aren't Just Daughters."

Wallace, William. "Michelangelo's Risen Christ.

Weeks IV --> VI

Grammar :

Punctuation / Reading aloud

Punctuation of introductory material within the sentence

Punctuation of interrupting material with the sentence

Punctuation of independent material within the sentence (comma, coordinating conjunctions)

Mechanics of Writing:



The Thesis Statement

The Full-sentence outline

Course Theme (readings and discussion):

Kirshner, Jonathan. "The Man Who Predicted Nazi Germany [J.M. Keynes]." 

Cornwell, John. "Hitler's Pope."

Weeks VII --> IX


  Punctuation of Independent Material (within the sentence), cont'd. (the colon, the period, multiple additions)

Mechanics of Writing:

The Literature Review

In-text (parenthetical) Citation of Sources in MLA style

The Argumentative Academic Research Paper: Refining the Topic

The Thesis Statement (cont'd.)

Development of Ideas

Organization of the Argument

Research / Argument / Opinion: Finding the correct balance

Course Theme (readings and discussion):

  Field Walk to Rome's Ghetto

Weeks X --> XII 



Mechanics of Writing:

The Writer's Voice 

Drafting and Editing

Adding / Eliminating Sources

Transitions 1 (sentence to sentence)

Transitions 2 (paragraph to paragraph)


  Preparation of the Final Presentation (oral presentation of the research paper)

Course Theme (readings and discussion):

  Sontag, Susan. Selections from On Photography

Final Exam