Defending Society
English 1102: English Composition II

Section C1: 8:00-8:50 Skiles 311
Section J1: 10:10-11:00 Clough 123
Section B: 11:15-12:05 Clough 123

Instructor: Dr. Dori Coblentz
Office: Skiles 307
Office Hours: 9:00-10:00 MWF and by appointment

Schedule: Defending Society Schedule

Course Description

Is reading fiction safe? While picking up the latest bestseller may not seem like a risky venture, the influence of the fictional worlds encountered through literature has been an enduring source of anxiety in the history of Western thought. Defending Society begins with Sir Philip Sidney’s famous early work of literary criticism, Defense of Poesy (1595). We will explore why Sidney and his contemporaries felt that poesy, or fictional writing, needed defending in the first place – who attacks fiction and why? What makes literature dangerous, whom does it threaten, and what were seen as its most alarming aspects? To answer these questions, we will read through controversial texts – and reactions to them – from the Renaissance to the twenty-first century. Our readings draw from works such as Ben Jonson’s comedy, Bartholomew Fair, Eliza Haywood’s novella Fantomina, John Milton’s Areopagitica, and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

Students will develop their expertise in written, oral, visual, electronic, and nonverbal (WOVEN) modes of communication through a series of assignments. These projects include two papers, a video essay, a PechaKucha-style presentation, a collaborative web project, and a final portfolio. Throughout, students will practice asking, researching, and answering original questions.

Course Goals and Learning Outcomes

In addition to the program-wide General Education Outcomes for English 1102, students will develop the:

LO1: Ability to make an original contribution to a discourse after researching existing contributions (group project, video essay)
LO2: Ability to recognize and analyze how texts and performances make meaning (in-class essays, papers 1 and 2, and video essays)
LO3: Ability to recognize and fairly describe two sides of a controversy (PechaKucha, group project, papers 1 and 2, video essay)
LO4: Ability to identify and adapt to audience, presenting arguments persuasively and engagingly (group project, papers 1 and 2, video essay)
LO5: Ability to analyze how texts influence and are influenced by their historical context (in-class discussion, papers 1 and 2)

Graded Components

  • Common First Week video: 5% (January 17)
  • PechaKucha Pitch: 10% (Varies)
  • Piazza and Participation (including In-Class Essays): 15%
  • Group Project: 20% (April 16)
  • Paper 1: 10% (February 12)
  • Paper 2: 10% (March 26)
  • Video Essay: 15% (April 4)
  • Final Portfolio: 15% (final exam time, varies by section)

Detailed assignment sheets will be provided for each of the following graded components (with the exception of the participation grade). Use the following list as a guideline to help you plan your semester, but refer to the detailed assignment sheets when you are completing the projects.

Common First Week Video (5%)

Students in all sections of English 1101 and English 1102 share a common assignment, due January 17th. You will record a 60-90 second video addressing a specific aspect of multimodal (written, oral, visual, electronic, or nonverbal) communication that you will engage with over the course of the semester. You will describe challenges you have faced in the past using this form of communication and articulate a plan for the future to overcome these challenges.

Final Portfolio (15%)

All sections of English 1101 and 1102 will complete a portfolio project in lieu of a final exam. The portfolio will include a reflective essay and several examples of your work throughout the semester with brief introductions for each example.

Piazza and Participation (15%)

Piazza Erbe in Verona

This kind of class specifically trains interpersonal timing. That is why your physical presence in the classroom and your readiness to discuss course materials at any point is given the same weight as your final portfolio project (15% of your grade). When I determine your participation grade, I ask these questions:

  1. Did the student arrive in class on time for each class period?
    – Being late once or twice during the semester is understandable, but a pattern of tardies will have a significant impact on your grade.
  2. Did the student answer my questions about the text in a thoughtful and insightful way?
    – This is a small section. I will call on every student more than once throughout the course of the semester with specific questions about the reading. If you haven’t done the reading and thought about it the days that I call on you, it will hurt your grade.
  3. Did the student respond to their classmates’ questions and observations? Can they listen to other people as well as produce their own ideas?
    – This requirement can be fulfilled either during in-class discussion or via Piazza discussion. If you suffer from acute anxiety, practice talking in front of people to the extent you are able, but also make use of the Piazza forum to demonstrate your understanding of the material and to help advance good discussions about it.
  4. Did the student contribute adequately to Piazza?  Posting questions/notes about our readings and discussions, starting responses, adding to or editing responses, and engaging in followup discussions are all examples of potential Piazza contributions. At two points in the semester I will check your participation using Piazza’s stats function. I will grade you at 90% for one contribution a week. Further participation can strengthen your grade (though not over 100%). Fewer contributions can weaken the grade.
  5. Does the student show respect for others in the class? Do they promote an environment where others feel comfortable expressing their own views and opinions?- Be careful to strike a tone of respectful dialogue rather than sounding dogmatic or condescending. Don’t make assumptions about your classmates’ backgrounds and beliefs. We are interested in the mechanics of persuasion rather than expressions of dominance.
    – Be aware of your body language when other people are talking. Hostile body language (crossed arms, scowling, hmphing, expressions of incredulity, etc.) can discourage your classmates from fully presenting their arguments and, in turn, you from responding to them in a verbally persuasive way.
  6. What is the average of the grades the student received for their in-class essays?
    – In-class essays will be completed roughly every other week during our writing workshops. You cannot make up a missed ICE, but I will drop the lowest ICE grade.

Paper 1 (10%)

In 3-4 pages, you will defend a fictional production (i.e. novel, TV show, movie, play, narrative-heavy video game) that has provoked controversy. Using the same seven-part argument form that Philip Sidney uses in Defense of Poesy, you will defend the work. The paper will be double-spaced with one-inch margins and 12-point font.

Nazi book burning

By Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-14597 / Georg Pahl / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de,

Paper 2 (10%)

The prompt for paper 2 will be determined based on student submissions in an earlier ICE. Expect to write 3-4 pages, double-spaced, with 12-point font and one-inch margins on some aspect of Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair.

PechaKucha Pitch (10%)

PechaKucha is a format of presentation in which you play 20 slides through continuously while you speak for 20 seconds about each slide. In this class, we will be shortening the format to 10 slides. Your topic will be some controversy around a work of fiction (i.e. The Big Bang Theory or Twilight) or technologies of disseminating such texts (i.e. Net Neutrality, the Open Source software movement). The topic must be controversial – that is, you should be able to reasonably present both “pro” and “con” sides of the argument. You will be using the same 7-part argumentation form you used for Paper 1, but adapted to a more objective stance. Rather than proving that a text is in the right, you will focus on showing both sides of the argument and then suggesting some questions that the argument opens up and avenues for further research. At the end of the PechaKucha unit, students will vote on the most persuasive PechaKuchas, which will form the basis of the group projects.

Group Project (20%)

The group project will build on an individual PechaKucha topic. You will take the questions opened by the PechaKucha topic and seriously investigate them. This research will take the form of a website. Your website must include:

  • A video component that may include interview(s), analysis, examples, etc.
  • An annotated bibliography-style grouping of resources for further research (that is, give the resources along with brief descriptions of them).
  • A blog page with posts from each group member of at least 450-600 words and two images or videos.

The website will be evaluated based on a process and a project grade, so individual efforts as well as the group’s final results will be assessed.

Video Essay (15%)

Your video essay will adapt either Paper 1 or Paper 2 to a 3-5 minute video essay. The project includes two steps: a storyboard containing 12-18 images with text describing the image, its purpose, the kind of shot (i.e. closeup) it will be, and its duration. With the video essay, you will turn in an attached 200-400-word reflection.

Course Materials

  • Jonson, Benjamin. Bartholomew Fair in The Alchemist and Other Plays, edited by Gordon Campbell. Oxford World Classics. ISBN 9780199537310
  • Sidney, Philip. The Defense of Poesy in Sidney’s ‘The Defense of Poesy’ and Selected Renaissance Literary Criticism. Penguin Classics, edited by Gavin Alexander. ISBN 9780141439389
  • WOVENText, edited by Amy Braziller, Elizabeth Kleinfeld, and the Georgia Tech Writing and Communication Program. Available for purchase as a RedShelf eBook
  • A laptop with Microsoft Office installed on it (students may review laptop guidelines here:

WCP Common Policies

Review the WCP Common Policies here. You are responsible for knowing and adhering to these policies. By signing the syllabus agreement at the end of this document, you are verifying that you have read and understood both the syllabus and the WCP common policies.

According to our Program-wide attendance policy, you may miss 4 classes without penalty. Each additional absence subtracts one-third of a letter grade per absence (for example, if you missed five classes your final grade would change from B+ to B). Eight missed classes results in an automatic failure of the course.

Course Expectations & Guidelines

Late Policy
It’s important for you to be at every class meeting with your readings completed and your reading questions written. If you cannot meet a deadline you must contact me before the class in which it is due to discuss the situation. Each essay is to be turned in on time. For each class period late, a full letter grade will be lowered (i.e. by 10%) unless you have made prior arrangements with me.

Revision Policy

Revisions are permitted for major (10% of the final grade or more) assignments assigned a grade of B- or lower. Specific arrangements must be discussed with me within a week of receiving the grade for the assignment that you want to revise.

Classroom and Online Environment

Arrive on time – excessive tardiness will affect your participation grade. You are welcome to use your laptop, tablet, or smart phone, but only for notes and other class-related things. Exercise common courtesy such as paying attention when others are talking and not interrupting.


Academic Integrity

Georgia Tech aims to cultivate a community based on trust, academic integrity, and honor. Students are expected to act according to the highest ethical standards. For information on Georgia Tech’s Academic Honor Code, please visit or
Any student suspected of cheating or plagiarizing on a quiz, exam, or assignment will be reported to the Office of Student Integrity, who will investigate the incident and identify the appropriate penalty for violations.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

If you are a student with learning needs that require special accommodation, contact the Office of Disability Services at (404)894-2563 or, as soon as possible, to make an appointment to discuss your special needs and to obtain an accommodations letter. Please also e-mail me as soon as possible in order to set up a time to discuss your learning needs.