Course Description

According to Pitt’s goals for Seminar in Composition, the “course approaches the essay as a flexible genre that takes on different forms in different contexts.” But what is a genre? What forms might an essay take? And how are form and genre related to rhetorical and social contexts? Moreover, how might norms for gender and sexuality be perpetuated, resisted, or otherwise negotiated through various genres? What might it look like to bend genres? To bend genders?

Considering such questions, our inquiry in this course will include reading a range of texts: book chapters, blogs, podcasts, zines, and multi-genre essays. The texts are all concerned with questions of gender, variously conceived, but their writers pursue different kinds of questions through different kinds of composing—thus taking their thinking to different places. You, too, will be invited to generate questions to explore, as well as to experiment with making meaning through different forms: academic essays that push the bounds of formulas you learned in high school; multi-genre essays that make use of genres not usually considered academic; blogs, sound essays, and zines that involve composing with multiple modes; and revisions that alter genre as one approach to re-seeing your own and others’ ideas.

We will thus spend the semester grappling with questions of genre and gender through our reading, writing, and thinking. We are unlikely to reach any easy conclusions—for each text, for the class as a whole—but if we are all willing to show up, engage with the course material and each other, work hard, and take some risks, then I believe we will learn some interesting things about ourselves and others, about reading and writing, and about relationships between genre, gender, and social context.


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