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English 116-001

Department of English & Comparative Literature

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill



Professor: Dr. Candace Epps-Robertson


Office: 425 Greenlaw Hall

Office Phone: 919-962-8765

Office Hours: T & Th, 11:00AM-12:00PM & by appointment

Mon-Thursday I generally respond to emails within 24 hours. Friday-Sunday you can expect a 72-hour delay.

ENGL 116-001

Meeting Time: Tu/Th 9:30-10:45AM

Location: Greenlaw 0316



Course Description

This course examines how writing has evolved from ancient times to the present, with a focus on how writing technologies have shaped written languages and writing instruction.

There are many ways that we could approach a survey of this history (chronologically, thematically, a survey of technologies). In this iteration of the course, we will use the following questions as our guide: How are writing systems and technologies developed to serve the particular needs of communities? How has the teaching of writing changed over time? How is the teaching of writing (and the action itself) tied to power? To answer these questions, we will draw from an interdisciplinary reading list, make several trips to Ackland where we will work closely with museum experts, visit the Wilson archives, and examine our own writing practices and technologies.


Course Goals

  • To define and theorize what writing is and how it works across communities
  • To explore how writing and writing technologies have evolved
  • To explore the teaching of writing across communities
  • To understand how culture and community are inextricably encoded into language


Required Texts & Supplies


David Barton’s Literacy: An Introduction to the Ecology of Written Language (2007, 2nd Edition)


Marshall T. Poe’s A History of Communications: Media and Society from the Evolution of Speech to the Internet (2008)


Barry B. Powell’s Writing: Theory and History of the Technology of Civilization (2012)


*Additional readings will be made available through Sakai.




Small notebook/journal (this will be used for writing and recording notes in the Wilson archive and Ackland museum, and for in class writing assignments)

Pencils (the museum and archive ask that we only use pencils while touring their facilities)


Required Projects and Course Activities

Course Blog

You will create a blog in this course to act as a portfolio for your work. We’ll spend time in the second or third week setting up the blog and discussing the genre of blog posts, the technology and support afforded to you through your blog, and how that should influence the writing you create. You will use your blog to post weekly responses to readings (see more below) and to house the major projects for the course.

A note on assessment: I will provide you with feedback on your blog’s overall design and accessibility shortly after you create it (set up the template, design colors, etc.) I will assign a final grade on the blog’s aesthetics and design (text, layout, use of graphics) at the end of the semester. At the end of the semester, you will be required to write a reflection post that analyzes why you chose the layout, graphics, and overall design of the blog.

Blog Design and Reflective/Justification Post on your blog’s design: 5%


Blog Design Rubric

A range B range C range D or F
The blog has an attractive and useable layout. Posts are labelled and there is a menu or bar to easily find them. It is easy to locate all important elements. White space, graphic elements and/or alignment are used effectively to organize material.

Graphics are of good quality, related to the theme/purpose of the site and are thoughtfully cropped and integrated. Fonts are consistent, easy to read, and point size varies appropriately for headings and text.

Reflection/Justification post clearly articulates why the above choices were made and references examples from the blog.

The blog has a layout that is either attractive, or useable, but not both. There may be one or two elements that do not seem related. Individual posts are not labeled creatively and/or are difficult to navigate. Graphics are not the best quality, or do not enhance reader interest. The fonts are consistent, easy to read.

Reflection/Justification post articulates summarizes the style and design choices but does not reference specific examples.

The blog does not use a template that matches the purpose of the content. Individual posts are not labelled, or it is difficult to navigate the pages of the blog. Graphics are poor quality and not cropped in relation to the blog. The fonts are inconsistent and point size does not vary appropriately for headings and text.

Reflection/Justification post makes generalizations about design choices with no specific references or examples.

The site lacks any theme or creativity with regard to template design. The page is cluttered, posts are unorganized and/or not able to be accessed. Graphics seem randomly chose, are of low quality, or distract the reader. Lacks a Reflection/Justification post.


Weekly Reaction/Response Blog Post

Beginning around week 4, you will be asked to write a 500-word response/reaction blog post for the readings assigned. Sometimes I will assign a question to be answered through the post, or I may ask you to develop your own question to answer using the readings. The purpose of these posts is to help you prepare for class discussion and activities and to build your own archive of notes from the readings. More often than not, the ideas and questions generated in the blogs will be used as a starting point for class discussion. For example, I may pull up one or more blog posts and have us begin class discussions in this way. Or, I may have you read and respond to a small cluster of blog posts.  I will grade each of your blog posts to see that you are reading, engaged with the work and themes of the course, and to better understand what questions or difficulties you may have that we can work through in class.

6 Response Posts: 30%


Blog Post Reading Response Rubric

A range B range C range D or F
Post displays an excellent understanding of the readings and underlying concepts. Post is cleverly titled. Post works to integrate connections between readings, themes of course, and real-life application (work experience, lived experience, prior coursework). Well-edited quotes are cited and used appropriately with no more than 10% of the posting being a direct quotation. Posts uses multimedia thoughtfully as part of the response. Sources are cited. Written response is free of grammatical, spelling, or punctuation errors. The style of writing facilitates communication. Post displays an understanding of the readings and underlying concepts. Post has a title.  Response works to make connections between readings and ideas being discussed in course. Lacks critical use of multimedia in post to support response.  Written responses are largely free of grammatical, spelling or punctuation errors.  The style of writing generally facilitates communication. Sources are cited. Post repeats and summarizes basic, correct information from readings, but does not respond directly to the question/prompt, and/or does not work to make connections between the readings or themes across the course. Post lacks a title that reflects the content. No multimedia used to support the response.  Written responses include some grammatical, spelling or punctuation errors that distract the reader. Sources are not cited. Post shows little or no evidence that readings were completed or understood. Posts are largely personal opinion, “I agree,” “This is nice,” without supporting statements with concepts from the readings, course, or specific real-life application. Written responses contain numerous grammatical, spelling or punctuation errors. The style of writing does not facilitate effective communication.


Major Project 1: History of a Writing Technology

You will write a long blog entry that closely examines the history of a writing technology (i.e.: Smartphones, voice-to-text software, cuneiform) and its connection to a particular community. For example, you may write about the use of smartphones and social media for social justice movements. Or, you could write about the decline of handwriting (cursive) education and recent studies that cite writing as a literacy motor skill. The topic is your choice, but the project must include the following:

Proposal: A one-page proposal that identifies the writing technology and community you will research, the guiding questions you seek to answer, and why this technology and community matter to you. (typed, printed, submitted via hardcopy)

Preliminary Draft: You will craft at least one draft that will be shared with group members and Dr. Epps-Robertson through conferencing.

Workshop with Peers: You will share a draft of your “paper” with an assigned group of peers for feedback.

Post: You will create a blog post that outlines the history of the writing technology, succinctly describes the community connected to the technology, answers the research questions set forth in your proposal, and provides analysis on the ways in which this particular writing technology serves the unique needs of the community you identify. It will be important to identify particular questions and a focused community so that you aren’t trying to write about “all the things” for “all the communities.” For example, a project that looks at assistive writing technologies for people with disabilities would be a good start; however, narrowing it down even more to look at the use of eye gaze software for persons living with ALS would provide you with more of a focus, and thus better direction for your research. Your blog post should be between 2500-3000 words, use multimedia, and use proper MLA citation. You may use a mix of scholarly and non-scholarly sources but should have a fair balance between the two (7-9 sources in total). Your presentation should be between 5-7 minutes, provide the audience with an overview of your research questions, findings, and analysis. You should incorporate images and/or video into your presentation, but please do so thoughtfully so that your voice and findings are not overshadowed by the media.

Multimodal Blog “Paper” + Presentation: 30%

A rubric will be provided to you closer to the start of this project.


Major Project 2: Autoethnography of You as a Writer

In this project you will use autoethnography (a research method) to examine your history and relationship with writing. You will draw upon readings and class discussions and use this inquiry as a means to get to know yourself better as a writer. The more you know about yourself as a writer, the more control you can have over these processes.  In a 2000-2500-word blog post that includes multimedia you will use questions provided to you in the construction of your literacy narrative. Your presentation will provide your peers with a clear story that helps make a point about you as a writer and your relationship to various themes we’ve explored in the course (how we are taught to write, our relationship with writing technologies, communities that support our writing, etc.). The genre of the presentation can be thought of as being a mini-version of a TED talk.

Multimodal Blog “Paper” + Presentation: 25%

A rubric will be provided to you closer to the start of this project along with guide questions.

Participation, Supporting Work, and Professionalism

This includes classwork, group work, participation in class discussions and field trips, coming to class with the required materials and being prepared to actively engage in discussions. This grade category may also include the occasional reading quiz should class participation lull.

Cumulative: 10%

Optional Extra Credit Opportunity

You’ll notice that our course blog has a page labelled Class Driven Archive. I will offer extra credit (2 pts. per post/3 posts per student max) for students who submit a blog post that highlights an artifact (news article, tumblr, tweet, YouTube video, essay, art exhibit, play, work experience, etc.) that is related to the theme of our course. These points go toward your final grade for the course. The final day for submitting Extra Credit is Thursday, April, 11, 5PM EST.

The guidelines for submission are as follows:

  1. You must craft a blog post that is approximately 250-300 words and includes multimedia. *Most importantly, you need to link to the source that inspired your post.
  2. The blog post should highlight something that you’ve read, watched, or experienced outside of the class mandated readings that is connecting in some way to the theme of our course.
  3. You will also need to deliver a short presentation on your post (5-7 minutes) in class. *You will work with Dr. Epps-Robertson to select a day to do so, but you can plan to present within 1-2 wees of your post.

Grading Scale

I will use the following scale to calculate grades:


A 100-93                     A- 92-90                     B+ 89-87

B 86-83                       B- 82-80                     C+ 79-77

C 76-73                       C- 72-70                      D+ 69-67

D 66-60                      F = 59 and below


Attendance Policy

Your overall performance and your class participation grade will suffer from excessive absences. If you miss more than seven (7) class meetings, including mandatory instructor/student conferences, I will assign you a failing grade for the course. There is no distinction between “excused” and “unexcused” absences, even in the case of emergencies. All absences will count toward the total number, and this policy is enforced from the moment you are registered in the course. Furthermore, it is imperative that you to get to class on time, ready to work. If you are late to class three times, I will count that as one absence. Please be considerate; arriving late to class is disruptive and shows a lack of respect for your instructor and your fellow classmates. If you must miss class or be late, I will expect you to inform me beforehand. If you must miss class on the day an assignment is due, either turn it in early or arrange for it to be delivered to me during class time. Again, no matter what the cause of an absence, as a student you are responsible for finding out what material was covered, getting notes, being prepared for class on the day you return, and turning in subsequent assignments on time.

If you experience an emergency (illness, surgery, accident, family emergency, etc.) that will likely cause you to miss more than 3 classes, please be in touch as soon as you are able so that we may work to figure out the best possible course of action.

Professionalism & Participation

Participation is a critical part of your grade, and to the success of the class. Attendance is required because so much of this class will be situated around discussion, presentations, and group work. Participation includes active engagement in the discussions and activities during our class period. I am not counting how many times you speak, but am looking at your effort: Do you listen well and engage with the ideas of others respectfully? Are you asking questions that speak to your engagement with the material and our community? Do you prepare for class by doing the reading and work? Are you providing constructive and respectful feedback to others?

You should conduct yourself professionally in class. This means speaking to the class community with respect. I also ask that you use your technology respectfully. This means that texting, surfing the web, using social media, and/or taking pictures via your phone/laptop for non-class purposes will not be tolerated. I may lower your participation grade if you are using your phone for non-class related purposes. Certainly, if there is an emergency and your phone is required, you may use it, but using your phone/laptop for non-class purposes is disruptive and disrespectful.

Technology Policy

We will be working with a variety of tools, analog and digital, to explore the history of writing. You should come to class each session with your laptop fully charged. However, please refrain from using these tools for non-class related purposes. This includes texting, checking social media, instant messaging, etc. all of which distract from your participation.


Submission and Late Work Policy

I will not accept work that is late without a documented emergency. I am aware that emergencies happen. In the case of a true documented emergency (illness, inclement weather, etc.) you may notify me to request an extension on final projects. We will work together to determine an appropriate deadline. I may request formal documentation as a means to determine the appropriate deadline. Please familiarize yourself with the offices on campus that can help support you through myriad of experiences that may interfere with your productivity. Homework assignments are due on the day noted and will not be accepted late. Groupwork and in-class activities cannot be made up if missed.

Additional Policies

Plagiarism consists of the unattributed or unacknowledged use of another’s words or ideas and is a most serious breach of the Honor Code. The Honor Code applies to everything that we do at this university, including our use of outside sources in our research and writing. Our work in this class will conform to the principles and procedures defined in the Instrument of Student Judicial Governance ( The research that we do this semester, whether primary or secondary, print or online, formal or informal, will require careful documentation on your part. If I suspect you of plagiarizing all or part of a paper, even unintentionally, I am required to report the offense to the Honor Court. There will be no second chances so if you think you are running into trouble with a paper, PLEASE come and speak with me. The need to cite your sources and images applies to all your work. When in doubt: CITE. There is no excuse for plagiarism.


The University is committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment and to ensuring that educational and employment decisions are based on individuals’ abilities and qualifications. Consistent with these principles and applicable laws, it is therefore the University’s policy not to discriminate on the basis of age, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or veteran status as consistent with the University’s Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment and Related Misconduct. No person, on the basis of protected status, shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to unlawful discrimination, harassment, or retaliation under any University program or activity, including with respect to employment terms and conditions. Such a policy ensures that only relevant factors are considered, and that equitable and consistent standards of conduct and performance are applied.

Title IX makes it clear that violence and harassment based on sex and gender are Civil Rights offenses subject to the same kinds of accountability and support applied to offenses against other protected categories. If you or someone you know has been harassed or assaulted, I encourage you to investigate these resources:


The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ensures that no qualified person shall by reason of a disability be denied access to, participation in, or the benefits of, any program or activity operated by the University. In compliance with UNC policy and federal law, qualified students with disabilities are eligible to receive “reasonable accommodations to ensure equal access to education opportunities, programs, and activities” ( If you anticipate such accommodations, please notify me as soon as possible so that appropriate arrangements can be made. Additionally, you may seek out student support services at the Accessibility Resources and Service department ( and through the Learning Center (

Additional Course Resources

  • The Writing Center. The Writing Center assists members of the University community who have writing needs that are not met in the classroom or by other services on campus. The Writing Center is located in the Student and Academic Services Building. Appointments are made by visiting the Writing Center’s website at <>.
  • The Learning Center. The Learning Center is designed for a range of students: those who need help with basic reading problems, those who are good readers but who wish to become even better, and those who wish to improve their study skills. The Learning Center is located in the Student and Academic Services Building (SASB North) and is open all year (except for regular University recesses) from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily. Students may register at any time during the year. If you have any questions, call the Learning Center office at 919-­-962-­-3782 or visit their web site at
  • The Academic Advising Program. Academic Advising offices are located in Steele Building. In addition to providing guidance related to course enrollments and majors and minors, Academic Advising can help with any problems you may be having with progress in your courses or other concerns you may have. Contact Academic Advising at 919-966-5116 or visit their web site at
  • Student Success and Academic Counseling. The Center for Student Success and Academic Counseling in SASB North, Room 2203 can be useful in solving problems non-mainstream students sometimes encounter. Contact CSSAC at 919- 962-1046 or visit their website at
  • Counseling and Wellness Services. The staff at CWS (located in the Student Health Building) provides positive, professional counseling for students who need academic, vocational, and personal guidance. Contact CWS at 919-966-3658 or visit their web site at
  • Dean of Students Office. Located in suite 1106 of the Student Academic Services North Building (SASB), the Dean of Students provides support services for all students and assists with transitions or other challenges students may be having in and out of the classroom. Contact their offices at 919-966-4042 or via e-mail at or visit their office at