WRIT 5: Rhetoric and Disability
Dartmouth's liberal arts curriculum requires first-year students to take Writing 2-3 or Writing 5. This term, I took Writing 5: Rhetoric and Disability with Professor Annika Konrad. Although I wasn't particularly thrilled to tackle another onslaught of essays, I immediately took a liking to our intimate classroom, tucked away on the third floor of the Berry-Baker Library (3FB).
Over the next nine weeks, I learned more about my 16 classmates and my professor. I know Ryan from Minnesota likes skiing; Woojin from Indiana plays for the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra, and Jenna from New Hampshire is on the pre-med track. The strong relationships we formed made it easier for us to engage with and critique each other's essays.
Annika (she insisted that Professor Konrad was too formal) also made an effort to get to know her students. She asked us for potential baby names, showed us pictures of her cat, and told us that this was her first year teaching at Dartmouth. Annika also mentioned that she is a person with low-vision, which makes it difficult for her to identify faces. Thus, rather than raising our hands, we adopted a system where we would state our name and then contribute to the conversation. Many of my peers and I agreed that this system was not only freeing but also helped us create a more accessible, inclusive environment.
The course was structured around three major works of writing. During the first two weeks, we wrote a critical personal narrative. We were asked to read an Opinion article, write a rhetorical analysis of the piece, and then combine our rhetorical analysis with a personal narrative. I used Howard Axelrod's New York Times article "Seeing Outside the Disability Box" to frame my personal struggle to define disability. Then, we began the month-long process of drafting a research paper that makes an argument about the rhetoric of a disability or accessibility problem. I argued that Confucianism portrays disabled people as subhuman, which has caused widespread discrimination against Chinese children.
You may be worried that you have never done these types of writing in high school. I know I never wrote a research paper in high school. I also had no clue what a critical personal narrative was. However, Professor Annika was extremely helpful in guiding us through the writing process. She assigned short assignments to help us brainstorm ideas, held mandatory 30-minute writing conferences for each student, and offered open office hours twice a week. Regardless of how much writing experience you have, Dartmouth professors are equipped to give you the support you need.
These last two weeks, we have been working on creating a final portfolio on DartWrite. (DartWrite is a Dartmouth initiative to give every student a WordPress website to showcase anything you create from math proofs to musical compositions to class essays.) This has been my favorite assignment thus far. Feel free to read it here! I'm definitely looking forward to tackling the second part of my writing requirement, the first-year seminar, and adding to my portfolio.