Location: Cowichan (700), classroom 115
Class Hours: Thursday 10:30 am – 1 pm
Office Hours: Thursday: 1:30 –  2:30
(or by appointment)
Office: 314

“The truth about stories is that that’s all we are”

Thomas King

This course introduces you to university level writing and research by exploring select books, essays, short stories, a documentary, and two films, and concerns a question of particular relevance to first-year students: what stories should guide how we design our lives? The major themes we will investigate in each text surround the importance of language and stories in our lives, which includes exploring how certain stories and myths can be dangerous. In this course students will develop a critical voice, analyze discourse, learn how to write a research paper and properly cite material, engage with pertinent social issues, such as the global environmental crises, feminism, systemic racism, and Indigenous issues in Canada, and learn how various rhetorical strategies, such as point of view, are essential to university writing. It is my hope that you will leave this course with a better understanding of academic culture and perhaps with answers to some of the pertinent questions about how you want to tell your own story.


  • Cherie Dimaline, The Marrow Thieves (Dancing Cat Books)
  • Ronald Wright, A Short History of Progress (Anansi)
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists (Anchor)
  • The Broadview Pocket Guide to Writing (Broadview Press)

Evaluation [updated due to **COVID-19**]:

*Participation 5%
*Short Essay (600-750 words) 15%
Open-Book Midterm on Wright 20% 
Research Essay
>>>Annotated Bibliography 10%
>>>Essay Workshop 5%
>>>Final Paper (1500-1700 words) 30%
*Final Exam 35%

Assignment Breakdown:

Participation (5%)

Since discussion is an important part of this class, active participation and critical thinking about the assigned reading is fundamental to the course. Careful and engaged reading will allow you to achieve success and will prepare you to pose questions, raise problems, and engage with your peers during class discussions. I am an ardent advocate for the dialogical process of pedagogy, and believe that my students should have an equal opportunity to express their opinions with their peers and instructors.

Short Diagnostic Essay (15%): Due Feb. 6

The short research essay (600-750 words) asks you to research and write about a specific aspect of Indigenous culture or history in relation to Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves. In The Truth About Stories, Thomas King writes a lot about the importance of stories, encompassed in his phrase, “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are” (2). History itself, as King contends, is not of the past, but is rather the stories we tell about that past. For this essay, you are to include three sources using proper MLA or APA citation, including Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves, one non-academic web source, and one peer-reviewed secondary source. This assignment will teach you the value of summary, how to formulate a thesis, and incorporate evidence from multiple sources.

More details, as well as short essay questions, will be provided during our second meeting together (and posted to VIULearn).

Open Book In-Class Essay (15%): March 26

There will be an open book in-class essay on Ronald Wright’s A Short History of Progress. Details will be provided in class and over email closer to the date.

Annotated Bibliography (5%): Due March 19

In preparation of your final paper, you will create three entries for an annotated bibliography. You are to choose three critical texts—articles, books, films, recordings—but two must be academic (peer-reviewed sources). Each entry must consist of a bibliographic citation, in MLA or APA format, for the text you’ve chosen, and a one (max two) paragraph annotation, in which you explain the relevance of this text to your chosen essay topic, defining its theoretical position(s). How would this text be useful to you in the critical project you have undertaken for this course? What are its key points? Going back to our discussion on being engaged close readers, what do you take from it?

For a useful resource on Annotated Bibliographies please visit the VIU Library guide on Annotated Bibliographies:

Long Essay Workshop (5%): Due April 2

You will come to class with the introductory paragraph that will provide your essay’s projected argument (with a thesis). You will also include an outline (in point form with topic sentences) that shows a critical engagement with secondary criticism. You must also provide a works cited list of four to five sources that extend beyond the assigned readings for the course. You do not need to include any of these sources in your final essay, but they should clearly pertain to your argument and/or focus. You will take this outline to class for a workshop in which you will give and receive feedback and advice from fellow students. We will cover best practices in class leading up this assignment. An unmarked version of your essay’s argument (essentially a proposal) will be handed in (or uploaded to D2L) to me at the beginning of class. More detailed instructions (and a handout) will be provided.

Final Paper (25%): Due April 9

The final research essay will be around 5 pages in length (1500-1700 words), not including a works cited list. You are required to actively engage with three academic (peer-reviewed) secondary sources in the body of this research paper—course material does not count. Please note that although secondary research is a necessary component of this assignment, your own ideas and engagement with these resources, rather than your ability to perform and incorporate research, will be graded. I will be grading this assignment based on well-formulated and focused arguments. More detailed instructions, including a list of possible topics, will be provided and uploaded to D2L.You are encouraged to write an essay on a topic of your own choosing.

Final Exam (25%): TBA

Passage analysis / Essay

Class Schedule:

Please note that this schedule is subject to change as the term progresses.

Jan. 9   
Introduction; Course outline; Expectations; Departmental grading policies
Writing: Planning; Reading to form an interpretation
Play and Discuss: Black Mirror, “Nosedive”

Jan. 16   
Approaching an essay assignment;
Begin discussion of short essay assignment due Feb. 6th;
“Writing About Texts” (see Broadview Guide 47-52)
Writing: Using appropriate and inclusive language (see Broadview Guide 63-80); Summary versus synthesis
Discuss: Jonathan Gottschall, “The Witchery of Story” (see D2L)
Discuss: Thomas King Part I, “You’ll Never Believe What Happened” (see D2L)
Free Writing Exercise

Play Adichie on The Danger of a Single Story (8:30-14:10)

Jan. 23  
Writing:Evaluating sources; Constructing reasonable arguments; Thesis Statements (see Broadview Guide 32-33); Avoiding plagiarism (Broadview Guide 175-77); Integrating sources using MLA-style documentation (skim Broadview Guide 190-243)
Reading: Dimaline, The Marrow Thieves (1-153)

Jan. 30 
Reading: Dimaline, The Marrow Thieves (154-230)
Secondary Reading: Please read “Introduction” (1-22) and skim “Calls to Action” (319-338) from Final Report of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (available here, or on VIULearn)

Feb. 6 
Screening and Discussion: Indian Horse
Short formal five-paragraph essay due (600-750 words) in class or on D2L

Feb. 13 
Library orientation with VIU research librarian from 10:30-12 pm
Read sample student research paper: Broadview Guide 215-221
[We will also look at other sample papers in class]
Writing: Avoiding fragments and run-ons
Discuss Annotated Bibliography

Feb. 20
Writing: Evaluating arguments (Logical Fallacies)
Discuss: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists See TED Talk (online)
Adichieon transgender controversy
Article, Brains aren’t actually ‘male’ or ‘female’ and here; opposing view (see here).
Discuss Research Essay (and checklist) FREE WRITING

Feb 27 
Study Day [NO CLASS]

March 5
Writing: Paragraphing (see Broadview Guide 14-15)
Discuss: Ronald Wright Part I and Part II
Listening, Daft Punk, Harder, Better, Faster
Free Writing Exercise
See the Documentary, Seed on Kanopy GMO Videos: Bill Nye on GMOs; GMO OMG trailer; short breakdown of risks and benefits

Audio of A Short History.

March 12 
Writing: The Comma (Broadview Guide 132-135)
Discuss: Ronald Wright Part III and IV
Stephen Hawking’s warnings: What he predicted for the future
Brinkman, “Gilgamesh

Extra Readings for consideration:

Millions attend global climate strike” (Sept 20, 2019)
Paul Ehrlich: “Collapse of civilisation is a near certainty within decades”” (March 22, 2018)
“‘Soon it will be too late’: Scientists issue dire ‘second notice’ to humanity” (Nov 13, 2017)
Warning of ‘ecological Armageddon’ after dramatic plunge in insect numbers” (Oct 18, 2017)
The Fate of the Earth” (Oct 12, 2017)
Record-smashing August means long-awaited ‘jump’ in global warming is here” (Sept 13, 2016)
Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we’re nearing collapse” (Sept 22, 2014)
Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for ‘irreversible collapse’?” (March 14, 2014)

See Changes to the Schedule due to COVID-19

March 19
Ronald Wright Part V
Watch Surviving Progress
Midterm Review
Annotated Bibliography Due (moved to next week)

March 26  
No midterm
Zoom Session (10:30-11:50 am) with discussion on Wright’s A Short History of Progress and Surviving Progress

April 2 (Zoom Session 10:30-12)
Writing: Review apostrophe usage (Broadview Guide 139-140)
Writing: Revising (see Broadview Guide 14-15)
Discuss: Chiang, “Story of Your Life” (see D2L)
Essay outline due

April 9          
Screening and discussion on Arrival
Final Essay Due
Final Exam review on Zoom (10:30-11:30 am)