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First Year Writing Seminar: Writers on Writing: Home

The First-Year Writing Seminar

All students at NYUAD need intellectually rigorous writing classes that introduce them to the fundamentals of academic argument. The first-year Writing Seminar, the Writing Program’s signature course, is a place for all first-year students to engage in a semester-long study of academic writing. By participating in small writing seminars students develop a shared understanding of what we, as an international academic community, value in written argumentation — despite our many linguistic and cultural differences.

The Writing Seminar is an introduction to the academic work students will be expected to master as they advance through the Core Curriculum and into their majors: scholarly inquiry, elements of academic argument (e.g., thesis, evidence, analysis, and structure), critical reading, and the writing process itself. It is a course in college-level reading, writing, and inspired critical thinking taught by an award-winning, widely published interdisciplinary faculty.

Writers on Writing: Course Description

Why do people write? How do different cultures understand writing? How is writing valued and assessed? How do we learn to write? What happens when we consider the process of writing a complex affective and neurological process? These are some of the questions we will be entertaining in this Writing Seminar. We will do so by studying not only how writers write but, more importantly, how writers make sense of both their writing and their process.

It is seemingly the simplest of acts: sit down, get out a pen or put your fingers to the keyboard, and start transferring thought into written matter. However, the act of writing is a complex neurological, psychological, imaginative, and cultural practice. In this Writing Seminar we focus on writers and their expressive practice in an attempt to understand the process and material manifestation of writing. A fundamental tenet of the class is that writers and writing must be understood in their cultural and contextual complexities. 
In the first unit, we will focus our attention on short texts by writers on how and why they write. Readings may include texts by Charles Bukowski, Lydia Davis, Joan Didion, V. S. Naipul, Susan Sontag, and theoretical readings by Aristotle, Rousseau, Michel Foucault, Richard Miller, and Peter Elbow. In the second unit we engage writers’ memoirs, in particular Stephen King’s On Writing: a Memoir on the Craft, Alice Weaver Flaherty’s The Midnight Disease: the Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain and Kazim Ali’s Bright Felon in order to ask questions about writing as narrative praxis and sense-making. Finally, throughout the class, students will be asked to keep journals reflecting on their own practices. These auto-ethnographies will serve as the impetus for our third unit in which students will be asked to locate an area of inquiry based in their own practice and develop a small research project.


Dr. Ken Nielsen