Fall 2021 - ENGL 860 G100

Studies in Writing and Rhetoric (4)

Class Number: 3678

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 4:30 PM – 8:20 PM
    AQ 6093, Burnaby



Focuses on the study and application of rhetorical theories. May include theories and topics in writing and composition.


Fighting Words: Shaping Controversy and Consensus in Discourse

The drama of disagreement gives verbal conflict an outsize presence in public discourse. Controversy can be held up as virtuous, denigrated as villainous, or dismissed as vapid. Disrupters are heralded as revolutionaries, cursed as terrorists, or brushed off as gadflies. But they maintain our attention. Because of this, it is easy to overlook our overwhelming preference for agreement in everyday interactions and to miss the background of consensus that controversy requires. How do assumptions that were once invisible or heretical to question become openly contested, and how do open disagreements become tacit assumptions? In this course we examine the relationship between controversy and consensus by asking how we shape both in our talk and writing. Along the way, we investigate the ritualized antagonisms of Western academic discourse and their links with traditional gender roles. We look at the ways speakers and writers depict controversy and consensus and the ways we perform personae in talk and text. We examine the role of intertextuality in making conflict sharable and the role of power and solidarity in shaping interaction. We look at the phenomena of playful conflict and sociable disagreement, asking how they challenge traditional ideas about the purposes of controversy. Students will gain experience analyzing talk and writing in the language of English and will make their own discoveries about particular cases of controversy.


  • Analysis 30%
  • Proposal 20%
  • Essay 40%
  • Participation 10%



No textbook. Readings for the course are journal articles.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2021 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with approximately 70 to 80 per cent of classes in person/on campus, with safety plans in place.  Whether your course will be in-person or through remote methods will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the fall 2021 term.