Writing English Essays

Professor: Cynthia Messenger
Course code: JWE206H1
Format: Lecture/Discussion/Tutorial

About this course

If you are interested in improving your academic essay writing, then please consider taking JWE206. Our goal is to teach students to write academic humanities essays by conducting rhetorical analyses of personal essays — also called creative non-fiction. The three-hour class includes opportunities for you to discuss texts and to write in groups. You will also participate in small-group learning in weekly tutorials. Studying writing in small groups of peers is a recognized means of improving written communication skills.

What you’ll learn

  • Explore the writing of an array of essayists who are also fiction writers, such as James Baldwin, Virginia Woolf, Joan Didion, and Zadie Smith.
  • Learn about the persuasive role of style, rhetorical grammar, the importance of audience, and the function of various figures of speech, including tropes and schemes, all at the level of the sentence.

Course highlights

JWE206 students have remarked on how enjoyable and helpful it is to examine non-fiction prose that employs the persuasive strategies of the fiction writer.

A personal note from your instructor

Cynthia Messenger

Cynthia Messenger

The stylistic analysis of prose that is central to JWE206 reflects my deep interest in poetic forms, belles lettres, artifice, fictional flourishes, and tropes and schemes. For course readings, I have chosen non-fiction pieces (personal essays) authored by fiction writers, because even their leanest essays are richly textured with sentence-level play. Fictional devices and strategies, when they shape non-fiction prose, provide opportunities for fresh approaches to rhetorical analysis not available through more conventional investigations of argument and persuasion.

Good to know

Recommended preparation:


Distribution requirements:

Breadth requirements:

Have a question?

Need more info? Want to discuss if the Writing & Rhetoric Program is right for you? Looking for help in choosing courses? Jannie Chien, the Innis College academic program coordinator, can help!