“I Would Use the Kitchen Sink”: Writing as Re-Vision, Re-Mix, Re-Search: A Course Syllabus

College Composition I



Course Syllabus with a focus on Claudia Rankine’s

Citizen, An American Lyric

Prof. Sara Deniz Akant

Fall 2017


The materials are books, yes, but they are also spaces of encounter; how we are touched by things; how we touch things. – Sara Ahmed, Living a Feminist Life



Based on recent scholarship in African American literacies (Adam Banks, Martine Syms, Emily Lordi), as well as feminist and anti-racist pedagogical theories (Audre Lorde, Sara Ahmed, Adrienne Rich, bell hooks), “I Would Use the Kitchen Sink” focuses on Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric and its extended pedagogical implications and offerings for first-year writing students. In doing so, it makes the case for student-centered learning through creative and transgressive acts of re-building, re-visioning, and re-mixing the basic (and not-so-basic) materials that we – as students, teachers, citizens, and humans – already have in front of us. At its heart, this syllabus not only hopes to re-invigorate the tired approach to achieving institutionally required learning objectives and outcomes (such as the personal narrative, the standard 5-paragraph essay, and traditional research methods), but it also interrogates the ways that creative writing can change the course of academic authorship and literacy practice from the inside-out.

NOTE: This syllabus is an adaptation of a required template from one of the CUNY campuses. It therefore contains institutional language, policies, and requirements. While I have made additions and adaptations throughout, please see the Classroom Rituals, Extra Credit Options, and Course Schedule for specifically student-centered learning.

Course Description (from English Department website)

This composition course emphasizes the critical and expository writing students will need throughout their college career. They will learn rhetorical skills, become fluent in academic discourse, and develop proficiency in the conventions of language through a series of writing assignments emphasizing the process of drafting and revision. They will learn how to synthesize primary and secondary sources and give proper attribution. Their engagement with a wide variety of texts will broaden their global and cultural awareness and allow them to gain insight into themselves and their society.


Course Objectives/ Essential Learning Outcomes

Critical Thinking: Critical thinking is a habit of mind characterized by the comprehensive exploration of issues, artifacts and events before accepting or formulating an opinion or conclusion.

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

* Read and listen critically and analytically, including identifying an argument’s major assumptions and assertions and evaluating its supporting evidence.

Written Communication: Written communication is the development and expression of ideas in writing. Written communication involves learning to work in many genres and styles. It can involve working with many different writing technologies, and mixing texts, data and images. Written communication abilities develop through iterative experiences across the curriculum.

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

* Write clearly and coherently in varied, academic formats (such as formal essays, research papers, and reports) using standard English and appropriate technology to critique and improve one’s own and others’ texts.
* Demonstrate research skills using appropriate technology, including gathering, evaluating and synthesizing primary and secondary sources.
* Support a thesis with well-reasoned arguments, and communicate persuasively across a variety of contexts, purposes, audiences and media.
* Formulate original ideas and relate them to the ideas of others by employing the conventions of ethical attribution and citation.
* Approach writing as a process that involves the steps of prewriting, drafting, revising and editing complete coherent essays.


Course Credits: 3


Required Texts and Materials

All readings and books, including those listed below, will be made available in electronic copy on Blackboard. Please do not feel obligated to purchase any books or texts.

* Rankine, Claudia. Citizen: An American Lyric. Minneapolis: Graywolf, 2014.
* Hacker, Diana and Barbara Fister. Research and Documentation in the Digital Age. 6th Ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin, 2015. OR The Purdue Owl


Journal Entries

Most weeks, you will be assigned to write a “journal entry,” which you access through Blackboard. These journal entries address various types of reading and writing practices to help you engage with assigned texts and build material for your three cumulative essays over the course of the semester. Journals are not graded, however, they will be calculated as part of your final grade. I will comment on your journals periodically, and ask you to share them in class once in a while.


Classroom Notebook

A notebook is required for taking hand-written notes in class. It is also used for in-class writing exercises. Please be sure to bring a notebook to class everyday, since access to computers and other personal electronic devices will be limited in order to focus on the specific materials we are engaging with in the classroom.



All class assignments, readings, announcements and information regarding the class will be posted on Blackboard. You must activate your student e-mail account to access Blackboard. Please check Blackboard at least once a day for any changes and updates.

If you are having trouble with Blackboard, please let me know, or contact Steve Wymore. His office can be found in B-2033, and his telephone number is: 718-270-4866.


Library E-Reserve

Supplemental readings, midterm readings, and final exam readings are posted on the Library E-Reserve as well as Blackboard.


HABITS OF MIND: Guideline for Achieving Desired Level of Understanding

Here are the Habits of Mind that we will be practicing this semester. These applications will help you to achieve a stronger understanding of what you read and how you write about those readings:

Multiple Perspectives:

* How can you apply a different perspective?
* What assumptions are a part of your own perspective?
* What would someone who disagrees with you say?

Use Evidence:

* What is your evidence?
* How does this evidence support your argument?
* Where does your information come from?

Analyze Information:

* What patterns do you recognize?
* What is the underlying message or meaning?
* What is important and/or useful about this information?
* How can you represent this information in another way?

Make Connections:

* How does this fit with what you already know?
* How does this relate to other subjects, books, music, movies?
* How does this connect with the real world?

Take Risks:

* Be willing to be wrong or to say something unpopular.
* Work with someone you wouldn’t normally work with.
* Ask a question when you don’t understand.


Basis for Final Grade

To pass the class, you must receive a grade of “C” or better.

While the following is a break down of what you must complete, progressive improvement of your work for this class will be significantly considered.

Assessment                                                                 Percent of Final Grade

Attendance & Participation (incl. Draft Workshops)      10%

Journal Entries                                                              10%

Midterm Exam                                                               10%

Personal Toolbox Essay (2-3 pages)                            15% (5% first draft, 10% final draft)

Close/Distant Reading Essay (2-3 pages)                    15% (5% first draft, 10% final draft)

Re-Mix/Re-Search Essay (4-6 pages)                           20% (5% first drafts, 10% final draft)

Final Exam                                                                     20%


Grade Details

Attendance & Participation: Will be marked each scheduled class meeting. Includes engagement in classroom discussion and activities, as well as bringing a hard copy of the text we are discussing that day, and a notebook to write in by hand.
Essays: All grades are written on the final draft of each essay assignment.
Journal: Will be graded based on the percentage of required entries completed on time.
Midterm/Final: All grades are written on the rubric.
Final Course Grade: Will be posted on CUNYFirst after the Final Exam.


Written Essay Assignments

* All essays must be typed, doubled-spaced, use 12-point, Times New Roman font, and follow MLA conventions for formatting and documentation (consult The Purdue Owl).
* Late assignments are only accepted by email in case of emergency. However, due to the limited timing of our semester and my schedule, I cannot comment on drafts submitted after the due date.
* You may revise the final draft of any essay for a better grade as many times as you need over the course of the semester.


Extra Credit

Extra credit is given for certain assignments that I will offer toward the end of the semester. If you would like to pursue extra-credit, please contact me after class, during office hours, or by email. The following extra credit options are available at this time:

* Reading / Performance – read and/or perform selection or a paragraph that you really like from your writings this semester – out loud to the class. Then, write 500 words discussing the process of reading out loud as “performance.” How did it feel? How did it go? What did you learn about your writing? What is important to know about this process? What would you say to other students who are about to do this? What might you do differently next time? Would you do this again? (10%)

* Syllabus Building – Describe 10 activities, readings, or assignments that you would include if you were teaching this course next semester. For each of the 10 items, write 2-3 sentences describing the reasoning behind putting this particular item on the syllabus. What would you want students to learn from this? How would you get them to engage with it? (10%)


Group Work

You will be assigned a Study Group at the start of the semester for Draft Workshops and other in-class activities. Please be sure that you have the contact information for every member of your Study Group – you will be working with them throughout the semester, and they can help out if you miss a class.



The fastest way to get in touch with me is through e-mail, and I encourage you to write to me if you need more explanation/discussion about your assignment, or to set up a time to meet in person. That said, if you miss a class or any information due to lateness or absence, you are responsible for asking members of your Study Group before emailing me.

I will collect the preferred email address of each member of our class so that we can be in touch as seamlessly as possible.


Reading Assignments

This course aims to develop your expository prose through the reading and analysis of ideas presented in a variety of texts. These will range from essays and articles (some in “simple” or straight-forward language, others in dense, theoretical language), to works of literature (such as short fiction and poetry). Please read all the assigned material, and come to class ready to discuss and write about the questions and concerns these texts present. I will be providing you with hard-copies of the course materials, which you are expected to bring to class on the day that we plan to discuss them.


Classroom Guidelines:

DO bring to class:                    A hard-copy of the text(s) assigned

                                                   A notebook for writing exercises

DO NOT bring to class:           Your “technology.” Please keep computers, phones, iPads, Kindles, etc. (or as my Dad calls them, “all your videos and iPods”) in your bag and away from your desk. Distracting use of phones or computers during class will negatively effect your attendance & participation grade. You may step outside if you need to take or make a call.


Classroom Rituals

There are a number of rituals that we will learn and perform together as a class throughout the semester, including but not limited to:


* Desks and Chairs: This course will meet in a circular shape. When you arrive in the classroom, you will arrange the desks in a semi-circle so that everyone can be seen and heard, and at the end of class, we will move the desks back. This may seem like a hassle at first, but you will start to count on it every morning, and you might miss it in your other courses.

* Guided Free-Writes: For about 10 minutes (and usually at the start of most class sessions), you will be asked to free-write on a particular idea, quote, or issue. These free-writes are designed to help you build material for your graded assignments throughout the semester. They are not graded on their own, however, I will collect them as a way to take attendance without invoking Ferris Bueller.

* Exit-tickets: For about 5 minutes at the end of most class sessions, you will fill out a notecard with (some) of the following

What was made clear during class?
What are you still circling in your mind?
What would you like to focus on in the next class?

Along with Guided Free-Writes, Exit Tickets provide a record of your engagement in class.


* Draft Workshops: There will be 3-5 Draft Workshops over the course of the semester, which means each student will have their work peer-reviewed and discussed in their Study Group at least once. You will sign up for Workshop days and times at the beginning of the semester. Everyone must sign up for a Workshop, which counts for your participation grade.

* Think-Pair-Share: This is an activity we will use to help explain ideas or assignments in pairs. When the going gets tough, the think-pair-shares get going! For example, if everyone is confused about how to start an essay, it is often more useful to discuss your ideas with another student, than it would be to ask me, since I expect everyone to begin their essay in their own unique way. By partnering up with the person next to you and hearing their ideas, you will feel more comfortable in your own, or perhaps generate some new ones.

* Wall-Postering: On days that I bring large sheets of paper and colored markers, it means we will do some active writing around the classroom, so be ready to wake up and move!


College Policies

Disability Access Policy

Federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of a disability. Under the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the College will provide reasonable accommodations to persons with documented disabilities. Any information provided to the office will be confidential and will not be released without your permission. Please feel free to see me after class at the start of the semester if you have a documented disability, so that we can discuss any helpful adjustments or necessary paperwork.


Academic Integrity Policy

Academic dishonesty of any type, including cheating and plagiarism, is unacceptable. Cheating is any misrepresentation in academic work. Plagiarism is the representation of another person’s work, words, or ideas as your own. It includes: copying another person’s words without the use of quotation marks and footnotes (a functional limit is four or more words taken from the work of another), presenting another person’s ideas or theories in your own words without acknowledging them, using information that is not considered common knowledge without acknowledging the source, and failure to acknowledge collaborators on homework or laboratory assignments. We will be discussing the relationship between “plagiarism” and creative or academic writing in particular during our course this semester, so that it becomes not only a policy, but a point of intellectual interest.

Students should consult the Academic Dishonesty Policy and Procedure Handbook for specific regulations and procedures related to academic integrity. Academic dishonesty is punishable by failure of the test, examination, term paper, or other assignment on which cheating occurred.


Children On Campus

The college has an obligation to its students, faculty, staff, and visitors to conduct its operations and maintain its facilities in a manner consistent with its mission as an institution of higher education. For this reason, young children who are not registered in the child care center should not be brought to the campus, and, of course, may not attend classes with their parent or guardian. There may be occasions when brief visits by children of students may be necessary. Children may visit college offices and facilities, other than classrooms, for limited periods of time when their parent or guardian is conducting routine business at the college. Regular repeated visits by children are not permitted. In no case are children permitted in labs, shops, construction/repair sites, or other areas where potential hazards exist. Children brought on campus must be directly supervised at all times by their parent or guardian.


Attendance and Punctuality

The success of this course depends on your consistent attendance and active participation. It is important that you arrive to class on time and do not leave early. At the start and end of each class, we go over important information, get organized into groups, and exchange assignments.


Academic Support / Resources / Services

If you need extra tutoring, support or access to prepare your essays, the following academic resources and services are available to all students: Academic Support Center, The Writing Center, and the Academic Computing Labs.


College Composition I



Course Syllabus with a focus on Claudia Rankine’s

Citizen, An American Lyric

Prof. Sara Deniz Akant



All readings and assignments will be posted to Blackboard and handed out in class.

Schedule is subject to change – pay close attention to in-class announcements and updates!


R: Reading(s) Assigned for class that day 

W: Writing Assignment due that day

L: Listen / Watch

IC: In Class activities


PART I – The Personal & the Political: Writing as Survival Kit/Toolbox

Mon Aug 28

IC: Introduction(s) / Syllabus

IC: “Samples” from theoretical frameworks to come: Sarah Ahmed, Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Claudia Rankine, Adam Banks


Wed Aug 30

R: Sarah Ahmed, “A Killjoy Survival Kit” from Living a Feminist Life + “Samples” from Claudia Rankine, Citizen

IC: Choose one of the “Samples” from Citizen and free-write about it’s “tools”: if the text sample you chose were a “survival kit,” what’s in it?


Wed Sept 6

R: Audre Lorde, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” + Audre Lorde, “Litany for Survival”

W: Toolbox (journal) entry #1: Select a quote from Ahmed or Lorde and describe its relationship to your own personal experiences or beliefs in the world.

IC: Adrienne Rich, “Diving into the Wreck” exercise: Read poem without author’s name aloud, and free-write about the poem. Then, reveal author’s identity. What’s changed about our interpretations?


Mon Sept 11

R: Claudia Rankine, Citizen Part I (cover page – p. 19)

L: Claudia Rankine on NPR

W: Toolbox (journal) entry #2: Select a quote from Citizen Part I, and describe its relationship to your own personal experiences or beliefs.


Wed Sept 13

R: Beck Feibelman, “David Hammons, Trayvon Martin, and How to Think about Hoods”


Mon Sept 18

R: Nicole Fleetwood, “I Am Trayvon Martin: The Boy Who Became an Icon” from On Racial Icons

W: Toolbox (journal) entry #3: Select a quote from Fleetwood’s essay and describe its relationship to your own personal experiences or beliefs.


Mon Sept 25

W: Personal Toolbox Essay #1 Draft due: Using Sara Ahmed’s “Killjoy Survival Kit” as an inspiration or model, and your Journal entries or in-class free-writes as a guide, and write a 2-3 page (minimum) personal essay that describes your own Toolbox or Survival Kit. Include an introduction to your Toolbox, at least three specific categories for its contents, as well as a conclusion.

IC: Personal Toolbox Essay (Draft Workshop #1)


PART II – Close vs. Distant Reading: Writing as Re-Vision

Wed Sept 27

R: William Burroughs, “The Cut-Up Poems of Brion Gysin” + Ted Berrigan, “Sonnet III” + Arthur Rimbaud, “The Drunken Boat”

IC: Cut-up poem writing workshop


Mon Oct 2

R: Martine Syms, Black Vernacular: Reading New Media

W: Personal Toolbox Essay #1 DUE


Wed Oct 4

R: M. Nourbese Philip, Zong! + “Epilogue” from Zong!

W: Re-Visioning Experiment (journal) entry #4: Do an “erasure” of one paragraph from Philip’s “Epilogue,” and then write 1 paragraph reflecting on process and/or the resulting text


Wed Oct 11

R: Claudia Rankine, Citizen Part II (21-36)

W: Re-Visioning Experiment (journal) entry #5: Do a “Cut-up” of Citizen Part II, and then write 1 paragraph reflecting on the process and/or the resulting text


Mon Oct 16

R: Claudia Rankine, “The Meaning of Serena Williams” (NYT)

L: Henessey Youngman videos: “How to Make an Art,” “How to be a Successful Black Arist,” and “Institutional Critique” (YouTube)

W: Re-Visioning Experiment (journal) entry #6: Choose one of Youngman’s videos and type out only the words you hear while listening to him speak, neglecting those that you either can’t hear, or miss because of the timing on your keyboard. Then write 1 paragraph reflecting on the process and/or the resulting text


Wed Oct 18

W: Close / Distant Reading Essay #2 Draft due: Using M. Nourbese Philip’s Zong! as an inspiration or model, and your Journal entries or in-class free-writes as a guide, and produce a 14-line cut-up poem out of material that we have read in our course thus far. Then, write a 2-3 page (minimum) essay that introduces the poem, describes the process of writing it, and then analyzes it as a work of literature. What does the poem mean “up close” (i.e., without knowing the author or source of its materials) and what does it mean “from afar” (i.e., when considered in the context of its author and its sources)?

IC: Close / Distant Reading Essay (Draft Workshop #2)


INTERMISSION – Visible Teaching Moment:

Race, Gender, & the Problems of Appropriation

Mon Oct 23

R: Jenny Zhang “They Pretend to Be Us While Pretending We Don’t Exist” (Buzzfeed) + “Kenneth Goldsmith Remixes Michael Brown Autopsy Report as Poetry” (Buzzfeed) + Cathy Park Hong, “Delusions of Whiteness in the Avant-Garde” (Lana Turner)


Wed Oct 25

R: Midterm Exam Reading #1 (tba)


Mon Oct 30

R: Midterm Exam Reading #2 (tba)

W: Close / Distant Reading Essay #2 DUE


Wed Nov 1

W: Practice exam questions

IC: MIDTERM EXAM – Remember to be on time & bring all copies of exam readings


PART III – Re-Mix & Re-Search: Writing as Sampling

Mon Nov 6

R: Claudia Rankine, Citizen Part III (p. 39-55)

W: Re-Search (journal) entry #7: Select one page or passage from Citizen Parts I-III, and identify a possible “Re-Search” topic or question: something specific that you would like to know more about in the world. Explain this topic in a short paragraph, including why you chose it. 


Wed Nov 8

R: Claudia Rankine, Citizen Part IV and V (p. 57-79)

IC: MEC Library lab visit (meeting with a MEC librarian)


Mon Nov 13

R: Claudia Rankine, Citizen Part VI (p. 81-135)

W: Re-Search (journal) entry #8: Using the skills learned from the librarian last week, do some research around the topic or question that you chose last week. Explain your Re-Search process in a short paragraph, including what you learned, and what you are still hoping to learn. In a separate paragraph, list the key-words that you used, and the names of the sources that you found.


Wed Nov 15

R: Adam Banks, “Scratch: Two Turntables and a Storytelling Tradition” from Digital Griots + focus on Claudia Rankine, “October 10, 2006 / World Cup: Script for Situation video created in collaboration with John Lucas” from Citizen (p. 120-129)

L: Erykah Badu, “Honey” (YouTube)


Mon Nov 20

R: Transcript of Lemonade (Bustle) + Warsan Shire “for women who are ‘difficult’ to love”

L: Beyonce Knowles, Lemonade (YouTube) + Malcolm X, “Speech May 22, 1962” (YouTube)

W: Re-Search (journal) entry #9: Using Claudia Rankine’s “October 10, 2006/World Cup” text as an inspiration or model, and your Journal entries or in-class free-writes as a guide, produce a “Creative Re-Mix” text out of your own writing, and writing that we have read over the course of this semester (10-15 sentences). You may want to thinking about the research topic that you explored last week while selecting and organizing your sentences, or else using another method of selection. Either way, be sure to cite your sources next to each sentence or passage that you use.


Wed Nov 22

R: Emily Lordi, “Epilogue: ‘At Last’: Etta James, Poetry, Hip Hop” from Black Resonance + Morgan Parker, “There Are More Beautiful Things than Beyoncé”


Mon Nov 27

R: Claudia Rankine, Citizen Part VII (p. 137 – end)

W: Re-Search (journal) entry #10: Choose one specific topic, question, or theme that comes up in your Re-Mix text, and Re-Search it further. Explain what you find in a short paragraph, including why you chose this topic to explore. If your topic is the same as before you created your Re-Mix, then use this as an opportunity to define your Re-Search topic further.


Wed Nov 29

R: Final Exam Reading (tba)

W: Midterm Exam type-ups


Mon Dec 4

W: Re-Mix / Re-Search Essay #3 Draft due: Write a 4-6 page (minimum) essay that introduces your “Re-Mix” text, describes the process of writing it, and then explores one potential research question that it brings up. Include a Bibliography in MLA style with all sources used in your Re-Mix text, as well as at least 2 sources relating to your topic that we have not yet read in class.

IC: Re-Mix / Re-Search Essay (Draft Workshop #3)


Wed Dec 6

R: Midterm + Final Exam Readings (review)


Mon Dec 11

W: Re-Mix/Re-Search Essay #3 DUE: This will be portfolio-style. Include your Re-Mix text, your edited Re-Search essay, and your Bibliography with your submission.

IC: Student Readings and Performances


Wed Dec 13

IC: FINAL EXAM 9am – 11:30am (Room TBA) – Remember to be on time & bring hard copies of all exam readings