The Writing Food Project

English 201: Intermediate Composition, Fall 2009

Course Description

We have all been writing our entire lives, and you will keep writing long after this class. What we will do in here, though, is try to heighten your awareness about your writing practices and rhetorical skills, so that you can write better, and more consciously, as you continue on in college, work and life. Writing and what makes writing “good” vary widely across time, place, language, technology, genre, and process. No 15-week course can teach all you need to know for every writing situation, but English 201 is designed to offer substantial instruction in the four modes of literacy: speaking, reading, writing, and listening, in order to practice these skills concurrently in a variety of writing situations.

Everyone can become a better writer, but you’ll need to work hard, take risks, spend significant amounts of time on your drafts and revisions, share your writing with others, and be a good reader for them. You can expect our class meeting time to be spent writing about and discussing texts, debating ideas, workshopping writing, responding in writing and talk to film, advertisements, and websites, and generating writing ideas and strategies for your projects. In short, we will write a lot, in pursuit of the following questions:

  • How does writing create problems in the world?
  • How can writing represent those problems in ways other forms of communication cannot?
  • How can writing engage people to take action in ways they might not have before?
  • What does this site of inquiry (food!) teach us about how writing is practiced and arguments are constructed?

Our Theme

English 201 is first and foremost a course about writing and rhetoric, but in this section, “The Writing Food Project,” we will read and write about food. Perhaps the matter you put into your body may be nothing more than fuel to you, but the way in which food evokes cultural, social, political, and historical issues is often surprising. So this semester, we’ll explore how food serves as muse, drives arguments, inspires, and creates problems in contemporary and professional writing. The goal of such food analysis and research is not to convert you to veganism or to make you love food as much as I do, but simply to read, analyze, and write arguments through the lens of food. Food, as a theme should be seen as the starting point that will provide different occasions to approach the task of becoming better writers.

Further, the class is a unique opportunity to participate in a community-university collaboration called a HEX project (see below). In the second half of the semester, our class will partner with the Goodman Community Center Food Pantry to write publicity, logistical, and creative materials for them. The goal of such a collaboration is to write for authentic and real-world audiences and to see first-hand how food issues play out in your city.

The Writing Food Project

Program Overview

The Writing Food Project brings together University of Wisconsin-Madison writing students and Madison community food organizations to create texts about food. Students and community partners share histories, ideas, and research about food issues like hunger, local gardens and farming, food prices, and food education, and together write texts to be published and used by local food organizations. The Writing Food Project both provides support for local nonprofits and real-world writing application for students, and also helps all of those involved develop further connections to their communities and local food systems.

Project Framework

The project will contain two broad phases: research and application. In the research phase, the first half of the semester, students will explore the connections between food, identities, and culture through food memoir and narrative, and then they will investigate arguments made about food conflicts in culture, environments, health, and economies. The application phase will be less structured, as students begin to research how these conflicts manifest themselves in Madison and in the work of our community partners. The class will visit partner sites, collaborating with partners and with each other on writing projects, which will be student directed but bounded by partner needs. The class will culminate in these writing projects coming to fruition in publication or public use of the texts by partner organizations. 

Project Goals

Objectives of the Writing Food Project are based on the idea of connection:

  • Students connect university/classroom activities and writing genres to community/professional activities and genres.
  • Community organizations’ missions connect to larger audiences through new written materials.
  • Community organizations access university resources by connecting with students.
  • All participants further connect food as sustenance with food as cultural, economic, and political force.

Project Founder & Facilitator

Rebecca Lorimer is a third year PhD student in Composition and Rhetoric at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received a BA in Creative Writing from University of Southern California and an MA in English Composition from San Francisco State University. She has taught writing and ESL in San Francisco, Mexico, and Ecuador, and now teaches Intermediate Composition in Madison. Her research interests include contrastive rhetoric, second language writing, service learning, and issues of access in higher education.

About HEX

The Humanities Exposed (HEX) program fosters collaborative projects in the humanities connecting University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate students with the broader Madison community—teachers, schools, after-school programs, museums, and neighborhood centers. Through these partnerships, HEX creates alliances between graduate students who develop and implement projects related to their research, and local partners who provide fresh insights and perspectives into the research topics and help the graduate students increase their public impact.

Objectives of English 201

All English 201 sections fulfill the university’s “Communications B” requirement and demand a high level of participation from students. In this class, you can expect to:

  • Learn how to analyze, negotiate, respond to, and create your own challenging or complex arguments
  • Develop your abilities as an engaged and critical reader—of your own work, of the work of your peers, and of published writers
  • Understand and apply basic rhetorical principles in order to communicate with style and substance
  • Plan, draft, revise, and edit multiple writing projects over time; see how your writing changes with practice
  • Write for a variety of public audiences and community purposes; see how these change your writing
  • Increase your consciousness about the power and plasticity of writing


This semester you will write frequently, turning something in for response from either your peers or me almost every week. The goal is for you to write constantly, in a variety of genres, in response to different assignments with different kinds of challenges, and for multiple readers. As in all English 201 courses, you will produce about 8,000 words (approximately 30 pages) of polished writing by the end of the semester.

Short Assignments. You will complete several 1-3 page assignments: descriptive narratives, reflections, and analyses of readings, websites, short documentaries, and advertisements. Complete these assignments with the same care and attention as your longer projects, but feel free to take more risks or try something new. The short assignments will receive + , , or – for you to gauge your writing progress.

Long Assignments. You will also complete three longer papers that expand on the writing completed in the short assignments. You will receive substantial written feedback from your peers and from me on the projects in order to gage your writing progress and continue to improve your writing skills.

Participation. Attending class and turning in your work on time, of course, isn’t enough. You need to come to each class meeting prepared and be an active participant when you’re here. Speaking up during class is easier for some more than others, but there are a variety of ways to participate in pairs or small groups. I can help out if you don’t know how to enter the conversation—just let me know.

Tentative Course Calendar – English 201 – Fall 2009

Week 1 W 9/2 Introduction to course and to one another; why food matters
F 9/4 What is writing? What is rhetoric? Discuss Lamott
Week 2 M 9/7 NO CLASS – Labor Day
W 9/9 Discuss Jacobsen; class organization
F 9/11 Showing vs. telling; discuss Reichl “Queen” and “Serafina”
Week 3 M 9/14 Short Assignment (SA) 1 due; discuss Yarbrough, McCorkle, Baxter, Shteyngart
W 9/16 Discuss Berry “The Agricultural Crisis” and Pollan “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”
F 9/18 Paper 1 draft 1 due; writing workshop
Week 4 M 9/21 Discuss Wallace and Pollan “Eat Food: Food Defined”
W 9/23 Discuss Belasco; the rhetorical situation; food tropes
F 9/25 Paper 1 draft 2 due; rhetorical analysis
Week 5 M 9/28 Discuss Pollan “Farmer in Chief,” Dubner, and Safire
W 9/30 Short film analysis; meet in HCW 6176
F 10/2 Portfolio 1 due; discuss Berry “The Body and the Earth” and Pollan “Big Organic”
Week 6 M 10/5 SA 2 due; UW-Madison food culture and history
W 10/7 Madison food maps; local food cultures
F 10/9 SITE VISIT: Community Partner intro meeting and tour
Week 7 M 10/12 SA 3 due; intro to editorials; discuss UW editorial samples
W 10/14 Discuss, Schlosser, Bryce, Lappé; debate intro
F 10/16 Paper 2 draft 1 due; writing workshop
Week 8 M 10/19 Debate prep; meet in WC computer lab
W 10/21 Debates
F 10/23 Paper 2 draft 2 due; discuss Lang/Heasman, Rodriguez, Yunus
Week 9 M 10/26 Madison food pantries; discuss NY Times food pantry news
W 10/28 Discuss Deans and Coles
F 10/30 SITE VISIT; portfolio 2 due to box
Week 10 M 11/2 Reflection 1 due; proposal writing
W 11/4 CP project samples
F 11/6 SITE VISIT; SA 4 due to Learn@UW
Week 11 M 11/9 SA 4 comments due on Learn@UW; discuss Williams, style and focus
W 11/11 audience analysis; style as ethos
Week 12 M 11/16 Reflection 2 due; project group work
W 11/18 CP project draft 1 due; writing workshop
Week 13 M 11/23 Food in the news
W 11/25 CP project draft 2 due; project group work
Week 14 M 11/30 Project group work
W 12/2 Presentation prep
Week 15 M 12/7 Reflection 3 due
W 12/9 CP presentations
F 12/11 LAST SITE VISIT; CP presentations
Week 16 M 12/14 Portfolio 3 due; CP presentations