Complaints about Harvard's freshman writing program regularly spark conversation in Yard dormitories and the Union, but an off-shoot of Expository Writing being offered for the first time this year is drawing rave reviews from instructors as well as students.
Specifically designed for upperclassmen, Expos II emphasizes personalized instruction rather than the small group seminars that are the basis of the first-year offering. The course caters to students who were left largely unsatisfied as freshmen in the University's only required class.
Students enrolled in Expos II credit the individual instruction given by tutors as the most beneficial difference between the new offering and its freshman year forebear, and Expository Writing Director Richard C. Marius agrees. "Writing is an intimate act," he explained.
To Boldly Go
"I'm convinced that something beyond Expos I is necessary," said Jonathan Aaron, co-director of the new class, recently. Aaron, who directed a popular course at Yale similar to Expos II, explained that the ability to write has become increasingly important in most professional fields.
Aaron said the new course teaches students to ask questions about their own writing so they can continue to improve.
To combat the decline in quality of long assignments completed in all-night writing sessions, and case tension between students and section leaders often associated with Expos I. Marius and Aaron designed the requirements for Expos II to stress simplicity and consistent assignments. Students must complete a daily, one-page writing sample and meet with their personal tutors at at least one, hour-long conference each week. A weekly lecture focusing on one aspect of prose style is also required.
The reasons given by the 33 upperclassmen enrolled in what many peers might consider Harvard's answer to masochism vary from a gentle suggestion by their first Expos instructor to aspirations of a career as a journalist. But students contacted this week generally agreed the close supervision and the required writing every day make Expos II a drastic improvement over Expos I.
"People laugh at it, but it's not Expos I over again," said Todd Collins '83. The Dunster House resident explained the only course he has previously taken that helped his writing was his Social Studies tutorial, adding he hopes Expos II will help him prepare his thesis.
Xenna M. Clark '83 said she considered taking English Car, "Composition," but was discouraged by the application procedure. She added that she was attracted by the difference between Expos II and the freshman offering.