First-Year Writing Seminar and Literature Core

The Department of English maintains a large presence in the core through First-Year Writing Seminar (FWS) and Literature Core. Each academic year, FWS enrolls about 1,600 students and Literature Core enrolls over 2,000 students.

These courses are designed to complement each other by helping students to develop essential skills for a liberal arts education.

First-Year Writing Seminar

The First-Year Writing seminar (FWS) encourages students to understand why people write: not just for grades or to complete requirements but because writing is an intellectual and personal tool for living. In our small, workshop-centered seminars, students use writing to discover new insights, orient themselves to broader conversations, deepen their understanding of ideas, and create changes in service of the common good.

Each seminar is a 15-person workshop designed to help you develop and practice skills in writing and research. Over the semester you will learn to write rhetorically, devising effective writing processes for a variety of purposes and audiences, including but not limited to, academic writing. Each workshop allows you to work creatively on a variety of writing tasks and to put yourself in conversation with other writers. You’ll meet regularly with your instructor to make revision plans, learn to give and receive productive feedback to other writers, and develop skills for revising essays before submitting them for evaluation. You may also work with classmates to present and "publish" your work within various classroom, campus, or internet settings.

One goal of FWS is to teach you a variety of strategies to practice in a range of writing situations which, in turn, will help you to understand and plan for subsequent writing challenges in your future academic, professional, and personal lives. Another goal of FWS is to give you the tools and the incentive to keep writing after the course has ended: in other courses, in your community, and for your own pleasure. Part of learning to write well, especially in academic settings, involves putting yourself into conversation with current arguments using the conventions and tropes of relevant discourses. In FWS you will also be introduced to library resources and will practice writing and documenting secondary research.

By the successful completion of a semester of First-Year Writing, students will be able to demonstrate:

Rhetorical Knowledge

  • Focus on a purpose in their writing
  • Respond to the needs of different audiences
  • Respond appropriately to different kinds of rhetorical situations, including but not limited to academic rhetorical situations
  • Write in several genres

Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing

  • Use writing and reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating
  • Understand a writing assignment as a series of tasks, including finding, evaluating, analyzing, and synthesizing appropriate primary and secondary sources
  • Integrate their own ideas with those of others

Writing Processes

  • Be aware that it usually takes multiple drafts to create and complete a successful text
  • Develop flexible strategies for generating, revising, editing, and proof-reading
  • Understand writing as an open process that permits writers to use later invention and re-thinking to revise their work
  • Understand the collaborative and social aspects of writing processes
  • Productively critique their own and others' works
  • Balance the advantages of relying on others with the responsibility of doing their part

Knowledge of Conventions

  • Learn common formats for different kinds of texts
  • Develop knowledge of genre conventions ranging from structure and paragraphing to tone and mechanics
  • Practice appropriate means of documenting their work
  • Control such surface features as syntax, grammar, punctuation, and spelling

Ability to Compose in Electronic Environments

  • Use electronic environments for drafting, reviewing, revising, editing, and sharing texts
  • Locate, evaluate, organize, and use research material collected from electronic sources, including scholarly library databases; other official databases (e.g., federal government databases); and informal electronic networks and internet sources
  • Understand and exploit the differences in the rhetorical strategies and in the affordances available for both print and electronic composing processes and texts.

Students may fulfill their Writing Core requirement through a BC Summer course with the ENGL1010 course number. (Woods College ADEN English courses will not be counted.) However, we do not permit the Writing Core requirement to be fulfilled over the summer at other institutions or in Study Abroad programs.

First-Year Writing Seminar Staff

Paula Mathieu, Director
S447 Stokes Hall

Martha Hincks, Associate Director
S446 Stokes Hall

Dacia Gentilella, FWS Mentor
Learning Specialist, Learning to Learn Program
50 College Road

Brian Zimmerman, FWS Mentor
S456 Stokes Hall

Kristin Imre, FWS Mentor
S430M Stokes Hall



Literature Core

Why take the Literature Core?

At its heart, the Literature Core is designed to introduce first-year students to the study of literature at the college level. The focus is on the appreciation of the extraordinary range of what counts as literature, and on what skills studying literature teaches.   

According to the University Mission Statement on the Literature Core:

  • By taking three credits of the Core Curriculum in literature, students read in order to explore the characteristics and values of their own and other cultures; to discover alternative ways of looking at the world; to gain insights into issues of permanent importance and contemporary urgency; and to distinguish and appreciate the linguistic and formal satisfactions of literary art.

  • To read literature critically is to examine the human condition through language’s expressive power and to place the reception of literary works in cultural, historical, and social contexts. Literature, in all its genres, is a fundamental vehicle for understanding human experiences.

  • Students will be introduced to disciplinary skills including close reading, analysis of texts, and the practice of writing about them with clarity and engagement. Through shared critical and reflective inquiry, students will explore ways in which meaning is textually produced in the world.

ENGL 1080 Literature Core

You can fulfill the university’s Literature Core requirement by enrolling  in ENGL 1080 (followed by a section number, e.g. .01, .02, and so on). If you plan to take First Year Writing (FWS), you can take your Literature Core course before or after FWS.  We strongly encourage you to take ENGL1080 during your first year at BC.

All of our sections have common goals and shared guidelines about exams, the amount of writing you do, and so forth. We all emphasize discussion-based pedagogy, active learning, and collaborative work. Meanwhile you will also quickly discover that we offer many different, exciting topics across our Literature Core offerings, each taking a slightly different approach to these common goals. For instance, one instructor might focus on Detective writing; another on family relations in English and American drama; another on the idea of “money,” or political dissent, or social marginality. For this reason, it is very important to choose a section that stimulates your interests—and that starts with consulting our complete listing of course descriptions for all sections.

Literature Core courses are included in the Core Renewal program, which offers opportunities to study Enduring Questions through cross-disciplinary, parallel courses in two departments.

Students can also fulfill the Literature Core requirement through select courses in Classics, Slavic and Eastern European Languages, Romance Languages and Literatures, and German, as well as through the Wood College of Advancing Studies.

Students may fulfill their Literature Core requirement through a BC Summer course with the ENGL1080 course number. (Woods College ADEN English courses will not be counted.) However, we do not permit the Literature Core requirement to be fulfilled over the summer at other institutions or in Study Abroad programs.