The Invisible Hand

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Expository Writing (ENC 3310)

All versions of ENC 3310, "The Invisible Hand" are now online through USF's Canvas system.

Course Objectives Assessment

Course Description

Ursula K. Le Guin calls it “invisible exposition,” noting that “crafty writers (in any genre) don’t allow exposition to form lumps.  They break up the information, grind it fine, and make it into bricks to build the story with.”  Whether you are creating fiction or non-fiction, explaining things, describing places, and providing backstory are all essential components of the process of giving your audience information.  But the most successful exposition is that which provides more than just an information dump (or expository lump, to use Le Guin’s expression); it persuades, entertains, and even spurs an audience to action.

The title of this course, “The Invisible Hand,” refers to the idea of exposition that guides without appearing to guide, that (again in Le Guin’s words) “[tells] it so the reader doesn’t realize they’re learning anything.”  The title also suggests the classic metaphor from Adam Smith: the hidden guiding force that steers American capitalism.  What, if anything, steers culture?  How do institutions like law, science, and so forth shape a culture, visibly and invisibly?

Through examples of good exposition (essays by writers like David Sedaris, Malcolm Gladwell, and a host of others), we will see what forces guide our contemporary culture.  Through James W. Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me, we will see how bad exposition – particularly the politically-motivated whitewashing of high school history textbooks – works as well.  We will study the needs and desires of readers and writers in "They Say/I Say" in order to learn techniques for writing effective prose. And we will determine how effective arguments work in practice throughout many disiplines.

Overall, this is a course that teaches the techniques for writing effective non-fiction prose, in which student essays are extensively criticized, edited, and discussed in individual sessions with the instructor and with peers. It provides you practice in mastering the following outcomes: rhetorical knowledge, critical thinking, reading, and writing; writing as a process; and knowledge of conventions. The writing assignments are sequenced: summary, critique, synthesis, and analysis. This enforces the understanding of writing as a series of tasks. Each assignment allows you the opportunity to find, evaluate, analyze, and synthesize primary and secondary sources. You learn to integrate your ideas with those of others, and you are encouraged to see the relationship among the parts of an argument.

Select below for Course Objectives and Strategies, Assessment and Grading, and Course Schedules for each section.

Course Objectives Assessment

Required Texts (with links to order from

Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, "They Say / I Say": The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing (Third  Edition)

James W. Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong


Course Objectives Assessment