The Composition Program


Ann Spurlock

Ms. Ann Spurlock
Director of the Composition Program



Statement of Purpose

Various pictures from the Composition Fall Workshop

The Department of English has adopted this statement of the general aims of the first and second composition courses:  "The purpose of freshman English is to improve the student's ability to use language effectively in reading and writing and to improve his or her reading comprehension.  The effective use of language is an art, not merely a skill.  It can be learned and improved.  All arts involve the adaptation of means to ends. Continued human experience with an art involves following certain procedures effectively and efficiently to achieve these ends. These procedures then are formulated into a body of knowledge governed by a set of standards that must be followed if success in that art is to be achieved. The criteria for the effective use of language can be classified into the rules of grammar, rhetoric, and logic. The general aim of all freshman courses is to familiarize the student with the standards of contemporary American usage and to provide her or him with opportunities for putting these standards into practice in writing."

History of the Composition Program at Mississippi State

The freshman writing program at Mississippi State University consists of two courses (six hours) traditional at land-grant institutions. Although a uniform core curriculum did not exist at Mississippi State until the 1984-85 academic year, most colleges within the university required six hours of freshman composition prior to 1970. Some colleges then reduced the requirement to three hours, and the Department of English responded by establishing an introductory literature course in which writing is emphasized and by requiring a minimum of four critical papers in all sophomore-level survey courses. However, by a mandate of the state's Board of Trustees of the Institutions of Higher Learning, all students entering Mississipi State in the fall semester of 1984 and after must complete six hours of composition a requirement for graduation; and Mississippi State's own General Education Committee has specified that each student entering the university in the fall semester of 1986 and after "must earn six credit hours (or the equivalent) in freshman writing courses, including EN 1113 or its equivalent. It is intended that these courses establish a foundation for the students' continued writing experiences in all academic courses. The freshman writing sequence provides progressive structure to express ideas and information accurately, clearly, and logically. The Committee feels that writing in virtually all courses should be required."

The foundation of a track-level program existed in the separation of the honors sections from the traditional freshman structure, but it was not until 1973 that a fully stratified program was introduced. From 1973 to 2009, freshman composition was offered on three track levels:
EN 1103, first-semester composition, a prerequisite to EN 1113, the regular second-semester composition course; EN 1163, Accelerated Composition I, designed to lead to EN 1173; and EN 1103H, English Honors, open by invitation and designed to lead to EN 1113H.

Currently, the department offers a class in grammar and writing (EN 0103) for those students not ready for Composition I. The department offers Composition I and II as a standard sequence matching the state mandate; EN 1173, Accelerated Composition, as part of a program that allows highly qualified students to receive 2-for-1 credit in composition, freeing time for them to take more advanced classes. Honors sections are also offered, with 2-for-1 credit available for EN 1113H students and occasional sections of EN 1103H offered for honors students who wish to complete the full sequence. Sophomore classes, consisting of the Introduction to Literature and the various literature survey classes, are offered to meet the literature needs of students throughout the University as well as in the English Department and are not administered as part of the Composition Program.