A Message to Incoming Students, from the Writing Director of Rutgers, Camden

Summer 2010

Dear Students,

The English Department welcomes you to Rutgers University, Camden. We congratulate you on your decision to attend an institution committed to academic excellence.

In the summer or fall, you will begin college-level study by taking composition, which will introduce you to the critical reading, thinking, and writing skills central to your continued educational success. The English Department is committed to cultivating your command of language by offering you the opportunity to work with excellent writing instructors in small, seminar-style classes.

For those of you enrolling in composition this fall, we have chosen a piece of literature for you to read over the summer, to prepare you for your first weeks of study. The book we have chosen is Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried (Mariner Books, 2009; ISBN: 0618706410). Regardless of which composition course you take in the fall, 099, 101, or 102, you will be beginning the course with this work.

Originally published in 1990, The Things They Carried won immediate critical acclaim, becoming a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award as well as winning the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Éntranger. Consisting of 22 related stories about a fictional platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam War, the book explores the ways in which war affects friendship, morals, and self-understanding. But, as numerous critics have noted, The Things they Carried is far more than a dissection of one of America’s most controversial wars. It is an exploration of enduring – some might call epic – themes like the ambiguous lines between courage and cowardice; the sacrifices demanded of meaningful experience; and the ways that writing illuminates or ameliorates memory. Tim O’Brien himself reflected that his collection “is a writer’s book on the effects of time on the imagination.” We hope that in reading, discussing, and writing about The Things They Carried, students will reflect on their own relationships to creativity, the written word, and the numerous, intricate pathways that link the two.

This book symbolizes the writing program’s commitment to the curriculum of the college. In addition to the traditional aspects of academic study, the curriculum at Rutgers-Camden emphasizes the skills of critical reading and writing as well as the study of divergent perspectives. In your composition courses, you will refine your skills by writing analyses of many forms of literature, including essays, poems, short stories, and contemporary articles. If you have any questions about the writing program, at any time, feel free to contact me.

We look forward to meeting you in first-year composition!


Dr. Shanyn Fiske
Assistant Professor & Writing Director
English Department
Armitage Hall
311 North Fifth St.
Camden, NJ 08102
(856) 225-2937