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3020 - Topics in Writing Course Descriptions

The following list is alphabetical, by course title. The course offerings below are for the Fall 2016 semester. Check the current Course Schedule.

According to Carolyn Dunn and Carol Comfort in the introduction of Through the Eye of the Deer, in “traditional American Indian narratives...many early tribal societies looked to the animal world for guidance” (x). Dunn and Comfort further claim that “animals were often the teachers...and in the world of modern narratives [animals] appear as culture-bearers and messengers” (x). The idea that animals might serve as “teachers” and “culture bearers” seems far from notions that some people hold today. Many believe that animals are to be exploited. Others believe that animals are to be pampered. While many agree that animals have the right to be protected from misuse, can we really accept that they can instruct humans? Is it possible that how a culture perceives animals relates to its belief about humans’ position on the planet? Are we actually superior to animals? Does our belief in animals’ placement on the earth relate to our beliefs about the supposed hierarchies among people? We will explore these questions by looking at American Indian narratives in multiple sources and by examining the implications of species equality and how it might relate to the stewardship of the planet.
This course will study how the essay offers multifaceted means of interrogating and representing our surroundings. The essays we will read (and write) are elusive. They capture the ongoing, often perplexing process of understanding, contextualizing, and articulating both why something is singularly important and its relative value to an outside reader. We will read authors who draw us in so profoundly that we forget our very breathing existence, though we will also engage with essays that insist on creating a conversation, that anticipate and build on our reactions to the text. Rather than define explicitly what the essay may be, this course will show how the form explodes through its many forms and forums. This course asks and seeks to answer: What is an essay? Who writes American essays? What characterizes the essay genre? Why read essays? Finally, while we will read, unpack, and critique classic American essays from the last 100 years, we will also study contemporary derivatives of the essay – New Journalism, autobiographical fiction, podcasts, and songwriting. Through the study of traditional and contemporary essay writing along with compositional instruction, students will draft, edit, and revise several original essays throughout the semester.
We will use current issues in biomedical ethics and public health policy to study the basic elements of an argument. The course will be structure around Beauchamp and Childress's Four Principles of Biomedical Ethics--a rubric commonly used by bioethicists to evaluate ethical dilemmas. Students will write number of brief responses to ethics scenarios and two major papers. The first paper will be prompt driven. It will encourage students to address a wide range of ethical questions relevant to clinical ethics, research ethics, health inequalities, the impact of technology on patient care, the nature of professional duty, and ethical theory in general. In the second, major term paper, students will identify a current issue in public health and then write a novel argument supported with secondary research. The themes covered in this course can help pre-med students with medical school interviews and with the Social Foundations section of the MCAT. This course is approved as an elective for CU's Public Health Certificate program.

" The effective practice of medicine requires narrative competence, that is, the ability to acknowledge, absorb, interpret and act on stories and plights of others. Medicine practiced with narrative competence, called NARRATIVE MEDICINE, is a model for humane and effective medical practice" -- Dr. Rita Charon

My goal for this course is to enable students to read analytically and to write with clarity and focus. This class will teach you to write well in a variety of styles and to state and defend an argumentative thesis. An educated person must be able to read with in-depth comprehension and to be able to communicate complex medical and ethical ideas in economical and elegant prose. The skills learned will help students with the MCAT and other graduate level exams and job applications. The main text is “Case Studies in Biomedical Research Ethics” By Dr. Timothy Murphy. We will also read, write about and discuss works by Dr. Atul Gawande, Dr. Oliver Sacks, Richard Preston and others. Students will give News Update on biomedical issues . This class is taught as a writing workshop with peer critiques, revisions, and presentations. Participation is an important part of the class experience. Students will write a minimum of five papers totaling 50 pages and give two presentations.
The law pervades American society and touches each of us daily: from “Law and Order” to “Judge Judy,” and from traffic tickets to constitutional questions such as “Can I protest at the UMC?” In “Conversations on the Law,” students will build on basic rhetorical knowledge learned in First Year Writing and Rhetoric to expand their analytical and argumentative skills to explore several genres used by the legal community. We use a moot court sequence of assignments. You act as legal counsel to write an analytical memorandum to your law firm. You write an appellate brief – a persuasive argument – to a court. You will participate in oral arguments as both counsel and judge, and write a judicial opinion. In addition, you will analyze writings by legal scholars and practitioners rhetorically. Throughout the semester, you hone the research and writing skills acquired in WRTG 1150 in order to better understand how the law functions: as public policy, as a unique language, as its own creation and a civilizing force, and as conceptualized by those inside and outside of the profession.
Regardless of age, a mutual question lingers: Does life really get better? There is no institution that hasn’t disappointed us. In this course, we will break new ground in fostering communication between age-differentiated cultures in order to understand and identify key social issues. Through mutual mentorship, university students and nontraditional “saging” students will explore provocative readings, conduct interviews, and create innovative written and multi-media products that will widen the possibilities for discovering what different generations can teach each other, and how that will dissolve the boxed stereotypes surrounding “Millennials” and “Seniors.” The class will discover and honor voices not usually heard in order to write new chapters for 21st century discourse, and engage the broader Boulder community in that discourse.
This course will ask students to devise and then implement an Action Research Inquiry Project in collaboration with an online community of which they consider themselves a part. Action Research (AR) is less a specific social science research methodology, than a perspective with which traditional methodologies are critiqued and re-purposed for ethical, collaborative action toward community generated objectives. Most often associated with critical sociology, anthropology, and education, the fundamental value of AR is inquiry, a value shared by the field of rhetoric and composition. In this course, students will explore their communities and the rhetorical features of these communities. Students will then apply their analysis as they begin to identify an objective or set of objectives important to this community. Next, students will interrogate the method and theory of AR as they develop a plan for collaborative action. This plan will be “tested” before it is publicized in a library-researched essay. As a result of these research findings, students will revise and then implement their AR plans. Finally, students will assess their own projects with qualitative research methods.
DON'T FENCE ME IN, Dr. Jay Ellis
"I don't know what happens to country."— John Grady Cole in All the Pretty Horses. How is it that Americans feel entitled to open spaces, with privacy somehow included? This course studies the aesthetics of, ambivalence about, and violence in American spaces (real and imagined) to provide students with a field of inquiry for writing well researched and radically revised academic essays. We will range widely from poetry and fiction through spatial theory in two progressions. Progression I, Dimensional American Fictions, leads through brief exercises to a revised close reading essay on literature or film. Progression II, Histories and Theories of Space, explores the violence that tensions over space elicit in art and life; students weave extensive research through several revisions of an interdisciplinary essay. Readings may include poetry from Emily Dickinson to Walt Whitman; fiction from Chester Himes to Flannery O'Connor and Cormac McCarthy; and brief selections of non-fiction from F. J. Turner to Michel de Certeau and contemporary journalists. We will study one film, such as Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven. All students are welcome: close reading skills, advanced research, attention to the writing process, and stylistic prowess are goals of - not prerequisites to - this class.
Through the centuries, writers as diverse as Jonathan Swift, Plato, Stanley Milgram, E.D. Hirsch, Ivan Illich, and Noam Chomsky have concerned themselves with questions about authority systems, education, and the ongoing efforts of human beings to develop and maintain modes of living that enhance people’s lives. In this course, you will consider some of the conundrums that arise in these areas. You will begin by writing refutations and short critiques of others’ arguments about questions related to education and/or authority; later in the term, you will write your own arguments as you contribute to ongoing discussions of these important matters. You will also write a researched essay in which you engage an educational issue of current concern. The course will emphasize critical reading, clear thinking, and the relationship between sentence-structure and nuanced argument. Throughout, you will have to take a creative approach to policy making as you work with tools relevant to academic writing and civic engagement.
FOOD & CULTURE, Dr. Dawn Colley
“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone's house and eat with him... the people who give you their food give you their heart. —Cesar Chavez

Food is both a necessity and a statement: of identity, of belonging, of belief. It is also, according to Chavez, an extension of the self. This course will explore the relationship between a variety of issues—food and social relations, ethics of farming and food production, and the evolution of sustainable foodscapes—in an effort to understand the role of food in the invention and shaping of American culture. Further, it will consider the notion that while food and food production create culture, the connection to food remains intimate, complicated, and individual. Potential topics for investigation include cannibalism and food taboos, self and the senses, race and ethnicity, factory farming versus local food movements and sustainable agriculture, and gender, sexuality, and kinship. Students will be asked to write a short essay, a longer, persuasive essay, and short weekly responses. In addition, students will also analyze a documentary about food and culture and complete a final multimodal assignment.

FOOD & CULTURE: Food Glorious Food: From Industrial to Local (service-learning),  Dr. Veronica House
As a class, we are going to study the rhetoric surrounding the food movement in the United States and relate it to current issues of sustainability, resilience, and access in Boulder County. To do so, we will consider the rise of agribusiness, large-scale monoculture, and factory farms, counter-movements such as the organic and local movements, and social issues such as food security and food justice. We will consider who has access to what kinds of food, the socio-economic consequences of our current food system, the role of government subsidies, and how organic, beyond-organic, and local food movements have responded to the current food climate. For the service-learning portion of the course, we will work as a class with a local non-profit called The Local Food Shift on a variety of writing and communication projects.

Assignments will include a comparative rhetorical analysis, a community discourse analysis, a community-based research and/or writing project, an oral presentation to Local Food Shift representatives, and a multimodal final project. Our course readings, discussions, writing assignments, and community-based work will center on the intersection of food, sustainability, and rhetoric. We will read Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and excerpts from Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver, and others. We also will analyze documentaries about the local food initiatives springing up around the country.

GENDER, SEXUALITY, & NEW MEDIA, Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum, MFA
In this class we will
  1. examine why we think what we think about gender and sexuality,
  2. question and challenge those “whys,”
  3. and explore, practice, and apply the rhetorical practices of those writing and thinking about gender and sexuality through a number of traditional essays and new media projects, i.e. podcasts, TedTalks, videocasts, PowerPoints, etc... Why papers? Duh. You know how to write, and writing is one of the best ways to explore, learn about, and make compelling arguments regarding our culture and ourselves. Why new media? Why podcasts and TedTalks and all this new-fangled technology? Coral Herrera’s Diverse Weddings and Queer Loves, argues that "Traditional media is still stuck in traditional patterns and in a worldview that is patriarchal and capitalist. It still sells U.S. hegemonic ideology in the form of entertainment...Thanks to new media…we are all transmitting content. [This makes us] less vulnerable to the construction of reality to the one imposed on us, because we can refute their affirmations, because we can make visible all those things that are kept hidden so that everything can stay the way it is. New media allows us, the general population, to speak, not just those in control of traditional media."
GLOBAL JUSTICE, Lev Szentkirályi, MA
This interdisciplinary course teaches principles of academic writing by examining a host of contemporary problems of international politics, which challenge students to engage difficult texts in normative political theory. Students will explore the rights of migrants and refugees, global poverty and theories of distributive justice, moral culpability for the effects of climate change, public health risks and environmental racism, individual and collective responsibility for perpetuating structural injustices, principles of just war and the moral consequences of waging unjust wars, humanitarian intervention and the ethical duty to prevent genocidal violence, the moral impermissibility of terrorist violence and the permissibility of insurgent violence, and the extent to which democratic governance can safeguard against injustice. Through course readings, independent research, and various writing assignments, students will critically evaluate diverse moral arguments in these different issue-areas, and will appraise proposed solutions to these prevailing injustices. In having students apply lessons of rhetorical analysis learned in the classroom to real world states of affairs and complex ethical problems, this course strives to motivate students to think beyond themselves and their own interests, to appreciate the hardships others endure, and to develop a sense of civic responsibility toward victims of injustice.
This course centers on the exciting graphic nonfiction genre. In order to write in a genre, we need to study it critically. We’ll begin by considering the landscape exploring a variety of graphic nonfiction texts across the first half of the semester. The second half of the semester will be dedicated to applying the visual and narrative techniques we learn to create a short graphic script and design the accompanying storyboards. We’ll work page-by-page and frame-by-frame to create the first twenty pages, one or two chapters, of a graphic creative nonfiction book. The course’s theoretical focus will be on visual narrative theory, writing and analysis, as well as research. While artistic ability can’t hurt in this class it is not a requirement, as stick figures and sketches work just as well. However, a passion and curiosity for the genre is critical. The class will approach the genre in different formats including daily in-class writing exercises and discussions, an analysis essay, a treatment, script and series of storyboards, and a group narrative presentation. Sample reading list may include works like: Maus by Art Speigelman, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, Persepolis by Marjane Strapti, Stitches by David Small, Relish by Lucy Knisley, Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh, Tomboy by Liz Prince, American Born Chinese by Gene Yang, and March by John Lewis.
HEROISM, Chris Ostro, MA
We often see words like “hero” and “heroic” thrown around pretty liberally. The vagueness that surrounds this term can have real political consequences, such as when Donald Trump questioned whether or not John McCain should be considered a hero (July 18th, 2015). Regardless of your political leanings, Trump was underlining something obviously true: the word “hero” is way more complex than we give it credit for. So… what’s a “hero?” What makes an action “heroic?” In this course we’re going to explore exactly this question. To this end, we will be looking at literature that claims to know something about “heroism” throughout the ages. This course will examine a variety of sources (Classical Epic, Medieval Epic, Graphic Novels, War films) so as to learn more about the topic at hand.
LANGUAGE OF WAR, Alison Castel
This course will ask students to write analyses and arguments based on readings that reflect our multi-cultural heritage. In responding to texts that represent cultural diversity, students will evaluate issues and relate them to their own multi-cultural experiences. Through these readings as well as class discussion of written assignments, students will learn to make reasoned arguments in defense of their own opinions. By examining diverse voices, this course helps students meet the challenges of academic writing. The need for a cross-cultural writing course becomes more apparent as the United States becomes ever more interdependent with its worldwide neighbors. Students need to join this "global village" by thinking critically about the roles of writing and language in forging a multi-cultural society. Because language and writing are necessarily culturally bound, diverse aspects of our own culture are often neglected in traditional writing courses. This course offers a chance to examine and debate concerns which are all too often undervalued or ignored. Language — often a tool to disenfranchise — can thereby become a tool to meld.
NARRATIVE AND THE SELF, Dr. Patricia Sullivan
The stories we tell about our lives/become our lives. Adrienne Rich

It might be said that each of us constructs and lives a “narrative,” and that this narrative is us, our identities. Oliver Sacks

In this course we will explore the provocative thesis that the self is essentially a narrative construct—that we are, in a sense, “the stories we tell about our lives.” Our inquiry will include questions of narrative (What constitutes a narrative? Do all genres “tell a story?” Is the world intelligible without stories?); questions of self and identity (What constitutes a self? Is a self given content/shape/meaning through the telling and retelling of stories? Can we imagine an “I” apart from the capacity to narrate?); and questions of the relationship between story and self (How do particular narratives construct particular selves/identities? What role does rhetoric play in creating and maintaining identities? What roles do history and culture play? Do we revise our “selves” when we revise the personal narratives we write?)

When we think about the self, typically we think about beliefs we have, certain physical traits and psychological attributes that define us. We think of an identity with which we wake up each morning and go about our day. Perhaps we look in the mirror and recognize ourselves, and other people, by looking at us and interacting with us, come to know us, too. In time, we become conscious of the narrative form our lives take, the rhetorical structure that provides us with a purpose and meaning. We become familiar with the “story of our lives.” But how real is this self and how true are these stories? Is the identity we construct for ourselves reliable and stable? And what is the connection between this self and these stories?
This course examines the ways in which the U.S.-Mexico border acts as a rhetorical site through which racialized, gendered, sexualized, and classed notions of citizenship and national belonging are socially constructed. In doing so, the class will address the history of the border in regards to colonialism, white supremacy, heteronormativity, and notions of illegality. Through class discussions, writing assignments, and an engagement with scholarly readings, students will come to see how the border travels across bodies, locations, and contemporary discourses as they learn to rhetorically engage with and write on the ways border rhetorics are constructed, endured, contested, and refashioned.
Through selected readings, videos and research we will look at the history of drugs (both worldwide and in the U.S), the politics of the drug war and its propaganda, as well as related issues such marijuana legalization in Colorado, the pharmaceutical industry, and more. The class will ask such questions as: What is a drug? Why are some drugs illegal and others accepted and legal? Is there a basic human need for drugs? What is the relationship between the war on drugs and other U.S. policy (both domestic and international)? In writing assignments, each student will also be able to explore areas of his or her own interest such as drugs and music, addiction, caffeine as drug, prescription drug abuse, etc.
Comics and graphic novels, once deemed low literature fit only for children, have gained both popular and critical traction in recent years. An explosion in the medium has moved comics away from the collector’s basement and into mass popular culture, proving itself worthy of scholarly consideration. This course explores the societal changes that gave rise to this shift as well as the role of the graphic novel in larger cultural discourses of gender, ethnicity, conflict, and trauma. We will focus on content and form, looking at print- and web-based comics as well as filmic translations and consider how these platforms can alter the way comics and graphic novels are created, transmitted, and understood. In addition to critical analysis of the medium, students will engage with the texts through their own writing, crafting papers and responses that contribute to an ongoing discussion of graphic novels’ cultural legitimacy.
This course provides an exploration of documentary as an idea (or set of ideas) as well as a practice—a cultural production that operates across various film, video, photographic, and interactive techniques and technologies. We'll be looking at a number of classic and contemporary documentary films and readings as we explore the relations between documentary practices and (often radically) different national, historical, and political contexts. Along the way we'll ask questions such as: "What makes something 'documentary'?" "How have documentaries changed over time?" "How can we talk and write about documentaries?" "What is the relationship between documentary and ethics?" "What is the future of documentary?" Over the course of the semester students will investigate these questions and others through a number of different assignments, including a short scene analysis, a movie review, a longer article, and a researched project. With this final project, students will have the option to produce an academic paper; try their hand at making a documentary themselves; create a photographic essay on a specific topic; or construct a multi-media web project. Each assignment will build on the concepts introduced in WRTG 1150, and will give students the opportunity to practice and develop their skills in analysis, research, composition, and argumentation/persuasion. This class encourages participation and collaboration through lively discussion and workshopping.
TRAVEL WRITING, Dr. Christine Macdonald
“Wherever you go, there you are.” This cliché implies that people cannot change themselves or their perspective by changing their location. In this course we will explore the potential and limitations of travel as a means to facilitate different types of journeys: physical, cultural and psychological. We will study theories of “place,” and the interplay between the viewpoints of traveler, “native,” writer, and reader. In addition to writing critical analyses of the readings, students will write their own travel narratives. You need not have traveled extensively to take this course. Readings may include works by John Steinbeck, Annie Dillard, Bill Bryson, Paul Theroux, Rory Stewart, Alexandra Fuller, Eula Biss, and others.
TRAVEL WRITING, Dr. Eileen Lagman
This course explores the rhetorics of travel and travel writing. Travel writing is a longstanding and popular genre of writing. But what draws readers to travel writing? How does it “move” people? And what are the possibilities and limitations of travel itself for understanding self and others? In this course, we’ll read different types of travel writing as well as analyze what travel writing reveals about how and why people move in the world. Students will produce several kinds of writing in this course—travel narratives, critical analysis of travel writing, and ethnographic research on a place. We’ll also study theories of place, mobility and displacement to help us think through the rhetoric of travel.
TRAVEL WRITING, Dr. Ginger Knowlton
In this course, we will practice and study the craft of writing and engage the philosophic questions and concepts posed by (and/or undermined through) travel. We’ll read and respond to the work of many different writers in this class, examining how travel narratives in varied genres are held together, and you will learn to critique not only the work of published writers, but also to critique your own compositions and those of your classmates. You’ll create several types of writing in this class. We will pay particular attention to the ontological-ecological and moral-sociological questions surrounding travel and we will examine the conventions of the scholarly discourse inspired by travel writing. We will make good use of the library and you’ll learn to conduct nuanced research. You’ll compose your own travel narratives (adhering to Bill Bryson’s assertion that as soon as one sets foot through the front door, one begins traveling – in other words, you needn’t have traveled farther than campus to take this course).

Travel is a process of exploration, expansion, calculated risk, and self-discovery. It is about seeing the world, but more importantly it’s about seeing the world— and your place in it—with fresh eyes. The “world” in this context could be a faraway locale, but it could also be someplace close to home. What matters is that the trip forces you to confront your beliefs and expectations, to press against the boundary of your comfort zone.

Whenever you travel and write about the experience, you engage with rhetoric: you are trying to win readers over with your story, and to convince readers to see the world through your perspective. In translating your travels into a written story, you begin to grapple with some essential tricky questions. What are your motives for the journey? How are you perceived by the people you meet? What is your impact on the culture/environment you are visiting? How much danger and discomfort are you willing to endure for the sake of the adventure and the tale you’ll be able to tell afterward? How does your journey, and the act of writing it down, change your view of “home” upon your return?

We will attempt to answer these questions by reading and writing a variety of travel essays, and learning how to analyze the mechanics and effect of each story. You don’t need to have traveled extensively—or at all—to write the essays in this class, for we will be studying skills and techniques which can be applied to more “ordinary” experiences. Each student will share his/her writing assignments in progress with the group, and together we will respectfully discuss the work and help the writer grow.

In this class, we will study an array of nonfiction genres including vignettes/shorts, autobiographical poetry, radio essays, humorous and satirical essays, lyric essays, graphic memoir and other types of work by nonfiction writers known for risk-taking and originality in content and form. We will consider and practice the techniques nonfictionists use to suit different purposes and appeal to various audiences. We will also discuss the philosophical questions raised by the acts of nonfiction writing and reading. While most of the focus will be on contemporary nonfiction writers, we will reflect on the genre as part of a diverse, evolving, long-standing literary tradition. Like professional writers, you will develop strategies for brainstorming ideas and for writing, revising and editing drafts. You will practice critiquing your own work, the work of your classmates and the work of published writers. You will also practice conducting research within the CU Library system and beyond.
WRITING AND MONEY, Dr. Eileen Lagman
The purpose of this course is to understand the intersections of writing and money--how writing works within economic systems and how writing creates economic systems. We often think of writing as a fundamentally artistic and expressive enterprise, separate from the everyday world of money and financial transactions. In fact writers, writing, and the systems that depend on them have long been implicated in commercial exchange. This course will explore how everyday writing has been implicated in global economic trends in historical and contemporary life. Over the course of the semester, students will read writing studies theory that teases out writing’s relationship to economics. Readings will be organized around the themes of: writing as commercial exchange, writing as labor, writing as capital, writing as an economic system, writing and ownership/property, and writing and national development. Through these readings, students will understand how economic systems and economic imperatives shape the contexts for writing—they will explore how economic systems determine the value of writing, the purpose of writing, and the exigency for writing.