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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 2017 semester. Check the current Course Schedule.

As an advanced creative nonfiction WRTG 3020, this class will not only ground you in common types of creative nonfiction like memoir, the personal essay, the lyric essay, and literary journalism, it will challenge you with hybrid CNF forms. These are forms that foreground compositional practices common to two or more CNF types—and often incorporate elements from other arts, for instance from poetry, painting, and/or photography. Why hybrid forms in an advanced CNF course? Jacqueline Kolosov answers this well in one of our course texts, Family Resemblance: An Anthology and Exploration of 8 Hybrid Literary Genres: “Because [hybrid forms] resist the impulse to classify, bringing them into the classroom both challenges and enlarges ways of thinking about genre and can prompt analysis and interrogation of such aspects of literary art as syntax, setting, and character, as well as more philosophical questions surrounding the nature of truth, identity, and memory.” All of this—from enlarging our thinking about genre to interrogating syntactical decisions—is critical in an advanced writing class, but I especially love the end of the quotation. As writers, we have to ask big philosophical questions all the time—and in a CNF class, we especially have to ask what constitutes ethical truth telling (in our creative and nonfiction genre), and what the self really might be—so the personal in our writing can be as truthful as possible. And that’s what this course is about at the most basic level: truth-telling, finding a way to write honestly. In this class, you will write creative nonfiction in many forms, an argument paper on a full-length CNF book, and critical reflections on aspects of CNF composition. You will also read broadly within the genre.
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.
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.
A unique class, wherein we will not only be studying comedic writing but creating it as well. The question that will guide us this semester is simple: how does humor change minds? (Notice that this question assumes humor does indeed change minds.) This means that we will be treating comedic or humorous writing as a persuasive technique, a rhetorical strategy that rhetors (writers or speakers) use toward specific ends. Of course, sometimes this strategy works well, and sometimes it backfires. Why it does either is a question we will return to again and again this semester. Much of our attention will be devoted to analyzing comedic writing, figuring out how it works and why. But we must be careful. As Mark Twain said, explaining humor is a lot like dissecting a frog: you learn a lot in the process, but in the end the frog dies. My hope is that, when we are done with it, the frog is still alive and kicking, and perhaps even more spirited and compelling than it was when we got our hands on (and scalpels in) it. We will also be looking at humor historically, considering its social impact. Did The Mary Tyler Moore Show inspire American women to pursue their own careers? Did Charles Dickens create greater empathy for poor? Has Aristophanes’s Lysistrata ever been recreated in the real world, and if so, to what ends? And, in all these cases, so what?
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.
Cross-cultural writing is a section of WRTG 3020, 3030, and 3040 that is intended for non-native speakers of English who wish to enroll in an upper-division writing course. The course is taught as a rigorous writing workshop using advanced readings and materials, emphasizing critical thinking, analysis, and argumentative writing. Examples of assignments include daily writing activities used in scientific and technical communication such as memos, emails, wiki entries, resumes and cover letters. Course readings focus on cross-cultural communication in the arts, business, and scientific fields. Future work in these fields will require you to write and speak clearly to an inter-disciplinary audience; accordingly, coursework will include a formal oral presentation. Assignments will be tailored to meet the needs and interests of individual students.
This combines WRTG 3020, 3030, and 3040 in a course that is intended for non-native speakers of English who wish to enroll in an upper-division writing course. The course includes analysis of and practice in the academic genres of English; a rigorous writing workshop using advanced readings and materials, emphasizing critical thinking, analysis, and argumentative writing; analysis of visual rhetoric; and a unit exploring the synergies between speaking and writing in an academic context. Assignments will be tailored to meet the needs and interests of individual students.
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.
Environmental Writing is a reading and writing-intensive course that explores the history and philosophy of environmental thought. Through our readings we will take on questions of society, ecology, politics, anthropocentricism, teleology, the human-nature relationship, and the mythological undercurrents of the “dominant social paradigm,” which the canon of environmental writing tends to rhetorically “antagonize.” We will aim to understand “environmental writing” as an inherently interdisciplinary endeavor, so our readings and assignments will synthesize descriptive, prescriptive, and normative elements of analysis and evaluation. This class will often require you to bring in your own writing for peer-review and workshops to be discussed in small and full group settings. We will also emphasize research, argumentation, and aspects of technical writing essential to success in the university, as well as practice several dimensions of proofreading & editing skills.
In this class we will work on developing your writing and communication skills while adding to your rhetorical knowledge. We will investigate the choices speakers and writers make and build on your ability to comprehend and write various forms of academic writing. Our topic for the semester is environmental sustainability: we’ll look at some of the rhetoric involved with environmentalism and consider sustainability issues from various perspectives. You’ll see several documentaries and you’ll read essays on environmental concerns. You’ll write six papers for a grade with multiple drafts of each; I will also ask you to do free writings in which you reflect on the ideas of the course and your own writing and learning process. Through the readings and assignments, you’ll get an idea of the range and possibilities of professional writing while absorbing the vast consequences associated with environmental sustainability. You will be engaging with your colleagues and me regularly, and you’ll frequently do reading quizzes and worksheets on basic writing conventions.
EUROPE IN CRISIS, Dr. Damian Doyle
This course focuses on role of the European Union in Europe and how it has informed the geopolitical, economic, social and cultural landscape of our contemporary world. We will examine the overarching theme of the integration of the European Union using writings that illuminate its history, institutions, policies, politics and culture. Europe is in crisis: it has not experienced such refugees numbers since World War II; it’s monetary system is being stretched to its limits with the bailout of Greece; its immigrant populations are changing the cultural landscape and many countries are experience a pushback from ultra-nationalists groups. Europe is the United States main trading partner and in that context, is it important and expedient for us to understand the history and complexity of this relationship. The course readings consist of writings that appeal to several different discourse communities examining the emergence of the European Union, and in working with them we learn how writers adapt content and style conventions, such as tone, genre, vocabulary, and organization to respond to multiple audiences and different rhetorical situations. By reading and analyzing different types of texts---including required course readings, texts you discover through research and peer essays—you will learn more sophisticated ways of communicating knowledge, particularly how audience, purpose, and context (rhetorical situation) in a text intersect with one another to make meaning. This writing course is designed to develop your critical thinking and analytical skills, increase your awareness of the relationship between writing and how knowledge is disseminated, better understand how rhetoric works in our lives and using research to draw connections between your ideas and those of others—both scholarly and non scholarly.
FOOD & CULTURE,Gretchen Lang, MA
This course is designed to advance the skills you will need for successful academic and professional writing, and to help you use those skills to connect with and serve your individual interests and goals. We will do this through the lens of food and culture studies, taking notions of what “good food” is, and exploring the assumptions and social norms created or disturbed by writings about them. We will work with several themes and several forms: themes such as knowledge and power, sensory experience, health, hunger, bodies, sovereignty, and environment; forms that include memoir, reportage, humor, research papers, literature, visual rhetoric such as food marketing, and creative pieces (poetry, film, visual arts, etc.). You will practice questioning and investigating common tropes in food writing; making a clear argument and supporting it with evidence; and applying curiosity and passion to whatever aspects of food writing are important to you. You’ll explore your own “voice” as a writer – your unique style and tone – and practice letting it shine through even when you are following rules and guidelines for a particular genre.
FOOD & CULTURE: From Industrial to Local (community engaged),  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, access, and resilience 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 literacy. 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 community-engaged portion of the course, we will work as a class to understand the current food culture and politics in Boulder County. Specifically, we will investigate through community-based research how language and rhetoric work in relation to these issues. You will hear from some of our local leaders in the food movement, and your final project will be a public writing project for one of our community partners.

Assignments may include a comparative rhetorical analysis, an inquiry research paper, a discourse analysis, a community-based research project, and an oral presentation. Our course readings, discussions, writing assignments, and community-based work will center on the intersections 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.

FROM ESSAY TO BLOG, Dr. Sarah Massey-Warren
In this course, we’ll explore the protean, creative form of the essay and its Internet version, the blog, using a selection of essays drawn from a number of sources, including The Next American Essay, by John D’Agata and other readings that will be on D2L and online. What is an essay or a blog? How do current events, locations, politics, ethnicity, other genres, cultural psychology, economics, and so forth affect the form and narrative of the essay? In this class, we will extract the essay from its academic box and understand what a rich poetic, political, and cultural heritage it has. We will investigate the essay’s vital role in social, political, physical, and emotional exploration into what it means to be human on this planet. We will query how the narrator’s position in relation to audience, use of rhetorical devices and poetics, publication medium, and real world context affect the essay. An understanding of the work of essayists and bloggers can influence your own forays into critical and creative writing and thinking. You will write a series of essays (including a blog) of different lengths to experiment with different kinds of essays for different audiences. Your essays will constitute a substantial part of class reading.
This course takes an intersectional approach to gender, sexuality, and the writing process. In doing so, our goal is to think critically about writing as it converges with new communication medium in the twenty-first century. This five-week summer course will immerse students in new writing media, while simultaneously encouraging students to reflect on how these mediums may be used to enact new knowledges of gender and sexuality with (dis)respect to normative standards for how these terms are articulated and reproduced in the contemporary public sphere. Students will be asked to produce multi-modal texts that challenge academic writing conventions and traditional modes of argumentation. Additionally, this course strives to build valuable practical skills, such as oral and written communication strategies and media proficiency. Toward these ends, the course enlists readings authored solely by feminist and/or queer-of-color scholars.
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.
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.
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.
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 is an intense but fun class, and you will learn a great deal about writing, about news and current events, and about news writing and reporting in only 16 short weeks. Whatever your academic writing experience has been, you will find yourself looking at writing and reading in many new ways. Keep your mind open, work hard, and you won’t be disappointed.
“On the Border: Mexico and the U.S.” examines the border both in its physical form and as a border between cultures and languages. The class begins with a discussion of the meaning of “borders” and with a look at the history of the U.S./Mexico border both as a physical and metaphorical space. The course then examines the discourse of immigration through the novel Tortilla Curtain, in various articles, videos and news reports, through class speakers and through discussions of student work in the volunteer community. Finally, the class examines other political issues of the physical border between the two countries such as drug trafficking, maquiladoras and “the wall”.

For this course, students complete a minimum of 16 hours of volunteer work with the local Mexican immigrant community. Students can choose to volunteer with one of the following six organizations: Youth Services Initiative (Boulder Parks and Open Space), the Family Learning Center, Arapahoe Ridge Campus, Casa de la Esperanza, SWAP or the Parenting Place. Volunteer opportunities include teaching English to adult immigrants, working in after school recreation programs, tutoring students from K-12, daycare for pre-school children and more. Volunteer work is integrated throughout the semester, and the students’ final project involves identifying a need of their volunteer organization and then writing a proposal to attempt to meet that need.

This section of WRTG 3020 will examine how sports not only define but, sometimes, even transcend their competitive boundaries. When they do is easy to spot: in 1971, people everywhere were mesmerized by a chess match--a chess match!--between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky; in 1980, folks far from the frozen ponds of the upper Midwest pulled over in their cars, honking their horns to the US Hockey Team's "Miracle on Ice." This coming semester, we shall examine why such moments register and ripple in our collective conscious and, so, have both reflected and informed American history. As such, this course should appeal to those with interests in Sociology, History, American Studies, and the like. But beware: our topic will provide only the occasion for students to continue developing their writing skills; assignments will include succinct essays and three sustained arguments.
TRAVEL WRITING, Terrell Dionne, MA
This course charts the foundational roots of tourism studies as a multi-disciplinary area of study with emphasis on composition and communication. More specifically, students will consider the critical implications of tourism studies on the practice of persuading through written, spoken, and embodied means. Tourist destinations to be discussed include, but are not limited to, Disneyworld, the Kennedy Space Center, Ground Zero, Nazi Concentration Camps, the Draper Museum of Natural History and “Cancer, Alley,” Louisiana. As an outcome of this course, students will be able to conceptualize tourism as a sociocultural practice of “making” and “remaking” the world as well as tourist destinations as un/bounded to political ends. In turn, students will recognize the need to think critically about travel, an effect that will result in three compositional and communicative outcomes: become conscious consumers of tourism by writing reviews of already existing tourist destinations; become planners of these same tourist destinations by reflecting on their itineraries as forms of writing; and design and compose the blueprints for new and needed tourist destinations that address exigent concerns troubling contemporary society.
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. Ginger Knowlton
Students will learn to make and improve well-informed assertions concerning contemporary cultural and social constructions. Over the course of the term, and in a variety of rhetorical contexts, each student will develop and present an individual definition of the cultural role that travel plays. Students will apply their rhetorical knowledge by writing in different genres and for varied audiences, adapting voice, tone, format and structure according to the rhetorical situation at hand. Additionally, throughout the semester, we will investigate the ethical force and power of rhetoric—what are the ethical responsibilities of an author?
WRITING ON MUSIC, Melanie Shaffer
Writing about Music is the work of translation; it takes expression in a sonic medium and transforms it into expression in a written one. The work of translation is difficult, skilled work, that allows a wider audience (perhaps even the translator herself) to experience and understand a ‘text’ in a more familiar form or language. In this class you will hone your skills of translating the meaning of musical experiences and musical works into a medium in which we are more adept at understanding and engaging with meaning. We will examine examples of writings about both popular and classical music and explore what writing about music means in different contexts and genres, from blogs to journalism to academic scholarship. Major assignments will give you experience writing about music from multiple perspectives—creator, performer, performance, context, etc. – and applying specialist knowledge and vocabulary appropriately in different genres. No prior musical training or knowledge is required, only a willingness to learn!
WORLD ENGLISHES, Dr. Young Kyung Min
This course provides an overview of the spread of English as a global language and of the development of local, nativized varieties of English. We will discuss various ways in which people use and appropriate English for their own purposes in their own contexts and analyze the diverse beliefs and ideologies that people hold about English as a lingua franca. By examining the rapidly changing realities of the English language, students will become more aware of the multilingual and multicultural ideologies in which the varieties of Englishes have evolved. Students will be guided to reflect on the essentialist and ethnocentric assumptions of the notion of the native speaker of English, the ownership of English, and the Standard English. Readings for this course cover a wide spectrum of topics, including the history of the English language, language ideology, language socialization, second language writing, intercultural literacy, and contrastive rhetoric.