WRTG 3020 Topics in Writing: Writing About the Body

Instructor Contact:

Dawn F. Colley, Ph.D.

Email: colley@colorado.edu

About the Course:

Welcome! In The Body: A Guide for Occupants, Bill Bryson argues that “You are in the most literal sense cosmic,” and Carl Sagan often stated that “We are star stuff,” a fact that science has just proven: 97% of the body is composed of elements from the stars. The human body is a fascinating, mind-boggling machine that we tend to ignore, unless something feels amiss. In this class, we will embark upon a quest to understand what it means to be “a body,” to be “embodied,” and to have a body labeled, categorized, commodified, and destroyed. We will consider, from a rhetorical perspective, whose body matters and to whom; how bodies are used by individuals, corporations, and governments; and how bodies are controlled, interconnected and transformed.

In addition, this course is designed to provide you with the opportunity to consider how the way you use language shapes your audience’s responses both to you and to your ideas. The course focuses on analysis, engagement, and argument, with special attention to rhetorical technique; it reinforces, deepens, and extends the content of the lower division writing courses. By reading and analyzing different types of texts—including required reading, your own research, and peer essays—you will learn to hone your understanding of rhetoric to improve the effectiveness of your writing. The class will be workshop-based and will emphasize the importance of arrangement, audience awareness, clarity, and elegance in writing; it places a premium on substantive, thoughtful revision. The over-arching goal of this course is to help you gain the tools with which to recognize habits that weaken your work, to develop new habits of engagement, and to realize your potential in writing; in other words, you will learn how to represent yourself effectively through language. Though this process is sometimes difficult, students who participate eagerly and openly will learn how to translate this information beyond the classroom setting.

Course Prerequisites: WRTG 1100, 1150, or 1250


This semester we will review and build upon the skills that you learned in WRTG 1150, as we move through a series of weekly topics, assignments and readings. The course will address the following areas:

  • To gain rhetorical knowledge of the composition process: This goal refers to a) analyzing the occasion, audience, and purpose of a piece of writing; b) using voice, tone, and structure to weave form and content together successfully; c) writing and reading in several genres; d) sharpening skills of analysis, argument, and inquiry to engage knowledge of ourselves and others. All writing—from academic essays to cover letters to text messages—uses rhetoric, or the art of adapting one’s language choices to meet the occasion, audience, purpose, and constraints of a piece of writing. Each time we write, our work is constrained by particular constraints such as time, resources, professional decorum, even professional or cultural politics, which influence the things we might write or say. This class will strengthen your rhetorical knowledge so you can succeed in all your writing endeavors.
  • To write in consideration of your audience: At the university, sometimes it feels like you are only writing for different teachers, but most of the writing you do in your life is for much different audiences. In this class, we’ll practice writing for various readers—experts, professional colleagues, and the general public. To consider your audience means to “put yourself in the shoes” of the people to whom you write.
  • To consider particular genres when composing: Genre refers to the kind of writing you will do. Each genre of writing has its own set of rules, expectations, and decorum. For instance, the content you would share in a personal statement differs greatly from the kind of content that is required for a petition or a multimodal composition. In this class, we’ll study what characterizes each of these genres and how best to fulfill their often unspoken rules and expectations.
  • To improve upon your writing process: Several factors influence the writing process: generating ideas, writing and revising drafts of an essay, editing and proofreading those drafts; workshopping and critiquing your own and your classmates’ work; doing effective research; using technology such as websites, Internet search engines, and electronic databases; evaluating sources for accuracy, relevancy, credibility, and bias; and reflecting on your writing in order to clarify the writing process. With each assignment, we will strive to demystify the writing process and practice writing as a manageable series of actions.
  • To sharpen critical thinking skills: Critical thinking refers to your ability to analyze issues, problems, or opportunities relevant to your field or profession; identify and evaluate information sources for relevance, validity, and credibility; apply advanced rhetorical knowledge in order to recognize the elements of sound reasoning; pose questions that lead to sustained inquiry and innovative thinking; frame an issue and develop a stance based on evidence and sound reasoning; recognize the elements and logical progression of persuasive arguments; and employ rhetorical strategies to produce a coherent and persuasive argument.
  • To strengthen your writing conventions: To achieve this goal, we will focus on the following factors: sharpening your ability to make a cogent argument, working on logical development of ideas, honing paragraph structure (including the use of evidence), considering appropriate vocabulary, following the expectations of the genre, and refining proofreading techniques. By discussing and analyzing, for example, the various conventions of a rhetorical analysis or a petition, you will gain an appreciation for how the different parts of these documents fit together and can be changed according to the circumstance in which you write.
  • To increase your capacity to function in a digital environment: Digital literacy refers to the ability to find, navigate, evaluate, and participate in digital environments for a variety of purposes. This class will be conducted through Canvas, require you to understand how to use the library and Internet to glean research, and improve your understanding of how to use Audacity and Google Drive.

Required Texts:

All course materials will be available via Canvas. There are no materials that need to be purchased.

Grading (out of n points):

Rhetorical Analysis Project 165

Creative Nonfiction Project 130

Petition Project 200

Multimodal Project 160

Presentation 100

Journal entries 120

Participation 125



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Monday – Friday
8:00am to 5:00pm


We are located at the corner of University Avenue and 15th Street in a white brick building.


1505 University Avenue
University of Colorado Boulder
178 UCB
Boulder, Colorado