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WRTG 3020 Topics in Writing: Gender, Sexuality and New Media


Instructor: Tara Walker


So what is “New Media”?

New Media is a difficult term to define, especially considering the history of media. For instance, the telegraph, the radio and the television were all considered to be “new” media at some point. In fact, the definition of new media changes daily, as it evolves and morphs continuously.Today, new media is a term used to define all that is related to the Internet and the interplay between technology, images and sound. However, in order to understand such an extremely complex and amorphous concept, we need a working definition. New media holds out a possibility of on-demand access to content anytime, anywhere, on any digital device, as well as interactive user feedback, creative participation and community formation around the media content. Another important promise of new media is the “democratization” of the creation, publishing, distribution and consumption of media content. In this course, you will be examining how new media impacts the rhetoric of gender and sexuality in society.

What do you mean by “Rhetoric”?

Rhetoric, broadly conceived, refers to communication that achieves a purpose—rhetoric emerges from a particular situation/context, addresses and invokes certain audiences and values, and helps to construct (and transform) who we are and what we know. An advanced understanding of the ways in which rhetoric functions within particular discourse communities provides insight into how knowledge is constructed in those communities and enhances the ability to effectively engage in related conversations. In this course you will study how topics related to gender and sexuality are presented across a wide range of discourses. You will analyze the effectiveness of those presentations, argue the social and cultural impact of such presentations, and create your own messages for a variety of audiences using contemporary new media genres. The central theme of the course is: what do you know about gender and sexuality and how do you know it? These are big questions that ask you to take a step back and consider what you believe and why you believe it, which can be both challenging and enlightening.

What do you mean by “gender and sexuality?”

By “gender and sexuality” I’m referring to the subset of Women & Gender Studies that looks specifically at the relationship between gender norms and sexual orientation, which is often referred to as the “gender binary.” Over the course of this semester, we will question and complicate concepts that are often taken for granted—“gender” and “sexuality” are terms that will provide us with a point of entry into a discursive universe in which our multiple, intersecting identities are constructed and contested. Through critical thinking, reading, and writing, we will work to better understand the ways in which gender and sexuality are produced, negotiated, embodied, and transformed.


WRTG 3020 is offered through the Program for Writing and Rhetoric and has been designed to fulfill curricular requirements established by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE—advanced level), the University of Colorado Boulder, and the Program for Writing and Rhetoric (PWR). This course is approved for the College of Arts and Sciences core upper-division curriculum for written communication. This semester we will review skills you learned in writing 1150, challenge, and improve them, 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. Writing done in the university and in the world around us 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 occasion to compose is endowed with constraints such as time, resources, professional decorum, even department or professional 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. To consider your audience means to “put yourself in the shoes” of the people for whom you will write. What would interest them? What would attract them to your work? How can you make your work easy for them to understand? Would you address a potential employer different than your best friend? Would you say the same things about your research to the National Science Foundation as you would colleagues at an academic conference? These are audience consideration.

● 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 from the content of a CV, which differs greatly from the kind content that is required for a grant proposal or a conference presentation or a blog post. In this class we’ll study how best to fulfill the often unspoken rules and expectations of genre.

● We will improve upon your Writing process : The writing process refers to a) Generating ideas, writing and revising drafts of an essay, editing and proofreading those drafts; b) workshops and critiquing your own and your classmates’ work; c) doing effective research; d) using technology such as websites, Internet search engines, and electronic databases; e) evaluating sources for accuracy, relevancy, credibility, and bias; f) 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 resulting in a document of which you can feel proud.

● To sharpen Critical Thinking skills: Critical thinking refers to your ability to analyze issues, problems, or opportunities relevant to their 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.

● We will strengthen your writing conventions : This means a) Sharpening your ability to issue claims, lines of reasoning and evidence, paragraph structure, appropriate vocabulary and genre conventions; b) master grammar, syntax, and punctuation and documenting sources. By discussing and analyzing, for example, the various conventions of a personal essay or a persuasive research essay, you will gain an appreciation of how the different parts of these documents fit together and can be changed according to the circumstance in which you write them.

● 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 Desire2Learn (D2L), and will require you to understand how to use the library and internet to glean research, improve your understanding of how to use and access wevideo, powerpoint, prezi, and google drive.


Campbell, Richard, et al. M​edia in Society.​1​st Ed. Boston, New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2014.

All other readings will be provided on D2L.


Discussions: P​ost and Responses (lowest score will be dropped)

200 points


20 points


100 points


200 (total)

● Rough Draft


● Workshopping


● Final Draft


Rhetorical Analysis of an Internet Meme

200 (total)

● Rough Draft


● Workshopping


● Final Draft


Final Multimedia Project

300 (total)

● Proposal


● Final




Students are responsible for keeping copies of all work they submit for grading, including exams, in case there are technical issues regarding their computer, Internet connection, or course software.

Each of the components of your final grade, as well as the final course grade will be determined based on this general rubric.

Letter Grade

Percentage Grade




Exceeds all required elements of an assignment, and the quality of the work is considerably greater than what was required. The quality of the work is considerably above the class average and impressive to the evaluator.



Meets all required elements of an assignment, and the quality of the work is better than what is required and demonstrated by the class average.



Meets all required elements of an assignment, no more, no less. Quality of assignment is satisfactory for college level work.



Fails to meet all required elements of an assignment, and/or the quality of the assignment is less than satisfactory.


Less than 59

Only meets some of the required elements of an assignment, and/or the quality of the assignment is considerably lower than satisfactory. 50% of points are not guaranteed. At this level points are only given

if some elements of the assignment are met. If not, very low percentages are likely.



Fails to meet any of the required elements of an assignment, and/or the quality of the assignment is well below basic standards of writing, comprehension, and/or ability to follow instructions; assignment is late or incomplete; assignment is not turned in at all; assignment shows signs of plagiarism or other forms of academic dishonesty.

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