WRTG 3020 Topics in Writing: The Grotesque

Instructor Contact:

Shari Beck

Email:  sharon.beck@colorado.edu

Course Description:

Modern contemporary art, film, TV, and literature embrace the bizarre in a way never before seen. Many might term what they see and read as “grotesque” —used either negatively or positively to mean that which is strange, unsightly, obscene, and in some case s, even funny.

Our course will investigate and analyze these “bizarre” and grotesque features through a scholarly lens. We will look at how authors have employed the genre to question the rhetoric that holds our society together. By looking at the grotesque’s persuasive qualities, we will come to a fuller understanding of how this aesthetic has become more rhetorically complex over time and how it affects our civic, academic, and personal lives.

In this course, you will be both critic and author. As a writing workshop, the course emphasizes the writing and revision process in addition to critical thinking and critical reading.

Course Objectives:

Rhetorical Knowledge, Critical Thinking, and Their Written Applications:  

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. Our readings will introduce the concepts that serve as the framework for the course, and assignments will ask you to apply those concepts in ways that demonstrate rhetorical proficiency.

We’ll work on developing and extending your rhetorical skills to read and write in ways that demonstrate an understanding of:

  • Framing issues, defining and defending theses, inventing and arranging appeals, answering counterarguments, and formulating strong and well-reasoned arguments.
  • Making decisions about form, argumentation, and style from the expectations of different audiences.
  • Seeing writing as a form of personal engagement, demanding an awareness of the inherent power of language and its ability to bring about change.
  • Valuing writing as a collaborative dialogue between authors and audiences, critics, and colleagues.
  • Developing topic-specific language that is appropriate for the defined discourse communities while also intelligible to lay audiences.
  • Addressing specific audiences, anticipating patterns of reasoning, possible questions, and potential objections of readers in academic and public contexts.
  • Locating and using resources when necessary; critically evaluating information sources for credibility, validity, timeliness, and relevance.
  • Drawing inferences from a body of evidence.
  • Distinguishing description from analysis and argument.
  • Distinguishing flawed from sound reasoning, and being able to respond to and challenge claims.
  • Recognizing a thesis, and understanding the organic relationship between thesis and support in an essay.
  • Structuring and developing points of argument in a coherent order to build a case as writers; recognizing this structure and development within texts as readers.

Required Text:

  1. Franz Kafka Metamorphosis
  2. Katherine Dunn, Geek Love



Response Papers (2 papers 5% each) 10%
Comparative Paper 15%
Research Project 25%
Annotated Bibliography 5%
Presentations 5%
All other assignments (proposal, outlines, ect.) 5%
Discussion board posts and responses 35%



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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