WRTG 3020 Topics in Writing: American Road Trips

Instructor Contact:

Andrew Daigle, Ph.D.

Email: Andrew.Daigle@colorado.edu

About the Course:

The American Road Trip possesses a duality of character: it is a venture predicated upon encounters with the unexpected, with people we may not know, and with moments of solitude and grandeur that cause us to reassess our existing perceptions. Yet, the American Road Trip is also a tremendously iconic practice. We still see commercials of sports cars on lonely desert highways. Historic roads – namely Route 66 and Highway 61 – attract as many tourists as other U.S. landmarks. News feeds report gas prices for Memorial Day and Labor Day, reminding us that summers are bookended by road trips. Indeed, road narratives are now a popular genre of their own. The American Road Trip, even with its celebrated freedoms, adheres to a form and discourse that tells us much about who exactly goes on the road and how road culture develops and circulates in the United States.

This course will explore how the American Road Trip went from a necessity for migrants, to an avenue for youthful rebellion, and finally to a mainstay in popular literature, music, and film. Course texts and discussion will consider: How and when did the road trip become something in and of itself? What makes road trips so “American”? What patterns do road narratives follow? Are there limits to or problems with these texts? And what is the future of the American Road Trip? Combining the study of road culture, its representative authors and texts, and composition instruction, students will draft and revise several original essays throughout the semester.

Course Prerequisite:

WRTG 1150 or equivalent (completion of lower-division writing requirement).


WRTG 3020 sharpens critical thinking and writing skills. The course focuses upon rhetorical forms students will use in academia, in the workplace, and in the civic domain, across a full spectrum of persuasive strategies, including analysis and argument. This course reinforces and builds upon skills taught in first-year writing classes, with a greater emphasis upon the situational quality of writing or upon rhetorical context: the relationship between writer, reader, subject, and purpose in the formation of a text.

This course is not intended to supplement one’s knowledge in a major; rather, the American Road Trips topic serves as a means to an end – to create a knowledgeable audience and a context for discussion and writing: a discourse community. In a workshop setting, students engage in a dialogue with their audience, working out meaningful theses, testing rhetorical strategies, responding to objections and potential objections, and revising (and revising) to meet the needs of their readers. I demand a high level of student participation and emphasize each student’s role as both writer and as audience: observant, inquisitive readers of the writings of others. Students should leave this class as more sophisticated writers.

Required Texts:

1) Cather, Willa. My Ántonia. 1918. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print. ISBN: 9780199538140.

2) Kerouac, Jack. On the Road. 1957. New York: Penguin Books, 2003. Print. ISBN: 9780142437254.

3) Harvey, Michael. The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing, 2nd Edition. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2013. Print. ISBN: 9781603848985.


All course texts and assignments other than the Cather, Kerouac, and Harvey books are on the course’s Canvas page (canvas.colorado.edu). I have uploaded “Chapter 1: Concision” from Harvey’s The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing to account for any delay with textbook delivery.


Participation                                                                           10%

Discussion Posts (10)                                                             25%

Essay #1 – Personal Road Narrative (5-6pp)                         20%

Essay #2 – Deep Dive Archive (5-6pp)                                  20%

Essay #3 – Critical Inquiry Project (8-10pp)                         25%

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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