RHE 309K: Rhetoric of Freaks and Geeks (Fall 2015)

Fall 2015. TTH 12:30-2pm. Parlin 6. University of Texas at Austin.

What makes the garage-band burnouts portrayed by Seth Rogen and Jason Segel on Freaks and Geeks(1999) so freaky? Why are the Bill Haverchuks of the world historically picked last? Using Judd Apatow’s critically acclaimed television series Freaks and Geeks as a broad framework for the course, you will select a cultural freak or geek—human or nonhuman, fictional or nonfictional, singular or plural—to research and rhetorically analyze for the semester. To support your research, we will survey in class an array of well-known outsiders in popular culture, and we will explore how rhetoric contributes to their positions as outsiders.

From the X-Men to The Breakfast Club, from Macklemore to Muggles, from Disney’s classic cartoon villains to their live-action, reimagined portrayals today and many more—we will rhetorically analyze a variety of cultural freaks and geeks in order to examine the relationship between stereotypes, stigmatization, and rhetoric. Over the course of the semester, you will research and write about your freak or geek in several short assignments and three longer essays, and you will deliver two succinct presentations. In keeping with the progressive spirit of this course, revision and peer review will be a major component of your work. By the semester’s end, you will thus be well-prepared to argue on behalf of your freak or geek for a social upgrade from “nobody” to “somebody.”

Assignments and Grading

Essays (60%):

1. Mapping Essay (revision and peer review are mandatory): 15%

2. Rhetorical Analysis Essay (revision is encouraged, and peer review is mandatory): 20%

3. Persuasive Essay (revision is encouraged, and peer review is mandatory): 25%

Other Assignments (40%):

1. Annotated Bibliography: 10%

2. Blog Posts: 15%

3. Timeline Presentation: 5%

4. Persuasive Presentation: 10%

Required Texts and Course Readings

Faigley, Lester and Jack Selzer. Good Reasons with Contemporary Arguments. Longman, 6th edition. 2014.

Kidd, Dustin. Pop Culture Freaks: Identity, Mass Media, and Society. Boulder: Westview Press, 2014.

Lunsford, Andrea A. Easy Writer:  A Pocket Reference. Fourth Edition. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009.