The Course

Instructor: Ipek Sahinler


Class Time and Place: TTH 9.30-11 a.m. CST (Zoom)

Office hours: M 12.30-2 p.m. & F 1-2.30 pm and by appointment (Zoom)



Wild: grow or develop without restraint or discipline.

—Oxford English dictionary

Can you love an eagle, tame or wild? Can you love an eagle, wild or tame?

Can you love a monster, of frightening name?

—Langston Hughes, Genius Child



What do we mean when we call something “wild?” Is it an expression of admiration, acceptance, or a means of othering, marginalization? If so, how? What kinds of things, phenomena, people, communities, feelings, and iterations fall under “wild?” In this course, we will treat “wildness” (the state of being wild) as a rhetorical act and look at how it is used, misused, produced and reproduced in our lives through written, verbal and visual rhetorical circumstances. Put differently, our goal will be to understand “where the wild things are” situated in our lives via different realms such as literature, art, music, film, popular culture and sports. While doing so, our departure point will be the lexical meaning of “wild” in English, which is “to grow or develop without restraint or discipline” (Oxford English Dictionary). We will also look at what “wild” stands for and how it is used in other languages, depending on the linguistic and cultural diversity in our class. Meanwhile, we will use “wild things” as a launching point for bridging our in-class conversations with global debates such as human rights, non-equal wage distribution, racial perceptions of crime, illegalization of abortion, climate change, differing social media mediums and growing surveillance mechanisms.

As a course on writing and rhetoric, this class encourages students to think critically about how “wild” things are constructed, and to participate in conversations about “wildness” that take place via literature, music, sports, films and other cultural mediums. To this end, the course is split into three units, consisting of five weeks each, and aimed towards completing a major writing project.

In Unit 1, we will unpack the meaning and the history of “the wild” that usually signifies to a state of being non-civile, thus to modes of being primitive, backwards, unusual, or in short, other. For this, we will look at movies, sports, paintings and sculptures. Students will reflect on their thoughts and experiences about “the wild” through blog posts that will appear on the Wild Things Blog website. At the end of the unit they will complete Project 1, where they will author an op-ed article that compares several “wild” cultural productions that respond to a controversial subject.

In Unit 2, we will work mainly with written materials which came to be categorized as “wild” or “unruly” from conventional and normative perspectives. This period will be oriented towards completing Project 2, where students will choose a “wild” text, explain the rationale behind their choice and conduct a rhetorical analysis of it.

In Unit 3, we will engage with “wildness” in a more abstract way (i.e., colloquial speech, language, some culture-specific keywords) by using sophisticated rhetorical tools. Students will move much more freely and authoritatively as a rhetor in this unit, mainly as part of Project 3, where they will create their own “wild thing.” While this will be an authentic creation that will reflect their stance, it will also be a solution-based communicative act aimed to solve a current social controversy of their choice (either local or global). Finally, posting weekly to our common blog and giving peers reviews will be an inherent part of this class (Note: The prerequisites of this course are RHE 306 or RHE 306Q).

Course Goals

By the end of the course, you will learn to:

  • Use the notion of “wildness” to critically analyze written, verbal and visual forms of rhetoric;
  • Understand the dynamics behind a rhetorical action from the lens of “wildness;”
  • Conduct extensive, scientific research using UT library resources and online databases;
  • Cite sources accurately using conventional citation guides;
  • Differentiate between describing, summarizing and paraphrasing texts in a variety of genres;
  • Express your voice in an academic way and compose responsible, college-level articles;
  • Implement basic and complex tools of rhetoric to your writing and speech;
  • Write and speak more potently and persuasively about “wildness;”
  • Practice “wildness” by means of rhetoric.

Textbook & Materials

Required text: Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein. They Say/I Say. 3rd edition. Norton, 2014. 

Optional/recommended text: Jack Halberstam, Wild Things: The disorder of Desire. Duke UP, 2020

*you can find both of these books under “Files.” So no need to purchase them unless you prefer a hard copy

*short, weekly readings/videos/songs/poems will be available for download via Canvas.


Assignments/Grade Distribution

Project 1: Mapping Wildness (15%)

Project 2: Rhetorical Analysis of a “Wild” Text (20%)

Project 3: Creating a “Wild Thing” (25%)

Weekly Blog Posts (see: Wild Things Blog) (15%)

Weekly Blog Comments (5%)

Weekly Canvas discussion posts (10%)

Participation (10%)


Note: There is no final exam for this class and participation will be assessed through your contribution to our common intellectual environment, mainly by your comments, Canvas discussion posts, blog posts and the peer-reviews you will give to your classmates.

Assessment Criteria

Grades will be assigned on a 100-point scale. Note that there is no A+:

A         94-100                        C         74-76

A-        90-93                          C-        70-73

B+       87-89                          D+       67-69             

B         84-86                          D         64-66             

B-        80-83                          D-       60-63                         

C+       77-79                          F         0-60                           


Unit 1: What’s the Wild?

Unit goals:

  • Learn to conduct scientific research using library databases and online search engines
  • Examine a variety of print, visual, and digital sources for their credibility
  • Analyze a text’s relation to its historical and rhetorical context
  • Research keywords and concepts that dovetail with the subject matter of each class
  • Complete 4 Canvas discussion posts
  • Complete 4 blog posts on Wild Things Project Blog
  • Complete Project 1

Unit description:

We will start off by brainstorming the possible meanings of “wild” on an interactive blackboard, which I will take a screenshot (or picture) of and upload on Canvas. This will be our first collective archival material to be revisited during the semester. By looking at films, sports and arts, we will discuss how the term is defined in popular culture and how popular culture defines the term. We will inquiry who/what shapes these definitions and ideas, who/what they include or exclude, and who/what falls under the category of wild, especially in 2020, which marks an era of high political tensions, pandemics, natural disasters and economic difficulties? On the one hand, students will answer four Canvas discussion questions that will specifically help them engage with the structure of rhetoric, on the other hand, they will post three content-specific entries to our class blog Wild Things Blog.

The final step of this unit will be the completion of Project 1: “Mapping Wildness.” In this project, students will write about their own understanding of the “wild” and and build a relationship between the word’s canonical, dictionary-based meanings versus its day-to-day, colloquial usages. They will conduct further research into informative and viewpoint articles to discuss the ideas and terms surrounding the notion of wildness. The end product will be an op-ed article synthesizing their research with their own reflections and ideas. (Word limit 1500-2000; Times New Roman; double-spaced; MLA citation style)

Week 1: Intro & Exemplum & “Wildness” in Popular Culture

Due: Discussion Post 1 & Blog Post 1 

Week 2: Wildness and Films

Into the Wild (dir. Sean Penn, 2007)

Relatos Salvajes (Wild Tales, dir. Damián Szifron, Argentina, 2015)

Due: Discussion Post 2 & Blog Post 2

Week 3: Wildness, Sports and “Playing” Gender

“Experience the Ferocity of Women’s Roller Derby”

2020 Texas Roller Derby Match, Holly Rollers vs. Cherry Bombs

Tonya Harding, Figure Ice-Skating Championship (1991)

“Dallas Cowboys vs. Houston Texans, Preseason Week2 2021 NFL Game”

“Most Savage Sports”

Due: Discussion Post 3 & Blog Post 3

Week 4: Wildness and Music

Born to Be Wild by Steppenwolf

Wild, Wild Life by Talking Heads

Wild World by Yusuf Islam

Girl Gone Wild by Madonna

No Church in the Wild by Jay-Z & Kanye West

Due: Discussion Post 4 & Blog Post 4

Week 5: Recap & Peer-Reviewing Project 1 Drafts

Unit 2: Writing the Wild

Unit goals:

  • Analyze and discuss how specific rhetorical devices create appeals in a variety of written, visual, and digital texts
  • Identify and analyze different kinds of audiences for different rhetorical pieces
  • Closely analyze the rhetorical strategies in written texts and evaluate their effectiveness
  • Conduct in-depth, close readings of written texts using sophisticated rhetorical tools
  • Complete 3 Canvas discussion posts
  • Complete 3 Blog posts on the Wild Things Project Blog
  • Complete Project 2

Unit description:

In Unit 2, we will zoom into written materials to see how the idea of the “wild” is constructed, reconstructed and deconstructed by writers with simply pen and paper. While our work will be centered primarily around written texts, we will also turn our face to songs and treat music as poetry. We will break songs into smaller units and use classical rhetorical vocabulary to analyze how those parts work together to move the minds and hearts of their intended audiences. Throughout the unit, students will post petite analysis of their preferred “wild” stories, poems or songs to the Wild Things Blog website.

The final step of this unit will be the completion of Project 2: “Rhetorical Analysis of a Wild Text.” In this project, students will choose two previously-censured texts (a short story, novel, or a poem—e.g., you can choose one short story and a poem, or a novel and a poem) that they think treat the theme of wild/ness. The main goal in this project will be to offer a detailed rhetorical analysis of two previously-censured texts from the perspective of the rhetoric of wildness. To do so, students will first introduce their “wild” texts and provide a brief historical background to them. Then they will analyze the controversy surrounding these texts by addressing the question of why they were banned or found “inappropriate” for public use. In the opening part/intro, students will be expected to put forward their thesis statement, which they will expand throughout their essays. In the body part, they will engage with a more detailed rhetorical analysis of their chosen “wild” texts by stating the context, message, anticipated audience, purpose, exigence, and the use of rhetorical tools. Students will also be expected to address the following questions: do these “wild” texts dovetail with or speak contra the conventional, mainstream understanding of “wildness”? If yes/no, why/why not and how? What is the underlining rhetoric of these texts? Why they should or shouldn’t have been banned? While doing so, students will use sophisticated rhetorical tools in their analysis that they’ve practiced as part of the expanded rhetorical situation in Unit 1 and Unit 2. (Word limit 1500-2000; Times New Roman; double-spaced; MLA 7th citation style)

Week 6: Wildness and Literature – Part I

Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz (1900) (Intro, Ch 6, 9, 15, 18, 21 & 24)

[Optional watch: The Wizard of Oz (dir. Victor Fleming, 1939)]

Due: Discussion Post 5 & Blog Post 5

Week 7: Wildness and Literature – Part II

Ernest Hemingway, The Good Lion (1950)

Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are (1961)

[Optional watch: Where the Wild Things Are (dir. Spike Jonze, 2009)]

Due: Discussion Post 6 & Blog Post 6

Week 8: Wildness and Poetry

Langston Hughes, “Genius Child

Oscar Wilde, “The Sphinx”

[Optional watch: Looking for Langston (dir. Isaac Julien, 1989)]

Due: Discussion Post 7 & Blog Post 7

Week 9: Spring Break-No class

Week 10: Recap & Peer-Reviewing Project 2 Drafts 



Unit 3: Rewriting the Wild

Unit goals:

  • Differentiate between proposal arguments and narrative arguments
  • Present evidence, information, and original arguments, utilizing a variety of print and electronic media
  • Develop authentic arguments that appeal to an identifiable audience
  • Respond to opposing viewpoints using techniques of refutation, rebuttal, counter-argument and concession
  • Engage with current academic and non-academic debates that underline the course’s theme and reflect upon its broader social and historical significance
  • Complete 2 Canvas discussion posts
  • Complete 3 Blog posts on the Wild Things Project Blog
  • Complete Project 3

Unit description:

In this final unit, students will use skills gained from previous units in order to build their own arguments about and around the notion of “wildness.” Moving onto a more abstract discussion on “wildness,” we will talk about the interplay between the wild and the tame with keywords such as animality, animosity, bestiality, humanity, and humanness. This will help us explore the tension inherent within colloquial uses of language such as white versus black, normal versus non/abnormal, civilized versus non-civilized, modern versus backwards etc. Concomitantly, the last piece to read will be a legendary essay on wildness and language penned by an internationally renowned UT Austin alumna, Gloria Anzaldúa. Having done so, we will circle back to the first day of class and to our initial collective archival material (the screenshot of our brainstorming activity), and discuss how our ideas about wildness have changed throughout these fifteen weeks and what it means for us.

The final step of this unit will be the completion of Project 3: “Creating a Wild Thing.” In this project, students will create their authentic “wild” subjects. This will be a fictional character with a tangible name, whose rhetoric will be conveyed through either a short story, a poem, a song, a video, or an infographic. At this point, students will be free to experiment with multimodal ways of composing rhetorical arguments. In our final meeting, we will hold a “Wild Things Parade” where students will present their wild creations to their class members. Creative ideas like using costumes, special make-up and performances will be welcome in this particular day (Word limit 1500-2000; Times New Roman; double-spaced; MLA citation style).

Week 11: Wildness and Animality

Keywords to research before class: animality; animosity; humanity; humanness—think about: what is the line between these? What does it mean to “tame” the wild?

Due: Discussion Post 9 & Blog Post 8

Week 12: Wildness and Language & Blog Presentations

reading: Gloria Anzaldúa, “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” (in Borderlands/Las fronteras)

Due: Discussion Post 9 & Blog Post 9

Week 13: Teacher-student meetings

Due: Discussion Post 10

Week 14: Peer-Reviewing Project 3 Drafts  

Week 15: Final Project Presentations, aka “The Wild Things Parade”


Websites We Will Use

Canvas ( Canvas is the official course management site and where students will be able to access grades, download course files, and email the instructor.

Wild Things Blog: This is a blog that students will collaboratively build over the course of the semester. Students will post small, weekly analysis of various cultural productions, and comment on each other’s post. Our syllabus, major and minor assignment descriptions will also be published here (besides Canvas). This will also be the platform through which students will share their final projects (“Project 3: Creating a Wild Thing”) with each other. At the end of the semester, we will showcase our “Wild Things Parade” in this blog. In sum, this website will be a unique “wild archive” created by the students in this course. 

University of Texas Libraries ( Students should use this link to conduct searches through the Library’s print catalog and online databases. You may also request scans of articles and chapters.

Undergraduate Writing Center (UWC) ( The UWC provides free writing assistance for any undergraduate student. At the UWC website, you can schedule appointments and download handouts related to a number of grammar and composition issues.

Digital Writing and Research Lab (DWRL) ( All students in this course will have access to the DWRL’s Open Lab (PAR 102), a variety of software programs, and other resources that are restricted to other students. Use this link to learn more.