In Michael Rodriguez’s writing class at Boston University, students can expect to learn about satire in literature, how to critique social injustices and how to construct argumentative essays — all through watching “The Colbert Report.”

“It allows students to excavate the more subtle elements of [Stephen Colbert’s] art,” said Rodriguez.

The BU class dissects and discusses Colbert’s monologues and news deliveries, and uses them to create and examine rhetoric.

It is the second time the class is being taught as part of the university’s CAS Writing Program, and it filled up “instantly,” Rodriguez said.

Capped at 18 students, the semester-long seminar revolves around watching episodes of “The Colbert Report” both in and out of class, and looking at Colbert’s “Socratic method of dialogue.”


“I think that it’s a good vehicle for students to learn how to write reasoned, well-developed essays that represent thesis statements,” said Rodriguez. “Colbert is able to create an argument often improvisationally and cohesively line up that argument, in terms of its overall development. And he does that better than anyone else nowadays.”

Classic studies don't go to waste. Rodriguez aligns the curriculum with academic and research writing and has students read works like “A Modest Proposal.”

“We debate in class all the time about topics that are socially relevant,” he said. “We pick out elements of the essay, and apply it to the show.”

Follow Steve Annear on Twitter @steveannear.

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