This semester long course traces the experience of those on the fringes of society as they are represented in literature and popular media. Students will consider: What do Steve Jobs, Sheldon Cooper, Lady Gaga, Bill Gates, Jean Grey, Kurt Elizabeth Hummel, and the legend of the bearded lady have in common? Pushed to the periphery of what society considers normal, these individuals embody some facet of dissention and nonconformity within popular culture, having differentiated themselves as extraordinary. To understand the constructs of “freakishness,” “geekishness,” gender, and queerness within American culture, media, and literature, this course will examine the psychology and sociology of how authors’ and artists’ representations of race, gender, age, disease, intellectual giftedness, and sexuality both celebrate and exclude others. In an effort to understand themselves and to cultivate a sense of advocacy for those who push us or are pushed to the fringes, students will deconstruct the forces that shape stereotypes, considering the fascination with, hatred for, and sometimes tolerance of outliers in society. Finally, the course will consider if media’s representations of “non-traditional” lifestyles affects popular view. The scope of the course will assess the function of outliers, how artists and authors represent “the other” in writing and media, and how humanity seems to have a distinct bias for making characters with unusual intelligence, odd (e.g. diminutive size, physical impairment, social challenges, or substance abuse). The rigor of the course derives from an in-depth study of a wide range of media, including fiction, poetry, essays, films, paintings, television, and music. Essential to the curriculum is the expansion of students’ critical reading, writing, and thinking skills with an emphasis on nurturing their ability to craft their understanding of complex material into cogent writings that include analytical deconstructions, debates, and personal essays. Students will be expected to engage with diverse and challenging texts in a variety of contexts for informal and formal writing.