ENGLISH 284: INTRODUCTION TO THEORY AND CRITICISM

Section 002: T, 7 to 9:45 p.m., HHH 230

Spring 2009, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire        

                        
PROFESSOR BOB NOWLAN

Office: HHH 425, (715) 836-4369
ranowlan@uwec.edu
http://people.uwec.edu/ranowlan

Office Hours:  T 2:40-4:30 pm, W 2:40-3:30 pm, and By Appointment (After class, Tuesdays, between 9:45 and 10:30 pm, will often be a good time)


COURSE EXPLANATION

    1.    

    Some basic definitions:

Theory = a conceptual explanation of an entity, including, in particular, of why it is as it is.

Criticism = an evaluative judgement in relation to an entity, supported by reasons and evidence.  

In short, theory grounds and thereby enables criticism while criticism in turn draws upon and, through practical application, generates the impetus for further development and refinement of theory.  

    2.

    Throughout the everyday lives of each and every one of us, our ability to make sense of the world around us–and to orient ourselves to engage in relation to it on the basis of how we make sense–means that we are continually working with "theories" of one kind or another.  At the same time, because our everyday lives also demand that we make numerous judgements according to various standards and criteria and that we then proceed according to the judgements we have made, we are also continually thinking and acting in ways which are at least rudimentarily "critical" as well.  Nevertheless, in our everyday lives most of us do not all that often reflect upon precisely what theories are guiding and sustaining us, how so, and why so, nor do we frequently examine how and why we think and act critically in the ways that we do.  Moreover, if asked to produce a rigorous intellectual explanation, precisely accounting for and meticulously justifying the theoretical and critical influences upon and determinants of our everyday ways of thinking, understanding, feeling, believing, interacting, communicating, acting, and behaving, most of us would have a very difficult time.
                                 
 
    Because the theories that guide and sustain us and the ways in which we think and act critically in our everyday lives are rarely simply the result of our own uniquely individual creation and rarely a matter simply of our own autonomously free choice–especially when we either are not conscious of their effects upon us or are unable to explain, account for, and justify these in a sustained and rigorous fashion–we are always working according to the influence and the determination of theoretical and critical approaches which are much larger than the space "inside" of our own "heads" or "minds": we are always working according to theoretical and critical approaches which occupy particular places within particular societies and cultures and which are formed as particular products of particular histories and politics.


    A course of "introduction to theory and criticism” presents an opportunity not only, therefore, to learn about the theoretical and critical approaches of what might often at least initially seem like an elite caste of distant and specialized others–specific, and frequently famous, named "theorists" and "critics"–but also, and more importantly, to reflect upon how and why all of us work with the kinds of theoretical and critical approaches we do; where these come from and what gives rise to them; where they lead and what follows from them; which such approaches predominate in what areas of everyday life today, in what places within what societies and cultures, with what uses and effects, toward the advancement of what ends and toward the service of what interests; and what alternative approaches are possible, what alternatives are desirable, what alternatives are necessary, and how do we get from here to there.      


    In fact, as I see it, the foremost aim of beginning to learn, to think, read, write, and act theoretically must be to develop and refine the ability to recognize, understand, explain, account for, and justify the theories that guide and sustain us throughout our everyday lives.  Likewise, the foremost aim of beginning to learn to think, read, write, and act critically must be to develop and refine the ability to recognize, understand, explain, account for, and justify the kinds of judgements, the ways in which we make judgements, and the standards and criteria we use in making judgements throughout everyday life.  


    In short, in this course you to begin to learn how to theorize, and to critique, not simply to know something about–to be able merely to identify and describe–the theories and critiques that others produce.    

    3.

    Explicit concern with the study of theory and criticism in English Studies reflects and responds to how much the disciplines of English and their constituent fields of intellectual inquiry have changed over the past approximately forty to forty-five years.  Even as many English Departments continue to prioritize courses in what at first glance might seem like traditional areas–e.g., literature, rhetoric and composition, linguistics, creative writing, and English education–much has nevertheless changed both in the ways that many of these courses are taught and the aims that are often pursued in teaching these courses.  Even more important than these changes, however, is the fact that English has been at the cutting edge of the transformation of the humanities into the principal broad arena of intellectual concern with relations between texts and cultures such that even those departments and programs that do not explicitly declare themselves as doing “cultural studies” often in fact are extensively engaged in doing so.


    Cultural studies has challenged the predominance of the governing categories of traditional literary studies (the virtually exclusive central focus of early to mid 20th century work in English) such as the "canon," the discrete and homogenous "period," the formal properties of "genre," the literary object as autonomous and self-contained, the "author" of the "work" as a figure of transcendent "genius," the act of reading as a private mode of reverential contemplation and ecstatic escape from the mundane pressures of the everyday, and the "greatness" of literature as measurable in terms of universal standards of aesthetic beauty and eternal principles of ethical right and good.  In these challenges, cultural studies is continuous with developments over the last forty years of work in literary studies from structuralism through postmodernism and beyond.  
    

     Ultimately more important, however, in distinguishing cultural studies from (traditional) literary studies, therefore, is the fact that cultural studies is directly concerned with the "writing" and "reading" of all "texts" of culture, and not just conventional "literary" texts.  According to cultural studies, we "read" whenever we interpret what something "means," and we "write" whenever we create something which others must interpret so as to determine what it means.  This leads us to approach all products of culture as "texts" insofar as they are written and read, insofar as they are understood as possessing or bearing meaning.  "Texts" include everything from the seemingly most "profoundly meaningful" to the seemingly most "mundanely meaningless" (as, after all, to be considered insignificant, or of little or no meaning, is to be judged to mean in a particular way as well).  Cultural studies thus focuses on making sense of "texts" such as films, television shows, music and video productions and performances, paintings and drawings, sculpture and architecture, sports teams and games, trends in clothing and fashion, commercial advertisements, individual dreams and plans, shopping lists and checkout receipts, buildings and rooms, kinds of food and drink, roads and vehicles, manners and gestures, ceremonies and rituals, personalities and personal relationships, and individual actions and specific incidents.  


    Cultural studies may very well, according to this conception, include literary studies as a constituent component.  It has by now been over twenty-five years since Terry Eagleton proposed, in the first edition of his Literary Theory: an Introduction, that because "literature" is so difficult precisely to define, and, as such, is an extremely incoherent and unstable category, the field of "literary studies" should be replaced by a field of "cultural studies" that focused on making sense of the rhetoric and politics of texts of all different kinds.  However, it really should be no surprise that we have not witnessed the "death of literature" implicit in this and many similar kinds of recommendation made around the same time.  After all, Eagleton does admit that literature can be defined as whatever a particular culture (or subculture) happens to regard as especially "highly valued writing."  Whereas Eagleton suggests that this means "literature" may no longer serve as a particularly useful category, I suggest that this reconception of what “literature” entails in fact opens up many new possibilities for work in literary studies conducted as part of work within a larger field of cultural studies: i.e., inquiring into what makes for different conceptions of highly valued writing within and across different historical cultures–and subcultures.                                    


    In particular, work in theory and criticism inquires into how, and for what, is work to be conducted within contemporary English studies, the field of text and cultural studies encompassing yet extending beyond the traditional combination of literary studies plus rhetoric and composition studies plus linguistic studies plus studies in creative writing plus English educational studies.  In other words, work in theory and criticism helps us explore how are diverse kinds of texts studied within “English” today approached, made sense of, interpreted, evaluated, and, yes, put to use–as well as why so.   


    4.
 
       We will begin this course, after an initial week of introduction and orientation, by spending four weeks working with Jeffrey Nealon’s and Susan Searls Giroux’s The Theory Toolbox: Critical Concepts for the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.  This book provides an accessible introduction to and overview of a consensus within contemporary theory and criticism on how to make sense and use of the following fundamental concepts: theory, author/ity, reading, subjectivity, culture, multiculturalism, popular culture, media culture, ideology, history, space/time, postmodernism, poststructuralism, postcolonialism, difference, gender, sexuality/queerity, race/ethnicity/nationality, class, and agency.  After working with The Theory Toolbox
we turn next to read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which we will interpret and evaluate, in our week six class, by making use of concepts from The Theory Toolbox and by drawing upon prior approaches to interpretation and evaluation, especially of ‘classic’ literary texts, with which you are already familiar.  From that point forward we will work with Lois Tyson’s Critical Theory Today: a User-Friendly Guide to learn about eight leading approaches in contemporary theory and criticism: psychoanalytic criticism; Marxist criticism; feminist criticism; deconstructive criticism; new historical and cultural criticism; lesbian, gay and queer criticism; African American criticism; and postcolonial criticism.  We will spend one week focused on each of these approaches, including by comparing and contrasting, as Tyson does, how they each enable us to make sense of The Great Gatsby, while also referring to many additional cultural texts–including non- or extra- literary texts–as well, concentrating on issues of particular relevance, interest, and concern to us, to who we are, what we are about, from where we are coming, and toward where we are headed in our own lives.  Finally, for your final examination class, I will ask each student to prepare a short individual presentation to share with the rest of the class where you will give us a thoughtful articulation of what is most important to you in relation to your own developing theoretical and critical outlook at this point in your life.  


    5.

    
    In order to gain the most you can from this course you will need to keep several points in mind as we proceed:  
                

    First, we can only engage with a small number of significant contributions to the history of theory and criticism.  This is an introductory course, the opening to a potential lifetime’s pursuit; don’t expect that what we read and study this semester represents the ‘ultimate truth’ or the final answer to what constitutes the most important work in ‘theory and criticism’.   Feel free to explore writers and writings we do engage further than our assigned textbooks allow and feel free as well to bring other theories and modes of critical practice, represented by other figures and groups, to bear as we proceed in discussion.


    Second, the reading you will do for this course should challenge you; you should find it difficult from time to time, at least initially so; and you should not expect that what you read will always make intuitive sense or provide immediate satisfaction.  Of course, I hope that eventually you will experience the excitement that comes from working with these levels and kinds of knowledge-practices, but I do not want you to imagine you necessarily should be able to do this right away, with ease.  For most of you, this is your first course in theory and criticism, whereas, in most cases, you had already taken many courses, and read many texts, in the area of “literature” well before you began your university studies.  Imagine what it might be like to take a course of introduction to literature having never previously taken such a course, studied or read any of the material, or maintaining even much, if any, familiarity with what literature involves and what it might mean to make sense and respond to it.  Expect, therefore, in this class, that you will grow in understanding, facility, and confidence; don’t be needlessly hard on yourself–accept that you will learn through trial and error, through taking risks and trying out ideas, and by making mistakes.  You don’t need “the right answer” or “the right way to say it” to talk; by no means–learn through talking, and through becoming highly comfortable recognizing and accepting what you don’t already clearly understand and what you can’t already clearly articulate.


    Third, you will need, consistently and conscientiously, not only to work hard to remain patient, and to keep an open mind, but also not to rest content with the superficially apparent, the merely commonsensical, the seemingly self-evident, or the already familiar; work in theory and criticism deliberately challenges all of this, and in order to appreciate what it means to think, speak, listen, read, write, act, and interact in a critical and theoretical manner, you will need to follow this path as well.
                                

    Fourth, you have to be an active participant in this course; you will gain relatively little if you don’t bring to bear your own knowledge, experience, interests, and concerns in direct relation to the concepts and practices we study.  You have to find ways to make what we read and study relevant to and for you; you need to extrapolate; you need to start engaging as someone who seeks to theorize and critique, not just learn something about theories and modes of criticism.  A cynical approach toward the material here which regards it as simply what you are ‘required’ to study in one course for one semester in order to fulfill the requirements of a major or minor on the way to a degree will leave you confused, frustrated, unfulfilled, and actually disabled from taking advantage of the contribution this course is designed to make toward your success in that very same major or minor field of study.


    Fifth, I know people enrolled in 284 have in many cases taken many English as well as other higher educational courses for a number of years now; all of this, including the meaning, value, significance, relevance, and effectiveness of what you have studied and learned, as well as have not, should become ‘grist for the mill’ in our discussions together this semester.  Be confident you have much to bring to bear and to offer–all of you, always.
                                       

    Sixth, you will need to participate actively–to ask questions, to offer comments, to not be afraid to speak, and to write what you think, no matter how tentative, uncertain, or confused you might find yourself (i.e., you must be prepared to take the risk that what you say, or write, might turn out to be ‘wrong’).  In fact, don’t look for hard and fast, simple right and wrong answers; the study of theory is as much, if not much more, about asking questions as it is about securing answers, and this process is continuously ongoing.  All positions are limited, in one way or another, and those seriously engaged in theoretical and critical work quite readily recognize and accept this fact.  We are constantly striving to extend, develop, refine, enrich, renew, open up, pass beyond, approach again, and to push in new and different direction–and all the while continuously updating our thinking and understanding because the objects of our theoretical and critical work do not remain static.  They change, often dramatically, with time and over space, plus the work of theorizing and critiquing these objects changes them, in turn requiring new theorizations and new critiques.


    Seventh, and finally, while I welcome you always to disagree with anything we read whenever you find yourself so inclined, and even strongly encourage you to do so, I expect, at the same time, that you will always first strive to understand what you read ‘on its own terms’, especially when you find yourself troubled or disturbed by it, so that you will not simply dismiss or reject what you oppose but instead carefully argue against and precisely critique it.  I expect you to work hard first to do justice to the positions you engage, and to be able to re-present them as their adherents would recognize them, even when (perhaps especially when) you aim to move from this first stage to a second stage in which you argue strongly to the contrary.  I expect you will do the same with positions I as your teacher advance as well as those your classmates advance.  And I encourage you eventually to work to find theoretical and critical positions that you can stake out as your own, and use your sincere commitment to these as the basis for your engagement with others; to do so means you have to listen, read, and try very hard to understand where others might be coming from, how so, and why so (including when they seem to be coming from very different places than you).
 

TEXTS

    Required (and all are available–or will be available–for purchase at the UWEC Bookstore in Davies Center):    

1.     Nealon, Jeffrey and Susan Searls Giroux. The Theory Toolbox: Critical Concepts for the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.  Lanham, MD: Rowan and Littlefield, 2003.  ISBN#: 0-7425-1993-7.

2.       Fitzgerald, F. Scott.  The Great Gatsby.  Any standard, complete edition of this book is acceptable.

3.       Tyson, Lois.  Critical Theory Today: a User-Friendly Guide.  2nd Edition.  New York: Routledge, 2006.   ISBN#: 0-415-97410-0.   


    You may feel free to purchase any of these texts from any other source, including by means of on-line outlets, as long as you acquire them in time to use in and for class.

SCHEDULE

1/27: Introduction and Orientation.

2/3: Why Theory?, Author/ity, and Reading. 

    Read for Class: The Theory Toolbox, chapters 1-3, 1-34.

2/10: Subjectivity, Culture (Multiculturalism, Popular Culture, Media Culture), and Ideology.

    Read for Class: The Theory Toolbox, chapters 4-6, 35-94.  

2/17: History, Space/Time, and Posts (Postmodernism, Poststructuralism, Postcolonialism).

    Read for Class: The Theory Toolbox, chapters 7-9, 95-155.

* T 2/17: Theory and Criticism Paper #1 Assigned; Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #1 Assigned. *

2/24:  Differences (Gender, Queer, Race, Class, and Concluding Differences), and Agency.

    Read for Class: The Theory Toolbox, chapters 10-11, 157-206.

3/3: The Great Gatsby.  

    Read for Class: The Great Gatsby.

* F 3/6: Theory and Criticism Paper #1 and Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #1 Both Due, in my English Department Office mailbox, HHH 405, by 12 noon. *

3/10: Introduction to Critical Theory; Psychoanalytical Criticism.

    Read for Class: Critical Theory Today, chapters 1-2, 1-52.

3/24: Marxist Criticism.

    Read for Class: Critical Theory Today, chapter 3, 53-81.

3/31: Feminist Criticism.

    Read for Class: Critical Theory Today, chapter 4, 83-133.

* T 3/31: Theory and Criticism Paper #2 Assigned; Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #2 Assigned. *

4/7: Deconstructive Criticism.

    Read for Class: Critical Theory Today, chapter 8, 249-280.

4/14: New Historical and Cultural Criticism.

    Read for Class: Critical Theory Today, chapter 9, 281-315.

* F 4/17: Theory and Criticism Paper #2 and Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #2 Both Due, in my English Department Office mailbox, HHH 405, by 12 noon. *  

4/21: Lesbian, Gay and Queer Criticism.  
 
    Read for Class: Critical Theory Today, chapter 10, 317-357.

4/28: African American Criticism.

    Read for Class: Critical Theory Today, chapter 11, 359-415.

* T 4/28: Theory and Criticism Paper #3 Assigned; Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #3 Assigned. *

5/5: Postcolonial Criticism.

    Read for Class: Critical Theory Today, chapter 12, 417-449.
 
5/12: Final Examination Presentations (and Discussion).

* F 5/15: Theory and Criticism Paper #3 and Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #3 Both Due, in my English Department Office mailbox, HHH 405, by 12 noon. *

    *** THIS SCHEDULE IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE ***


ORGANIZATION AND CONDUCT OF CLASS SESSIONS

    The class will proceed, overwhelmingly, by discussion, although I may, from time to time make relatively short, usually relatively also quite informal, presentations–as proves useful.  Sometimes you’ll work in pairs or small groups for portions of class time.  At other times you will do some writing in–or for–class, as well as in response to each other, to spark, and advance, discussion.  At times we may well engage with music, video, or other than written or verbal texts. Lots of opportunities present themselves, and we will pursue multiple formats for facilitating our engagement with texts and topics as the semester proceeds.  The best opportunity at all is one that you enjoy because this is a relatively small enrollment class, which means each of you will have plenty of time to ask questions, offer comments, share observations and reflections, to work through confusion and uncertainties, and to work with particular interests and passions.  And each of you will be able to contribute plenty individually to the learning we will collectively pursue.  Finally, we will take a five to ten minutes’ long break in the approximate middle of each class period.  But if you need a restroom break at any point before or after that, feel free to take it as long as you try not to be gone too long.


GENERAL EXPECTATIONS OF STUDENTS

    I expect students in this course to strive to become sincerely interested in learning about the subject matter of this course, and to be consistently intellectually serious as well as academically diligent in their pursuit of this learning.  I expect students to strive to bring actively and extensively to bear-in their essays and contributions to class discussion-insights they gain through their engagement with the texts and topics addressed as part of this course, and I expect students to strive at the same time to relate these texts and topics as closely and as fully as possible to subjects of genuine interest and concern in their own lives.  Finally, I expect students to let me know right away when and if they have any questions or problems about any aspect of how they are doing in and with the course, so that I can do whatever I possibly can to help answer these questions and solve these problems.


    In addition, students should keep in mind that the higher educational academy is not a "safe space" separate from the rest of the "real world" where you can expect to be sheltered from encountering anything you might find disagreeable or objectionable.  After all, disturbing positions and practices exist extensively outside of the classroom as well as in what we read, see, hear, and otherwise confront in and for class; what we confront in class exists in this institutional space as symptomatic of positions and practices that operate beyond the confines of the classroom, the course, and the university.  If and when you find any text or topic genuinely upsetting, you maintain the ethical responsibility not simply to try to hide from but rather to engage with it in an intellectually serious, responsible, mature adult way.  Students should expect therefore that you will on occasion encounter representations that you will find troubling, in this UWEC course and in many others as well; within this Department you will receive no right of exemption from engaging with these and absolutely no welcome for simply complaining (especially to a higher administrative authority) about their inclusion.   After all, great works of art–including of literature–are often created with the deliberate aim of disturbing, even shocking many people who will encounter these; often the intent here is to provoke strong response, as well as thought–and action–that goes beyond what has become familiar, conventional, commonsensical, and, especially, merely “safe.”


    Finally, students should also be prepared to deal with that fact that a professor differs from a high school teacher in many respects, but one key difference is that we maintain a principal professional, ethical responsibility forthrightly to represent the most advanced knowledges in our fields of expertise and to proceed from there to work toward their further development and dissemination.   In short, we must create, advocate for, and profess these knowledges; you should expect that your professors may from time to time take controversial positions on difficult and challenging issues, eschewing the pretense of disinterested neutrality.  To do anything less than assume this responsibility would be to shirk our professorial responsibility and to render ourselves unworthy of maintaining our professorial positions.


THE GOALS OF THE UWEC BACCALAUREATE

    These are the five most important, official goals all UWEC undergraduate courses are designed to help you meet:

1.    Knowledge of Human Culture and the Natural World

2.    Creative and Critical Thinking

3.    Effective Communication

4.    Individual and Social Responsibility

5.    Respect for Diversity Among People

These goals require your striving to meet them.  Striving means learning actively and deliberately, completing assignments in a thorough and timely fashion, participating in class discussion, and making connections between what we do while meeting in class and what you do when engaged outside of the classroom.


SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS FOR THE COURSE GRADE

General Criteria: Evaluation of Student Performance

    In evaluating all work done for this course, I will take account of how carefully, seriously, intelligently, enthusiastically, and imaginatively students engage with the concepts, issues, positions, and arguments addressed in the course and represented by the texts we read, by me, and by each other.
   
Attendance

    Attendance is required.  Students are allowed one unexcused absence.  Other than that, except for an emergency or similar serious problem or difficulty (which you should talk with me about as soon as possible), your grade will likely suffer if you miss class.  We only meet fifteen times over the course of the semester, this is a small enrollment class, and this class emphasizes discussion; thus, everyone suffers (and not just you) if and when you are not at class.                   

Theory and Criticism Papers

    Each paper will offer you an opportunity to apply concepts and practices we have just been working with to cultural texts of your own choice.  Paper one will ask you to apply select concepts from The Theory Toolbox.  Paper two will aks you to apply–and to compare and contrast–two of the following approaches to a cultural text of your own choice: psychoanalytic criticism, Marxist criticism, feminist criticism, and deconstructive criticism.  Paper three will ask you to apply–and to compare and contrast–two of the following approaches to a cultural text of your own choice: new historicist and cultural criticism; gay, lesbian and queer criticism; African American criticism; and postcolonial criticism.  I will explain each of these papers in precise detail when I give you the specific assignment, but you will have plenty of flexibility, including in length (although I estimate, as a very rough average, you might imagine these as 8-10 page, double-spaced, typed papers–or a very rough average of 2000 to 2500 words–in length).  Each of these papers will be worth 15% of the overall course grade, for a total worth 45% of the  overall course grade.
                                            
Learning and Contribution/Learning and Contribution Reflection Papers

    My foremost aim in teaching this course is to help you to learn something of significance and value.  I will judge you to a significant degree on what you learn, how–and how hard–you strive to learn, and on how–along with how well–you contribute to the learning for the rest of the class.


    Class participation represents an important opportunity to learn, not just a place in which to demonstrate what you have learned.  By raising questions, testing and trying out ideas, taking risks and making mistakes, you learn a great deal–and help others learn a great deal as well.  You learn through talking, not just talk to show what you have learned.  Don't hesitate to speak forth in class if you have anything at all to throw into the mix.


    At the same time, quality of participation is much more important than quantity, although a sufficient quantity is indispensable to insure quality.  Still, I want to emphasize here that I perceive talking for talking’s sake–especially talking which pulls us off on far-fetched tangents, which remains disconnected from and disengaged with the reading and the rest of the class, or which effectively silences others–to be negative participation.  Quality class participation does not, moreover, involve merely asking questions of me and responding to my questions; quality class participation requires you to work to advance a serious and substantial discussion with your peers about the texts and topics subject to discussion.
    

    Contribution to the class certainly can extend far beyond mere speaking in class: it may include a variety of ways in which you can bring to bear your insights to help yourself as well as the rest of us gain from the experience of this course.   Excellent writing in and for class is also a valuable way to contribute to class.  At the same time, listening carefully, respectfully, and thoughtfully in class discussions is yet another important means of contribution–as is taking time to meet and talk with me outside of class.  In fact, meeting and talking with me outside of class can be an excellent way to contribute–as well as to show me how seriously interested in and engaged with the course material you are.


    Learning and contribution will constitute a significant proportion of your overall course grade.  As part of this grade, you will write three short learning and contribution reflection papers.  For these papers I will ask you, simply, to assess how, along with how well, you have been learning and contributing in the class over the course of the preceding approximately one-third of the semester.  These papers will be assigned at the same time as the theory and criticism papers, but evaluated separately.  As I see it, these short learning and contribution reflection papers provide you a useful opportunity to communicate with me how you believe you are doing with the course, as well as why so, and to demonstrate your critical self-reflexivity, the hallmark of a liberal arts education.  As you are assessing your own learning and contribution, you may include thoughts in reaction to issues raised in class discussion that you did not have the opportunity or did not feel comfortable enough to share in class; these additional reflections can help me get a better sense of what you have been thinking about and how you have been responding to class discussions, as well as to the readings.  I will take into account what you write in determining your learning and contribution grade for the preceding third of a semester; performance on these papers represents a vital component of your learning and contribution grade.  

                        
    I  will provide you specific directions in the assignments I give you for each of these papers.  I estimate, as a very rough average, you should aim here for approximately 3-4 double-spaced typed pages in length (or 750 to 1000 words).  Each learning and contribution grade (including each learning and contribution reflection paper) will be worth 15% of the overall course grade, making for a combined  total worth 45% of the overall course grade.  

Final Examination Assignment

     This assignment–involving preparation for a short individual presentation to make to the class at the time of our final exam–will be distributed and explained at our last regular class meeting.  It will function therefore as a ‘take-home’ exam, but, at the same time, take a form you likely never previously encountered with a final, and, I suspect, based upon my experience using this with previous Introduction to Theory and Criticism classes, a form that is also considerably more interesting and valuable than usual.  You will receive a grade worth 10% of the overall course grade for your performance on this final examination assignment.  


CONFERENCES/EXTRA HELP

    I encourage you to meet with me in conference during office hours or at another mutually convenient time to discuss any issue of interest or concern that you develop as a student in this course and as a member of this class.  I recognize the value of learning that takes place in conferences; I know this can at times be equally as important, and in fact occasionally even more important, than what takes place in class.  It also provides you an opportunity to contribute beyond what you say in class and write for class.  So please do not hesitate to meet with me at any time you think this might be helpful to you–or whenever you’d just like to talk further with me.   I want to help you in your understanding of issues addressed in texts and discussions, as well as in your writing and participation.  And you may certainly also feel free to contact me by e-mail or by (my campus office) phone as well.  I really do like to get to know my students; students at this university continually demonstrate impressive ability, talent, knowledge, experience, insight, vitality, and good character.  I am lucky to get to know you; it enriches me.


    * Any student who has a disability and is in need of classroom accommodations, please contact the instructor and the Services for Students with Disabilities Office. *


CONCLUSION

    In the interest of accountability–me to you–I am here providing you links: 1.) to my statement of philosophy as a college teacher: http://people.uwec.edu/ranowlan/philosophy.htm; 2.) to my autobiographical profile: http://people.uwec.edu/ranowlan/PROFILE_.htm and http://www.myspace.com/insurgentseanmurphy  (if you too are on myspace feel free to contact me to become myspace friends); and 3.) to my professional vita (the academic equivalent of a resume): http://people.uwec.edu/ranowlan/VITA.htm.  I encourage you to check these sites out; it is useful for you to know who your teacher is, what he’s about, and where he’s coming from–and I like to be very open, honest, and forthright with you about all of that.  I look forward to a great semester working together with you!