285: INTRODUCTION TO THEORY AND CRITICISM
Section 003: T, 7
to 9:45 p.m., HHH 321
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
PROFESSOR BOB NOWLAN
Office: HHH 425,
Office Hours: MWF
12-1 p.m., M 6:50-7:30 p.m., T 9:50-10:30 p.m.,
p.m., and By Appointment.
Let us begin with provisional working definitions of
some key terms.
aims to provide a conceptual explanation of what forms and
constitutes an object (and I mean “object” in a broad sense here:
“objects” of theoretical interest and concern include, for example,
“questions,” “issues,” “problems,” “processes,” and “relations”).
This means that a theory of an object seeks to explain what, in
essence, distinguishes this object, how and for what this object
functions, and what gives rise to and follows from the object’s
interdeterminate interconnections with other objects.
applies theory to support and sustain an evaluation of an object.
In other words, criticism judges an object, assessing its significance,
value, usefulness, and/or effectivity while simultaneously justifying
its judgement by drawing upon the support of theory to do so.
Critique is a particular mode of criticism. Critique
refers to the mobilization of theory to support an effort at
intervention in relation to an object. In other words, critique
deploys theory to affect either 1.) a change in an object or 2.) a
change in the ways people find it conceivable, desirable, and possible
to value and use this object. Theory always develops through
critique of preexisting theory as well as by means of intellectual
processes that include analysis and synthesis, deduction and induction,
abstraction and concretization, and testing and modeling.
Let’s turn next to some basic questions: 1.) Why study theory and
criticism? 2.) What does it mean to do so at an “introductory”
level? 3.) And what does this study have to do with English?
I will address the first two of these questions
together, in this section (2.) and then turn, subsequently, to address
the third in the next two sections (3.) and (4.).
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
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
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
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
In short, in this course, my ultimate aim is to
teach you 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.
English 285: Introduction to Theory and Criticism is
not a literature course, a linguistics course, a creative writing
course, an English education course, or a scientific and technical
communication course. This is, instead, a meta-textual
course: the principal objects of our collective inquiry are
cross-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary, and especially
trans-disciplinary theories and modes of critical practice.
In short, this is a course in critical theory.
What, precisely, does this mean? Again, ready? Here
theory" refers to a series of pathways for intellectual inquiry
that first emerged with the end of the 18th century European
Enlightenment and in particular with the initial widespread waning of
intellectual confidence that the newly hegemonic bourgeois society
would succeed in realizing Enlightenment ideals. In short, critical
theory represents the intellectual articulation of the conviction that
modern capitalist society cannot–at least not without significant
reformation or substantial transformation–realize the Enlightenment
ideal of an enlightened–that is, a rational, just, and
humane–society. According to Enlightenment consensus, this
(ideal) society is to be one which will genuinely embody the highest
values of human civilization, and which will thereby insure
steady progress in the attainment of liberty, justice, prosperity, and
contentment for all of its citizens.
Critical theory begins by inquiring into what
prevents the realization of this Enlightenment ideal. In doing
theory questions and challenges the seeming obviousness, naturalness,
immediacy, and simplicity of the world around us, and, in
particular, of what we are able to perceive through our senses and
understand through the application of our powers of reason.
Critical theory is therefore concerned with
discovering and uncovering, and with describing and explaining "mediations"–environmental,
ecological, physical, physiological, psychological, intellectual,
emotional, historical, social, cultural, economic, political,
ideological, linguistic, semiotic, aesthetic, religious, ethical, etc.–
between "object" and "subject," "event" and "impression," "impression"
and "perception," "perception" and "cognition," "cognition" and
"reflection," "reflection" and "response," "response" and "reaction,"
"reaction" and "action," and "action" and "practice."
At the same time, "critical theory" also always
and challenging the passive acceptance that "the way things are"–or
"the way things seem"–simply "is" the "natural" way they necessarily
"should" or "must" be. In other words, critical
theory questions and challenges the conviction that what is, or what is
in the process of becoming, or what appears to be, or what is most
commonly understood to be, or what is dominantly conveyed to be, is
also at the same time right and true, good and just, and necessary and
inevitable: critical theory does not, at least not automatically,
accept any of this.
Critical theory is always particularly concerned
into the problems and limitations, the blindnesses and mistakes, the
contradictions and incoherences, and the injustices and inequities
in how we as human beings, operating within particular kinds of
structures and hierarchies of relations with each other, facilitated
and regulated by particular kinds of institutions, engaged in
particular kinds of processes and practices, have formed, reformed, and
transformed ourselves, each other, and the communities, cultures,
societies, and worlds in which we live.
Critical theory has always occupied tenuous
positions within traditional (academic) disciplines, and has always
moved restlessly across disciplinary borders; after all, when we think
of what critical theory has influenced, we must include such diverse
disciplines as sociology, political science, philosophy, economics,
history, anthropology, psychology, and even biology and physics, as
well as studies in English and other national, regional, and ethnic
languages and literatures. Critical theory, in sum, is by no
means merely a province of English Studies, and neither need it be,
should it be, nor can it be confined to English Studies alone, or to
language and literature studies more generally.
Yet the questions that we ask of the texts we read
and write and of the discourses we produce and disseminate, in English
Studies, are always already sedimented with the weight of extensive
historical exchange–and interchange–with critical theory, and the
answers we seek to these questions eventually require us to engage with
and draw upon critical theories far more directly than simply to
acknowledge this sedimentation. These questions include, at their
most fundamental, why
should we, or anyone for that matter, read and write these texts, the
texts we privilege, and why should we, or anyone else, be interested in
producing and disseminating these discourses, the discourses that are
of the greatest importance to us, and why so here and now?
What is the value of these texts and discourses? What is their
relevance? What is their usefulness? How and why are they
different, including different in their kind or degree of value and
use, from other kinds of texts and discourses in circulation within
contemporary society and culture at large? It is for this reason
that this department includes this course, a quintessential liberal
arts course, as a required component of its undergraduate core
curriculum. In situating this course within this location our aim
is to cultivate
rigorous self-reflexivity in your own intellectual work and
practice, as well as to offer you stimulus and provocation that can
you in producing both more compelling and sophisticated articulations
in your engagement with the intellectual work and practice of others.
Explicit concern with the study of critical theory
in relation to 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 thirty to forty
years. Even as many English Departments continue to prioritize
courses in what at first glance might seem like fairly 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.
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
Cultural studies may very well, according to this
literary studies as a constituent component. It has by now
been close to 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 and discourses 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
What is most important, as I see it, is 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. How are the
diverse kinds of texts and discourses studied within “English” today
approached, made sense of, interpreted, evaluated, and, yes, put to
use–and why so? If English Studies is to concern itself with
understanding the rhetorical, aesthetic, political, and ideological
constituents of relations among texts and discourses of diverse kinds
throughout culture and across cultures, without translating this
understanding into a reductive homogeneity or a constrictive orthodoxy,
it needs to bring to bear the insights of an inter- and indeed a trans-
disciplinary constellation of cooperating and contesting modes of
understanding that has the power to address the breadth of these
concerns, and to do so with philosophical rigor–and that constellation
is critical theory.
We will begin with three weeks focused on inquiring
into what is ‘Enlightenment’, exploring its 18th century development
and elaboration as well as it subsequent and contemporary implications
and consequences. This inquiry will lead us to consider many
issues, including what should be the proper means and ends of: 1.)
education and learning, 2.) cultivation of knowledge and understanding,
3.) development and dissemination of culture, 4.) criticism and
publication, 5.) citizenship and moral as well as ethical conduct in
both public and private practice, 6.) exercise of religious authority
and censorship, 7.) pursuit of imagination and delight in the
aesthetic, 8.) class divisions and relations, 9.) effective as well as
ethical governance, and 10.) political as well as social change.
After this we will turn, for the next five weeks, to
explore two sharply contrasting, yet nonetheless both considerably
influential directions in the critique of the Enlightenment and the
initial 19th century development of critical theory: the works, first,
of Soren Kierkegaard and, second, of Karl Marx. Subsequent
to Kierkegaard and Marx, we will engage with 20th and 21st century
Cultural Studies over the course of the last six weeks of the semester,
beginning with “keyworks” in the emergence and development of this
broad field of intellectual inquiry and then turning to consider
connections between theory and practice, as well as movements from
theory to action, at the present time. Even though we only work
with five books, this selection embraces, beyond Enlightenment theory
and criticism, religious faith-based, and, in particular, Christian
existentialist, critical theory; Marxist critical theory; Frankfurt
School, neo- and post- Marxist critical theory; critical theory of
modern, postmodern, mass, and popular cultures; and feminist,
African-American, queer, multiculturalist, postcolonial, and
comparative internationalist varieties of critical theory.
Why this focus? For the following reasons:
First, each of our texts not only represents a major
(influential) current within the history of (post)modern critical
theory but also does so in a comprehensive fashion. And, at the same
time, even though we will only read (a limited number of) selections
from each, all of these books will prove useful to you for further
work, and reference, not only in critical theory and cultural studies,
but also in papers and projects you do for other classes--and beyond
(including for senior 'capstone' and prospective UW grant-supported
collaborative research purposes).
Second, in contrast with a packed survey that
rapidly moves across an immense, mind-numbing variety of different
figures and approaches, studying a limited number of (nonetheless
substantial) critical theoretical texts in depth will provide us a
better opportunity to work on the primary aim of this course (offered
at this–advanced introductory–level): i.e., to help you develop and
enhance your own self-reflective theoretical and critical abilities.
Third, each of these five books exemplifies the
combined philosophical- ideological and social-political concerns and
commitments of critical theory that I delineated above–in section 3 of
this course explanation statement.
In order to gain the most you can from this course
you will need to keep several points in mind as we proceed:
we can only engage with a small number of significant contributions to
the immense critical theoretical discussion engaging the issues we will
take up, and we can only begin to explore what makes these
contributions significant. 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.
the reading you will do for this course should challenge you;
you should find it often difficult, at least initially so; and
you should not expect that what you read will make intuitive sense or
provide immediate satisfaction. Of course, I hope that eventually
you will experience the excitement, even the joy, of 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 critical
theory, 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.
you will need, consistently and conscientiously, not only to work hard
to remain patient,
and to keep an
open mind, but also to trust in the potential
value of conceptual thinking–and the corollary power of mental
Do not rest content with the superficially apparent, the merely
commonsensical, the seemingly self-evident, the already familiar;
critical theory deliberately challenges all of this, and in
order to appreciate what it means to think, speak, listen, read, write,
act, and interact in a seriously critical and theoretical manner, you
will need to follow this path as well.
Fourth, even as I will provide a few specific sites for
testing and applying what we can extract from readings in theory and
criticism, I will count on you to take the initiative to do this
yourself as well. You have to be an
active participant in this course; you will gain relatively
little if you don’t bring extensively, and intensively, 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.
and following closely upon the last point, since many of you enrolled
in this course are advanced students, taking this course relatively
late in your undergraduate career, I do expect you to
demonstrate the intellectual maturity you have acquired through the
duration of this previous work; you will need it. Although
designed as an upper 200 level course, I know people enrolled in 285 at
present have in many cases taken many English as well as other courses
for a considerable 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. We will frequently
reflect on the following questions: a.) Why are we doing what we are
doing as women and men working in English studies today, and why not
something else, perhaps more meaningful, valuable, significant,
effective, relevant, and urgent? b.) What difference does it make
(for whom and for what) that we read, write, teach, study, talk about,
and otherwise engage with the kinds of texts we do in the forms and
setting that we do, working within this field in this department at
this university at this place and time?
and again as a consequence of what I have just elaborated, 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 the process of critique is
continuously ongoing. All positions are
limited, in one way or another, and those seriously engaged in
theoretical and critical practice quite readily recognize and accept
this fact. We are constantly striving to extend, develop, refine,
enrich, renew, open up, pass beyond, approach again, take in a new and
different direction–and all the while continuously updating 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.
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
1. James Schmidt, ed. What is Enlightenment: Eighteenth Century
Answers and Twentieth Century Questions. Philosophical
Traditions. University of California Press, 1996. ISBN#
0520202260 (Paperback). Required.
2. Soren Kierkegaard. Provocations: Spiritual Writings of
Kierkegaard. Orbis, 2003. ISBN#: 1570755132
3. Karl Marx. Karl
Marx: Selected Writings. 2nd Edition. Oxford
University Press, 2000. ISBN#: 0198782659 (Paperback). Required.
4. Meenaksi Gigi Durham and Douglas Kellner,
eds. Media and Cultural
Studies: Keyworks. Blackwell, 2000. ISBN#:
0631220968 (Paperback). Required.
5. Pepi Lystyna, ed. Cultural Studies: From Theory to Action.
Blackwell, 2004. ISBN#: 0631224386 (Paperback). Required.
*** PLEASE NOTE WELL: WE WILL ONLY BE READING SELECTIONS (APPROXIMATELY
1/3 TO 1/2 AT MOST) FROM EACH OF THE ABOVE BOOKS ***
You should purchase or otherwise obtain copies of
all of these books. They are available at the UWEC
bookstore. You may, at the same
time, feel free to purchase these from any other bookstore or book
outlet, including by means of on-line ordering outlets (such as
amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com), as you wish, as long as you acquire
them in time to use in and for class.
We will also work periodically with supplementary
texts both in theory and criticism as well as providing us sites to
practice testing out and applying ideas garnered from reading, study,
and discussion of critical theory. This will include several
films from the spring 2005 UWEC campus film series as well as a number
of other mostly short texts (especially from literary, musical, and
other popular cultural sources) that I will make available for you, and
I will do the same for various guides, outlines, lecture notes,
comments on class discussions, and other learning tools that I will
prepare for you to help you in your work as part of this class.
In addition, your own writing, in the form of
Desire2Learn postings, as well as in other forms, to be determined,
will serve as significant texts in this course, and you yourselves will
also, especially as part of group projects in the second half of the
semester, be invited to refer us to supplementary texts of your choice
for purposes of practice in testing and application.
2/1: Introduction and Orientation.
2/8: Enlightenment, One.
for Class: What is
Enlightenment? (WE): 58-83 (Kant, Reinhold, Wieland), 97-113
(Bahrdt), 145-153 (Hamann), and 168-187 (Riem). Supplemental: Crimson Gold (UWEC Campus Film
Series: 2/3-2/6, 6 and 8:30 p.m., Davies Theater) and Passages from
Select First-Year Student Essays on ‘Why College?’ (Will be
Posted on D2L).
2/15: Enlightenment, Two.
for Class: WE: 212-231 (Von Moser, Tieftrunk, Bergk), 291-305
(Green), and 317-329 (Beiser). Supplemental: Casablanca (UWEC Campus Film
Series: 2/10-2/19, 6 and 8:30 p.m. Davies Theater), American Declaration of Independence
(D2L), Declaration of Rights of Man
and the Citizen (D2L), and Mandeville, “The Fable of the Bees”
2/22: Enlightenment, Three.
for Class: WE: 345-358 (Bittner), 426-452 (Böhme and
Böhme), 471-487 (Schott), and 517-532 (Geiman).
Supplemental: Goldfish Memory
(Campus Film Series: 2/17-2/22, 6 and 8:30 p.m., Davies Theater);
Constantia, “On the Equality of the Sexes” (Will be Posted on D2L); de
Gouges, “The Rights of Women” (Will be Posted on D2L); Wollstonecraft,
“Vindication of the Rights of Women” (D2L); Paine, “African Slavery in
America” (D2L); and Diderot, “‘Who Are You, Then, to Make Slaves . .
.’” (Will be Posted on D2L).
3/1: Kierkegaard, One.
for Class: Provocations (P):
ix-xxx (Introduction); 1-124 (“To Will One Thing”; “The Works of Love”;
and “Anxiety and the Gospel of Suffering”). Supplemental:
Hawthorne, “The Minister’s Black Veil” (D2L); Coleridge, “The Rime of
the Ancient Mariner” (D2L); Blake, “The Lamb” and “The Tiger” (Will be
Posted on D2L); and Thomas, “Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night”
(Will be Posted on D2L).
First Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Assigned *
3/8: Kierkegaard, Two.
for Class: P, 125-207 (“Anxiety and the Gospel of Suffering” and
“Christian Collisions”). Supplemental: The Terrorist (Campus Film Series:
3/3-3/6, 6 and 8:30 p.m., Davies Theater); James, “The Beast in the
Jungle” (D2L); Joy Division, “Autosuggestion,” “She’s Lost Control,”
and “Love Will Tear Us Apart” (D2L); and Wilde, “Poems in Prose”
[“The Artist,” “The Doer of Good”; “The Disciple”; “The Master”; “The
House of Judgment” and “The Teacher of Wisdom”] (Will be Posted on
3/15: Marx, One.
for Class: Karl Marx:
Selected Writings (KM): To Be Announced. Supplemental: To
First Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Due F 3/18 by 5 p.m.
English Department Mailbox, HHH 405. *
3/29:: Marx, Two.
for Class: KM: To Be Announced. Supplemental: To Be
4/5: Marx, Three.
for Class: KM: To Be Announced. Supplemental: To Be
4/12: Cultural Studies, Keyworks, One,
for Class: Media and Cultural
Studies: Keyworks (Key): To Be Announced. Supplemental: To
Be Announced. First Group
Second Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Assigned *
4/19: Cultural Studies, Keyworks, Two.
for Class: Key: To Be Announced. Supplemental: To Be
Announced. Second Group Project.
4/26: Cultural Studies, Keyworks, Three.
for Class: Key: To Be Announced. Supplemental: To Be
Announced. Third Group Project.
5/3: Cultural Studies, From Theory to Action, One.
for Class: Cultural Studies: From Theory to Action (CSTA): To Be
Announced. Supplemental: To Be Announced. Fourth Group
5/10: Cultural Studies, From Theory to Action, Two.
for Class: CSTA: To Be Announced. Supplemental: To Be
Announced. Fifth Group Project.
5/17: Cultural Studies, From Theory to Action, Three.
for Class: CSTA: To Be Announced. Supplemental: To
Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Due by 5 p.m. in my English
Department Mailbox, HHH 405.
SCHEDULE IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE *****
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.
ON INTELLECTUAL RESPONSIBILITY,
The English Department aims to provide you with an
intellectually challenging education. This means we will often include
texts and introduce topics in our courses that candidly explore adult
issues, including ones offering representations that may, on occasion,
prove unsettling, disturbing, and even offensive to some of you.
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. On the contrary, we expect you to take up the
challenge to confront these kinds of texts and topics in a mature,
responsible way, and that means bringing directly to bear your negative
reactions-including your reactions of shock, dismay, and discontent-in
class discussions and in your writings and presentations for
class. If you find a position or practice represented in a text
or topic included in the assigned readings for class to be
objectionable, it is therefore of crucial importance that you raise
your objections openly and honestly, not simply claim personal
exemption from having to see, hear, or talk, read, and write about
these kinds of matters. 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 appalling, you maintain the ethical
responsibility, as a mature adult and as a responsible citizen, not
simply to try to hide from these positions and practices but rather to
work to critique and change them.
Students should expect therefore that you may well
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 no
welcome for simply complaining (especially to a higher administrative
authority) about their inclusion. Instead you should bring your
objections forthrightly to bear in your contributions to class
discussion. Finally, to conclude this particular point of
discussion, 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
strong and indeed controversial positions on difficult and challenging
issues, eschewing the pretense of disinterested neutrality. To do
anything less than assume this responsibility, and to do so with
alacrity, would be to shirk our professorial responsibility and to
render ourselves unworthy of maintaining our professorial position.
THE GOALS OF THE UWEC BACCALAUREATE
This university is, as most of you well know, a liberal arts
institution; education in the liberal arts (and sciences)
represents the historic and central commitment of what we do together
on this UW campus-not vocational training and pre-professional
development. The university administration and faculty support
this commitment so strongly that they have asked that all syllabi
elaborate the official goals of the baccalaureate, as well as identify
which ones the course in question will help you achieve.
According to the UWEC administration, the baccalaureate degree shall
work to develop the following for UWEC students:
1.) an understanding of a liberal education.
2.) an appreciation of the University as a learning community.
3.) an ability to inquire, think, analyze.
4.) an ability to write, read, speak, listen.
5.) an understanding of numerical data.
6.) a historical consciousness.
7.) international and intercultural experience.
8.) an understanding of science and scientific methods.
9.) an appreciation of the arts.
10.) an understanding of values.
11.) an understanding of human behavior and human institutions.
UWEC strives to help you meet
these objectives in the course of the higher education you pursue
here. Please note that in making these our foremost aims, we at
UWEC clearly distinguish ourselves from technical colleges as well as
from all other UW schools, especially places like Stout and River
Falls. English 285, Introduction to Theory and Criticism
aims to help
contribute to you meeting goals 1-4 and 10-11.
These goals cannot be met passively by the student:
each requires your striving toward it to be met. Striving means
learning actively, completing assignments in a thorough and timely
fashion, participating in class discussion, and making connections
(above and beyond those emphasized by us in the classroom) between what
we do while meeting in class and what you do when engaged outside of
SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS FOR THE COURSE GRADE
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.
Students should note well that because we will be
engaging in complex thinking and with challenging reading that I have reduced the nature and amount of
required writing to compensate. I will also certainly grade you as students taking an
introductory course in a new and difficult area, as well as
versus each other (not some ‘higher group’ or abstract standard).
I also want, right at the beginning of our work together, to reassure
students that I strongly believe you
all maintain the capability to excel in this course. Many, many
undergraduate UWEC students in my theory and criticism courses over the
past eight years now have produced and contributed absolutely
outstanding work, demonstrating truly amazing insight, commitment, and
accomplishment; you can too.
Attendance is required. Students are allowed one unexcused absence, maximum.
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, and, as noted above,
this class emphasizes discussion; thus, it is imperative that students
(prepare for and) attend classes. Your presence is also necessary
for the large amount of group work we will do. For every
unexcused absence after the first, I reserve the right to lower your
overall course grade by a third of a letter. If you experience
troubles of one kind or another that mean you will have to miss a large
number of classes, you should withdraw and re-take the course another
semester where you will be in a better position to do so.
Learning and Contribution/Learning and
Contribution Reflection Papers
What This is
and Why it is Important
My foremost aim in teaching this course is to help
you 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-as well as how well-you contribute to learning for
the rest of the class.
You cannot learn or help others learn if you do not
contribute. If you don't contribute to the work of this class not
only will you fail to derive as much gain from it as would be the case
if you did contribute, but also you will deprive everyone else of the
benefit of your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, knowledge, and
experience. In fact, to remain passively silent in class exploits
the work of others who actively engage.
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, just talking a great deal does not
necessarily mean that you are making a quality contribution to the
class by aiding the learning that we aim to accomplish. 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
Quality class participation does not, moreover,
involve merely asking questions of me and responding to my questions;
quality class participation requires you to work as assiduously as you
can to advance a serious and substantial discussion with your peers as
well as with me about the texts and topics subject to discussion.
Students should, therefore, be prepared to engage with and respond to
each other in class discussion, and I will take particular note of how
well you do so.
I would like you to come to class with strong
opinions on the topic of discussion, to be ready to share your opinions
with the class, and to be open-minded enough to debate your thoughts
and to push them as far as they will go. This last aspect will
involve what some may think is overanalyzing things, or pushing the
envelope to the point where meaning may break down, but this process is
absolutely necessary to understanding a topic fully.
As for evaluating class participation, I find the
system designed by my colleague, Professor Mary Ellen Alea useful as a
rough guide: A = Nearly daily response, but always with
consistently useful, insightful comments and questions; B= Daily
response, with regular comments and questions; C = Less frequent,
occasional questions and comments; D = Virtually entirely quiet; and F
= Engaging in behavior that disrupts the learning processes of you and
your fellow students, such as talking while others are speaking.
Alternative Forms of Contribution
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 writings for and in response to class (on Desire2Learn)
and as part of your learning and contribution reflection as well as
group project critique papers can help make up for limitations as far
as participation in class goes. At the same time, listening
carefully, respectfully, and thoughtfully in class discussions is an
important contribution to class as well.
Learning and Contribution
Contribution Reflection Grades
Learning and contribution will constitute a
substantial proportion of your overall course grade. A
significant component of this will involve you writing two learning and
contribution reflection papers. These papers will ask you
questions that will require you to assess what you have been learning
as well as how, and how well, you have been contributing to your own
learning, and that of others in the class.
As I see it, these 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 will 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 semester period; 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; please note well that
the questions I ask you to address will change from reflection paper to
first learning and contribution grade (including the first learning and
contribution reflection paper) will be worth 15% of the overall course
grade, and the second learning and contribution grade (including the
second learning and contribution reflection paper) will be worth 25% of
the overall course grade.
Group Project and Group Project
Each student will participate in one group
project. Group project presentations will run one per week during
weeks 10-14 of the semester (see above schedule). Your
group will be responsible for leading discussion and directing our
education in making sense and use of the writings in theory and
criticism assigned for that week. You will also be responsible
for selecting the supplemental texts we should “read” (or otherwise
attend to) in preparation for this class discussion. Each project
group will meet with me in a extended conference at least one week
ahead of your presentation in class to plan and prepare together.
I will help you as far as I possibly can. I want this to be
a productive presentation and discussion for all of us, for you and the
rest of the class–an experience of genuine educational
value. We will leave time in each of these five class
meetings for me also to lead discussion of additional points of
importance, interest, and concern.
After your class presentation and discussion
facilitation, you will write a paper
reflecting on, analyzing, and evaluating–i.e., critiquing–your
preparation and performance, as well as that of your groupmates, along
with how and what you contributed to your fellow students’ learning.
Specific instructions for this paper will be explained with the
assignment to be distributed in class. This paper will be due
one week after the class in which you present and lead discussion.
In preparing for class, and in presenting to and
leading the class in discussion, you must work together, yet you should
most definitely feel free to disagree with, even to argue strongly with
and to sharply critique, your groupmates as often and as far as you
find yourself inclined; doing so may in fact make your contribution to
our collective learning all-the-more provocative, stimulating,
incisive, and compelling. Don’t hesitate to do this–and don’t
hesitate to meet with me more than once, individually as well as
collectively, in working on this project.
grade for what you do in and with class on this project will be worth
10% of the overall course grade; your grade for what you do in and with
your subsequent paper will be worth 10% of the overall course
grade. You will receive individual grades for both.
Each student in class will also write a very short
paper in response to every other group’s presentation and direction of
discussion, as part of its group project, besides that of the
student’s own group. This paper will reflect on, analyze, and
evaluate–i.e., critique–the group’s preparation, presentation, and
performance in leading and directing discussion, as well as the group’s
contribution to our collective learning. Specific details of this
paper will be explained with the assignment when this is given out in
of these response papers will be worth 2.5% of the overall course grade
for a total of 10% of the overall course grade.
Desire2Learn Postings (Reflections,
Students will prepare and submit two kinds of postings to
our Desire2Learn electronic classroom on regular intervals throughout
the course of the semester. This will be a space where you can
engage in discussion primarily with your peers, largely free from
having to worry about directly addressing me with anything that you
Each week I will post a short writing assignment
for you to address on our Desire2Learn electronic classroom.
Students should post their papers in response to this assignment by midnight the Sunday two days before the
Tuesday evening our class meets. Late postings will
inconvenience the rest of us, and, as a result, will lose some credit.
These writing assignments will ask you briefly to
address questions related to the readings (and, possibly also, the
supplemental texts) assigned for the upcoming Tuesday
class. In so doing, you will already begin to stake out a
tentative, preliminary position in relation to these texts, and some of
the issues they raise for our consideration; we will be able to draw
upon and refer to what you post here in our class discussion, as proves
of interest and use.
I expect all
students to look over your classmates’ Desire2Learn postings prior to
class and to come to class prepared to speak to these as well as to the
course readings (and other supplemental texts).
In writing these reflections, comments, and/or
critiques you should aim for an
approximate target average of 500 to 750 words. These are
“semi-formal,” which means that you should try to write as clearly and
cogently as possible, but that I will not be a stickler for minute
kinds of fine points of style in evaluating what you write.
should address a minimum of three of these assignments through spring
break and a minimum of three more after spring break.
After the week’s class has met, you will then be
respond to your own previous posting and/or those of your fellow
students. These responses should indicate what you have
gained as a result of class discussion and the chance to think further
about what you and/or your classmates initially wrote.
You should aim, in these responses, to cover
approximately the same length as your initial postings.
should offer a minimum of six responses before spring break and a
minimum of six more responses after spring break.
I will let you know on D2L how long you will have to
engage in dialogue for credit with each D2L posts assignment. Aim
to keep up with this task on a regular basis so that you are not
cramming responses in at the last moment, and so that what you post
does contribute to (your own and fellow students’) significant
learning, reflection, discussion, and debate–the more your posts do so,
the better your grade will turn out to be. Feel free to
argue with and critique each other (focusing, of course, on positions
represented by and practices supported by your peers, not on
If you make quality posts more often than minimally
required, either in response to initial post assignments or to each
other (or both) this can certainly help your grade, even considerably
I expect the opportunity to engage in this kind of
supplementary, informal dialogue will help you in your learning and
contribution, as well as make the course more interesting and
meaningful for you. It will also give you the chance to test out
and receive potentially helpful feedback on ideas you might want later
to pursue in class discussions, and in papers. In addition, this
will give you a chance to share ideas that you thought of after class
discussion, or that you needed more time to think out and formulate
effectively in your own mind before sharing these, and Desire2Learn
postings should help students who are shy about speaking forth
extensively in class discussion. I know everyone in class has
much of value to offer, including those who do not feel as readily
inclined or as comfortable to voice this in class discussion as some
The Desire2Learn postings will be graded twice, once
half-way through the semester and once at the end of the
semester. Here, my evaluation will be quite succinct, focused,
and holistic. The grade for your Desire2Learn postings will
contribute the following percentages of the overall course grade: 15% for the first half
of the semester, and 15% for the second half of the semester.
Late papers will receive a reduction of 1/3 of a
letter grade per day late unless you have made previous arrangements to
turn your paper in to me due to a serious problem or emergency.
A BRIEF WORD ON PLAGIARISM
Do not use anyone else's words without giving the
author credit. If I find out that you've plagiarized even part of
a paper, you will have to re-write it, and you may even be dismissed
from UWEC. If you echo any thoughts mentioned in class discussion
add the letters CD in parenthetical citation after the sentence, viz:
(Nowlan CD 2/2/04).
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. *
STATEMENT OF PHILOSOPHY OF TEACHING
I strive to be as accountable to my students as
possible. I believe it is crucial that students become aware of the
ideas and the values which shape and direct their education, and I
believe students should expect that all of their teachers will be
prepared to explain why they teach as they do. Please, therefore, take
the time, as early as you can this semester, to read through and think
carefully about my "Statement of Teaching Philosophy" that I have
posted on my UWEC faculty website:
This statement explains WHY I teach as I do. I think it is extremely
important that you know and understand where your teachers are coming
from in teaching you as they do. You will find me one who trusts you
sufficiently always to be frank about this with you.
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Professor Bob Nowlan
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Last Update: January 23, 2005