ENGLISH 284: INTRODUCTION TO THEORY AND
Section 003: T, 7
to 9:45 p.m., HHH 230
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
PROFESSOR BOB NOWLAN
Office: HHH 425,
T 2:40-4:30 pm, T 9:50-10:30 pm,
W 2:40-3:30 pm, F
3:40-4:30 pm, and By Appointment
Let us begin with provisional working definitions of
three key terms.
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.
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
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.).
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.
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, 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 284: Introduction to Theory and Criticism is
a literature course, a linguistics course, a creative writing course,
an English education course, or a scientific and technical
communication course. (And I should know as I myself designed and
proposed it, and as I was the first person ever hired to work in this
department with primary expertise in, and primary responsibility, for
theory and criticism.) 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
"Critical 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
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
with inquiring 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 effectively
assist 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 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 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 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:
into what makes for different conceptions of highly valued writing
within and across different historical cultures–and subcultures.
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 this course, after an initial week of
introduction and orientation, by spending three weeks working with
Jeffrey Nealon’s and Susan Searls Giroux’s The Theory Toolbox: Critical Concepts for
the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. This books
provides a highly accessible, lively, stimulating introduction to and
overview of a consensus within contemporary post-structuralist and
post-modernist critical theory on how to make sense and use of the
following fundamental concepts in theory and criticism: 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. The book succeeds in helping introductory students in
theory and criticism begin successfully to grasp the actual power,
pervasiveness, concreteness, and extraordinarily wide relevance of work
in and with ‘theory’ and ‘criticism’. It serves as a far more
useful introduction to the heart and soul of what theory and criticism
are truly all about than more traditional, yet now long outdated books
which purport to give basic summary introductions to supposedly
discrete ‘schools’, ‘or ‘movements’, or ‘approaches’. Those
latter books inevitably do more harm than good in reductively
misrepresenting not only what they ostensibly focus on but also the
much larger province of theory and criticism itself.
After working with The
Theory Toolbox we turn next to explore and engage with
cutting-edge theoretical and critical work in relation to two of the
most pressing, and vitally important issues affecting the future of
humanity and of life on this planet: first, Violence in War and Peace: an Anthology,
edited by Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Philippe Bourgois, and, second, Ecology (Key Concepts in Critical Theory),
edited by Carolyn Merchant. We will read selections from both
anthologies. First, we will spend four weeks working with Violence in War and Peace,
exploring topics including making sense of the nature of human
violence, continuities and discontinuities connecting instances and
exercises of violence across times of war and times of peace, conquest
and (neo-/post-)colonialism, the Holocaust and other historical
genocides, the politics of communal violence, why do people kill?, the
state amok: state violence and dirty wars, violence and political
resistance, peacetime crimes: everyday violence, gendered violence,
violence and race, violence and class, torture, witnessing and
reporting on/writing about violence, placing violence in transformative
contexts and perspectives, and reducing and ending
violence. Second we will spend three weeks working with Ecology, exploring topics including
what is ecology and how/why this is of important/urgent concern,
critical theory and the domination of nature, environmental economics
and politics, deep ecology, social ecology, socialist ecology,
ecofeminism, environmental justice, violence and race, violence and
class, spiritual ecology, postmodern science, and programs of action
for environmental justice and ecological transformation.
After that, we will spend four weeks working with a
fantastically complex, challenging, riveting, and inspiring work of
philosophical and political fiction: Starhawk’s utopian/dystopian novel
The Fifth Sacred Thing, which
is concerned with making incisive theoretical and critical
interventions concerning issues of violence in war and peace, ecology,
organization of human community and society, interrelations between
culture and nature, interrelations between folk and scientific wisdoms,
gender and sexuality, race and class, spirituality and religion–and
much more as well. We will be able to explore all of these vital
issues through our engagement with Starhawk’s novel.
Finally, for our final examination in class, I will
ask students to prepare short presentations to make to and discuss with
your classmates in relation to a discrete series of questions embedded
in a challengingly imaginative scenario. The last time I taught
this course we concluded our work together that way, and my students
overwhelmingly declared that they found it one of the most usefully
challenging, provocative, stimulating, and meaningful activities they
had ever pursued in school, in any class, and on any level. And I
believe it was an excellent way to bring home what the most important
continuing legacy of our work together in this class over the course of
one semester needs–must–be.
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 abstraction. 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.
Fifth, I know people enrolled in 284 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?
Sixth, and again as a consequence of what I have just
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
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
(and all available for purchase at the UWEC Bookstore in Davies
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. Scheper-Hughes and Philippe Bourgois, eds. Violence in War and Peace: an Anthology.
Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. ISBN#: 0-631-22349-5.
3. Merchant, Carolyn, ed. Ecology. Key Concepts in Critical Theory.
Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 1994, 1999. ISBN#: 1-57392-600-0.
4. Starhawk. The
Fifth Sacred Thing. New York: Bantam Books, 1993.
(and all available for purchase as well ast the UWEC Bookstore in
1. Sim, Stuart and Borin Van Loon. Introducing Critical Theory.
Royston, England: Icon Books, 2004. ISBN#:
1-84046-588-3. An unusually perceptive, insightful, and
accurate, as well as easy, and fun, comic book introduction to critical
theory, from Marx and Marxism up to the present. A potentially
quite helpful reference resource for you.
2. Eliade, Mircea. The Sacred and the Profane: the Nature of
Religion. Orlando: Harcourt, 1957, 1959, 1987.
ISBN#: 0-15-679201-X. A short classic text that explores
the essence of the nature of religion and spirituality across time and
space in highly lucid, readily accessible terms. Eliade is highly
respectful of the attraction to and compulsion for religious/spiritual
belief and practice, while finding ways to draw stimulating connections
across a host of often seemingly highly disparate and even sharply
opposing organizational forms. Religion and spirituality–in its
impact upon us all, believers and non-believers, is again one of the
most potent forces in the world today, one that my students in
Introduction to Theory and Criticism always enjoy grappling with, and
which I wish we had additional time to focus on in detail. But
this is a great book to be familiar with, and it can prove helpful to
you as we engage with Starhawk’s The
well as considerably beyond that four-week period.
3. Weeks, Jeffrey. Sexuality. 1986.
Second Edition. Key Ideas. London: Routledge, 2003.
ISBN#: 0-415-28286-1. Again this has become a classic text, and
its represents a marvelous introduction to and overview of consensual
thinking within critical theory and cultural studies today concerning
the social construction of sexuality. It is a relatively brief,
yet thorough, and highly stimulating as well as quite accessible.
Again, few topics energize students in critical theory and cultural
studies courses more than issues of sexuality, and among some of the
most dramatic developments in critical theory that sharply challenge
commonsense have taken place in the field of sexuality studies over the
course of the past thirty, to forty, to even fifty years.
Students generally find it highly exciting to become familiar with and
engage these developments; it often dramatically reshapes how they
think about (and act in relation to) a host of vital issues.
Again, I wish we had more time to focus in depth on sexuality in detail
in this course. But this is another great book, that I highly
recommend to you, and which will serve you well as we engage with
Starhawk’s The Fifth Sacred Thing,
as well as considerably beyond that period of time, including in
higher-level English classes.
You may feel free to purchase any of these texts,
required or optional, from any other bookstore or book outlet,
including by means of on-line ordering outlets (such as http://www.amazon.com or http://www.barnesandnoble.com),
as you wish, as long as you acquire them in time to use in and for
9/4: Introduction and Orientation.
9/11: Why Theory?, Author/ity, Reading, and Subjectivity.
Read for Class: The
Theory Toolbox, chapters 1-4, 1-50.
9/18: Culture (Multiculturalism, Popular Culture, Media Culture),
Ideology, History, and Space/Time.
Read for Class: The
Theory Toolbox, chapters 5-8, 51-124.
9/25: Posts (Postmodernism, Poststructuralism, Postcolonialism),
Differences (Gender, Queer, Race, Class, and Concluding Differences),
Read for Class: The
Theory Toolbox, chapters 9-11, 125-206.
10/2: Introduction: Making Sense of Violence, Conquest and Colonialism,
and the Holocaust.
Read for Class: Violence
in War and Peace: Scheper-Hughes and Bourgois, “Introduction:
Making Sense of Violence,” 1-31; Conrad, “From Heart of Darkness,” 35-38; Taussig,
“Culture of Terror–Space of Death: Roger Casement’s Putumayo Report and
the Explanation of Torture,” 39-53; Foucault, “Right of Death and Power
Over Life,” 79-82; Levi, “The Gray Zone,” 83-90; Borowski, “From This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentleman,”
109-117; and Spiegelman, “From Maus:
a Survivor’s Tale, II: And Here My Troubles Began,” 118-120.
10/9: The Politics of Communal Violence, Why Do People Kill?, and The
State Amok: State Violence and Dirty Wars.
Read for Class: Violence
in War and Peace: Litwack, “From ‘Hellhounds’,” 123-128;
Milgram, “Behavioral Study of Violence,” 145-149; Rosaldo, “Grief and a
Headhunter’s Rage,” 150-156; Taussig, “Talking Terror,” 171-174;
Scheper-Hughes, “Bodies, Death, and Silence,” 175-185; Green, “Living
in a State of Fear,” 186-195; Chomsky, “The New War Against Terror:
Responding to 9/11"; and Scheper-Hughes, “Violence Foretold:
Reflections on 9/11,” 224-226.
* Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #1 Assigned. *
10/16: Violence and Political Resistance, and Peacetime Crimes:
Read for Class: Violence
in War and Peace: Sartre, “Preface to Franz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth,” 229-235;
Arendt, “From On Violence,”
246-263; Aretxaga,“Dirty Protest: Symbolic Overdetermination and Gender
in Northern Ireland Ethnic Violence,” 244-252; Taussig, “Terror as
Usual: Walter Benjamin’s Theory of History as State of Siege,” 269-271;
Bourdieu and Wacquant, “Symbolic Violence,” 272-274; Farmer, “On
Suffering and Structural Violence,” 281-289; Bourgois, “US Inner-City
Apartheid: The Contours of Survival and Interpersonal Violence,”
301-307; and Wacquant, “The New ‘Peculiar Institution’: On the Prison
as Surrogate Ghetto,” 318-324.
10/23: Gendered Violence, Torture, Witnessing/Writing Violence, and
Read for Class: Violence in War and Peace:
Bourdieu, “Gender and Symbolic Violence,” 339-342; Bourgois, “The
Everyday Violence of Gang Rape,” 343-347; Donaldson, “Hooking Up:
Protective Pairing for Punks,” 348-353. Herman, “From Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of
Violence–From Domestic Abuse to Terror,” 368-371; Spiegelman,
“From Maus: a Survivor’s Tale, II:
And Here My Troubles Began,” 391-394; Pedelty, “From War Stories: the Culture of Foreign
Correspondents,” 402-409; Zulaika, “The Anthropologist as
Terrorist,” 416-419; Fanon, “Colonial War and Mental Disorders,”
443-452; and Sachs, “From The Soft
Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter,” 453-458.
10/30: Introduction to Ecology, Critical Theory and the Domination of
Nature, and Environmental Economics and Politics.
Read for Class: Ecology:
Merchant, “Introduction,” 1-25; Horkheimer and Adorno, “The Concept of
Enlightenment,” 44-50; Marcuse, “Ecology and Revolution,” 51-54; Leiss,
‘The Domination of Nature,” 55-64; Commoner, “Poverty and Population,”
88-95; Daly, “Steady-State Economics,” 96-106; and Tokar, “Creating a
Green Future,” 112-118.
Learning and Contribution Paper #1 Due. *
11/6: Deep. Social, and Socialist Ecology; Ecofeminism.
Read for Class: Ecology:
Devall, “The Deep Ecology Movement,” 125-139; Sessions, “Ecocentrism
and the Anthropocentric Detour,” 140-151; Bookchin, ‘The Concept of
Social Ecology,” 152-162; King, “Feminism and the Revolt of Nature,”
198-206; and Mathews, “Ecofeminism and Deep Ecology,” 235-245.
11/13: Environmental Justice, Spiritual Ecology, and Postmodern
Read for Class: Ecology:
Bullard, “Environmental Racism and the Environmental Movement,”
248-253; Shiva, “Development, Ecology, and Women,” 272-280; Spretnak,
“The Spiritual Dimensions of Green Politics,” 299-308; Christ, “Why
Women Need the Goddess,” 309-321; Capra, “Systems Theory and the New
Paradigm,” 334-341; Bohm, “Postmodern Science and a Postmodern World,”
342-350; and “Conclusion: Principles of Environmental Justice [from]
the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit,”
11/20: The Fifth Sacred Thing,
Read for Class: “The Declaration of The Four Sacred
Things” (Preface) and Chapters 1-8, 1-126.
* Learning and Contribution Reflection
Paper #2 Assigned *
11/27: The Fifth Sacred Thing,
Read for Class: Chapters 9-17, 127-246.
12/4: The Fifth Sacred Thing,
Read for Class: Chapters 18-26, 246-366.
12/11: The Fifth Sacred Thing,
Read for Class: Chapters 27-37, 367-484.
* Final Examination Brief Individual
Writing/Presentation Preparation Assignment Distributed *
Examination: Brief Individual Student Presentations and Collective
and Contribution Reflection Paper #2 Due, By midnight (Either in my
English Department Mailbox, HHH 405, or by E-Mail to Me [check with me
what formats I can and cannot open as attachments] at email@example.com
***** THIS 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, ACADEMIC
FREEDOM, AND CURRICULAR INTEGRITY
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
absolutely 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. English 284,
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
General Criteria: Evaluation of
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, 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 ten+ 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 sixteen times over the course of the
semester, and 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
following grade scale 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
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 papers as well
as in 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 Reflection
Papers/Learning and 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 20% of the
overall course grade, and the second learning and
contribution grade (including the second learning and
contribution reflection paper) will be worth 20% 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 5-6, 9, and 13-14 of the semester. 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 any
supplemental texts to use in helping illustrate concepts and
demonstrate their implications and consequences. Your group
should attempt, as far as possible, to argue for a clear, strong
position in relation to the particular texts and topics you are
responsible for leading us on, although you may certainly also argue,
within your group for differing and especially opposing
positions. Staking out such an argumentative position gives the
rest of the class much more to work with and respond to, and proves of
considerably greater interest than not doing so.
Each project group will meet with me in a extended
conference at least one week ahead of your presentation in class so
that we can 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 on
additional points of importance, interest, and concern.
After your class presentation and discussion
facilitation, you will write a very short paper briefly reflecting on,
analyzing, and evaluating–i.e., critiquing–your preparation and
performance, as well as that of your groupmates, along with assessing
how and what (along with how well) you contributed to your fellow
students’ learning. Specific instructions for this paper will be
explained with the assignment for it to be distributed in class.
This paper will be due one week after the class in which you do present
and lead discussion.
In preparing for your group presentation, and in
preparing to lead the class in discussion, you must work together–this
will be crucial and I will pay close attention to how well you do
so–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 so inclined; doing so often in fact
makes 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.
Finally, argue for positions that you sincerely find compelling,
convincing, and persuasive–that truly matter to you–and not just to
‘play the devil’s advocate’. The latter tends not to prove very
effective in these kinds of presentations and discussions, a lot less
so in fact than some students imagine ahead of time will turn out to be
Your grade for what you do in and with class on this
project will be worth 15% of the overall
course grade; your grade for what you do in and with your
subsequent paper will be worth 5% of the overall
course grade. You will receive individual grades for both.
In addition to what I’ve written above, each student
in class will also write a very short paper (even shorter than the one
I mentioned directly above this) 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 other group’s preparation,
presentation, and performance in leading and directing discussion, as
well as assess the group’s contribution to our collective
learning. Specific details of these papers will be explained with
the assignment when this is given out in class. Each of
these response papers will be worth 2.5% of the overall
course grade for a total of 10% of the
overall course grade.
The Final Exam Presentations and Collective
As indicated previously, this specific assignment
will be distributed and explained on the last day of class. It
will function therefore as a ‘take-home’ exam, but, at the same time,
it will take a form which likely you will never have encountered before
with a final, and, I suspect, one that is considerably more
interesting and valuable than usual. You will receive a
grade worth 10%
of the overall course grade for your performance on this
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 here write.
Each one to two weeks 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 the deadline specified. 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 ideas for and from class.
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.
You should address a minimum of three of these
assignments through spring the first half of the semester and a minimum
of three more after that in the second half of the semester.
After students have posted their initial responses
to D2L assignment questions, you should then respond to those from at
least several posted by your fellow classmates. These responses
can argue with or against what these other students’ have posted, as
well as offer constructive questions and critiques, aiming to stimulate
dialogue and further reflection on the issues focused on in their
You should aim, in these responses, to cover
approximately the same length as with your initial postings.
You should offer a minimum of six responses in the
first half of the semester and a minimum of six more responses in the
second half of the semester.
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. And please do
feel free to argue with and critique each other (focusing, of course,
on positions represented 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: 10% for the first half
of the semester, and 10% 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 late due to a serious problem or emergency.
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 9/25//07).
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. *
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
(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
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