University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire


Special Focus: Argumentative Writing, Critical Citizenship,

Social Struggle, and Social Change

Professor Bob Nowlan

Section 032, MW 3:30-5:45 p.m., HFA 159

Spring 2001, UWEC

Office: HHH 405

Office Phone Number: (715) 836-4369


Office Hours: T 3:15 to 4:45 p.m. and 9:45 to 11 p.m.,

W 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., R 3:15 to 4:45 p.m.,

and by Appointment


Introduction to the Statement of Explanation of General Principles

    The aim of this section is to provide not merely a description but rather an explanation, as well as a justification, for how I have conceived and organized this section of this course, and why so. I want to provide you with as precise and thorough an accounting as possible of what we will be doing together this semester, how, and why, as well as from where I am coming in my approach to teaching this course. I recognize that the way I have conceived and organized the teaching of this course is likely different from what many of you expected to encounter, and I also recognize that encountering the unexpected can at times prove unsettling, at least for an initial period of time. However, I want to reassure you that I have taught many English composition courses for many years at many colleges and universities, including for four years now at UWEC, where not only have most students managed to do quite well in these classes but also the considerable majority of these students have also indicated, by the end of the semester, that they had found my approach quite stimulating, refreshing, and enabling. I do not wish to intimidate you with anything I have written in this syllabus, although I well know that I run the risk of so doing, as many, if not most, other faculty with whom you are familiar likely use syllabi that only provide a purely factual outline of the basic "nuts and bolts" of how the course will proceed. However, I personally believe I maintain a greater ethical responsibility and that is to be far more entirely forthright with you. I hope, therefore, that you will recognize my aim in writing this course explanation statement and including it at the beginning of this syllabus is to prove helpful to you, by taking you seriously enough to tell you, in careful detail, not only what I plan for us to do together this semester, but also how and why so.

Why This Special Focus for this Section of English 110

    English 110 is an intensive, demanding, five-credit introduction to "college writing." Although all sections of English 110 share a broad set of common objectives, we who teach these sections interpret meeting these objectives according to a range of often considerably different and sharply opposing conceptions of precisely what to teach, how to teach, and why to teach. I teach English composition according to a model that I first developed working with a collective of fellow composition faculty at Syracuse University close to fifteen years ago, and which I have since brought to bear and taught other composition teachers to employ at a diverse range of colleges and universities across the United States. This model focuses on argumentative writing, writing as critical citizenship, writing as critical culture studies, writing as ideology critique, writing as the cultivation of critical literacy in relation to visual and audio-visual as well as verbal texts, and writing as focused on engaging with and contributing toward the further development of ongoing social struggles for progressive social change.

What This Special Focus Means, in Sum;

The Importance of Writing Critically and of

Writing as Social Engagement and Social Responsibility

    What does this mean for what we will do together this semester? In short, it means that I teach "college writing" as writing designed to contribute actively, intelligently, and especially critically toward what I contend constitutes the ultimately most powerful and significant work carried out from within this social institution, the higher educational "academy": that is, the production and dissemination of advanced forms of knowledge that can enable substantial progress in ongoing struggles for human emancipation, collective equality, social justice, and ecological sustainability.

Who are 'College Writers'?

College Writers, College Writing, Social Struggle, and Social Change

    As I teach it, this course presents an opportunity for you to learn how you can join the most serious and important intellectual work of this institution, no longer as mere subordinates, as people only "passing through" on the way toward taking up your real lives' work elsewhere, but rather as the potential co-equals of university faculty. I conceive "college writers" to be men and women who know and care about what is happening in the world, and who strive to do what they can to make this world a better place, for generations to come, even when and where the obstacles you confront in these efforts are great, and when and where the freedom you enjoy to exercise genuinely democratic rights in pursuit of these objectives is severely limited. In other words, you learn to recognize and accept, to paraphrase the famous words of Frederick Douglass, "that without struggle there can be no progress."

    I teach "Introduction to College Writing" to people whom I approach not merely as "students," but also, much more importantly, as human beings seeking to learn and understand, and to act and interact - to intervene - by joining with and contributing to ongoing struggles for urgently needed social change, change that extends far beyond the limited confines of the classroom, the course, or even the university. These are men and women who conceive of college education as entailing a social responsibility, and who commit themselves to do what they can, in practice, to meet this responsibility.

    "College writers" are therefore not, as I see it, simply those men and women who have "mastered the rules," who have "learned how to play the game," and who can, as such, write in technically competent and skillful fashion sufficient to enable them to "get by" in their college courses, and to obtain "good jobs" afterward. "College writers" do not approach their writing as a mere means of finding the best way to "fit in," "obey orders," submit to authority, and conform to the dictates of those in dominant positions of power. College writers are people who can, and as necessary who will,fight this power -- a power often deployed in the interest of maintaining and reproducing relations of oppression, exploitation, alienation, and dehumanization - and they are prepared to do so with the critical and oppositional power that their own writing helps provide.

Writing as a Process of Thinking and a Mode of Committed, Activist Practice

    "College writers" conceive of writing not as a mere "product" that displays what these women and men have thought, in an "acceptable form," after the thinking is done, and after these writers have self-censored anything that might "upset" or "disturb" anyone else. On the contrary, college writers conceive of writing as a process of thinking, and as a process, more precisely, of exploring, inquiring, reflecting, interpreting, evaluating, expressing, communicating, and of taking up and pushing forward positions to which the writer can and does commit herself with sincerity, determination, passion, and enthusiasm. College writers do not hesitate to represent unpopular positions, and to advocate for these, when and where they do maintain these positions, because these writers are men and women who have not given way to the cynical and despairing conviction that they are entirely powerless and inconsequential (despite the abundant, often highly sophisticated ways that our dominant capitalist culture inculcates us with this sense of our own powerlessness and inconsequentiality). Instead, college writers believe the issues their positions address are vitally important and they have a right, as well as a responsibility, to make their voices heard. These men and women are willing to risk provoking, challenging, even alienating and offending their readers, when and where it is right and necessary to do so -- when and where, that is, the issues at stake require it.

Writing with a Purpose; Writing as Unity of Form and Content, and of Text and Context;

and What it Means to Think, Read, and Write Critically

    Writing is always intrinsically connected with reading, thinking, feeling, speaking, and acting. What's more, how we write always depends upon what we write, for whom we write, and, especially, why we write. Writing can be taught as if it involved merely a set of neutral skills and/or empty forms -- and yet, in actuality, the skills and forms that are so taught are neither neutral nor empty of content; such formalist approaches in fact teach us to develop, express, and communicate the kinds of thoughts and feelings in the kinds of ways which serve to maintain and reproduce the interests of dominant social groups without us understanding that this is what they are doing.

    It is, therefore, of crucial importance that writing be taught as a unity both of form and content, and of text and context. Writing is not merely form; forms never really exist separate from contents. Neither is writing merely text; texts never really exist separate from contexts. In this course, you will learn how to read and write in ways that involve the uniting both of form and content and of text and context. In particular, you will learn how to do this by learning how to read and write -- and to think -- critically. Learning to read and to write critically means learning to proceed beyond merely describing the ways in which texts work, toward explaining how and especially why -- in particular, for what -- they work as they do. "Composition," in sum, is not manipulation: it is construction, design, and creation. To learn how to compose in written language is to learn how to express, communicate, develop, and refine ideas, beliefs, thoughts, and feelings of significance and urgency.

The Rhetoric and Politics of Reading and Writing;

Writing to Persuade and Compel

    In the process of learning to read and write critically, it is necessary to focus particular attention upon both the rhetoric and the politics of reading and writing. "Rhetoric" refers to the art of using words effectively to express and communicate thoughts and feelings in speaking and writing. In particular, you will learn how to produce arguments capable either 1. of persuading others to accept and/or identify with a particular position with which they are not already previously in agreement, or 2. of compelling these others to reformulate and rearticulate previously maintained positions in response to the pressure your arguments have exerted upon their previously maintained positions. "Politics" does not refer merely to that which it is conventionally understood to refer -- campaigning and voting for election to legislative and executive positions in government -- but rather to the entire sphere of conflict and struggle, as well as the regulation and adjudication of this conflict and struggle, among individuals and social groups over right of access to, and opportunity for the exercise of, natural and cultural resources, powers, and capacities. The "politics of reading and writing" refers to the ways in which the activities of reading and writing -- and the texts we read and write in the process of pursuing these activities --- are both affected by and in turn affect this conflict and struggle over access to and exercise of resources, powers, and capacities. Rhetoric focuses upon how writing is done: how to make it as effective as possible so as to persuade or compel its audience. Politics focuses upon what writing is designed to persuade or compel its audience to do and why this writing is designed to enable such ends and serve such interests.

Argumentative Writing and Critical Citizenship

    The ultimate goal of learning to write critically is to enhance your ability to engage as a critical citizen. Critical citizens are empowered agents able effectively to question, challenge, and contribute toward the progressive transformation of the prevailing status quo within the communities, societies, and cultures of which they are a part. Argument is the most fundamental and indeed indispensable means of discourse (i.e., social use of human language) for all kinds of serious intellectual work and especially for all forms of effectively critical citizenship. Argument is essential to practices of inquiring and investigating, convincing and compelling, persuading and moving, contesting and cooperating, and negotiating and resolving. Therefore, this section of English 110 will focus on education in argumentative writing. This does not mean we will neglect "other kinds of writing," as effective argumentative writing necessarily draws upon and incorporates all of the following subsidiary writing practices: paraphrasing, summarizing, citing and quoting, comparing and contrasting, analyzing and synthesizing, reporting and informing, researching and investigating, reflecting and commenting, imagining and inventing, describing and explaining, revising and editing, and demonstrating and presenting. Moreover, we will also continually address questions of grammar, usage, punctuation, and mechanics over the course of the semester, but in this course you will develop and improve your mastery of the rules and conventions of Standard Written English by learning how and why mastery of these rules and conventions will facilitate and strengthen the effectivity of your arguments on issues of substantial social interest and concern.

Conclusion: Teaching Against Fascism

    In conclusion, I teach "college writing" as I do because I do not want you, as my students, to leave this course equipped simply, passively, to follow others' instructions in solving others' problems without being able to question, challenge, and critique the ways in which these others have conceived and articulated these instructions, and these problems; I do not want you merely to "fit in" and "take orders" as dupes of the rich, the strong, the elite, and the powerful -- I teach instead in direct opposition to education which is designed to make you into good fascist subjects .


The following required texts are available for purchase at the UWEC bookstore in Davies Center:

I will supply copies of all the films we will screen in this class. We will screen these in VHS video format with large-screen projection. Along with each series of films I will supply a packet containing credit and (plot) summary information, sample reviews and critiques, and a short selection of background and contextual information. I will also supply photocopies of all assignment sheets, guide sheets, class discussion outlines, and supplemental readings.




    In this section I explain precisely what topics we will engage as we proceed over the course of the semester as well as why I have selected these topics and organized the course to focus on these topics according to this structure.

Unit One: the Aims and Methods of Argument

    We will begin this course, after an initial class of introduction and orientation, and a second class in which you will write an autobiographical essay as a diagnostic examination of your current level of writing competency, by studying the principal aims and methods of argument.

Unit One: Schedule

M 1/22: Introduction and Orientation.

W 1/24: Diagnostic Examination Essay.

M 1/29: Introduction to Reading and Writing Arguments.

Read for Class:The Aims of Argument, Chapters 1-3, pp. 3-36; Jefferson, "Declaration of Independence" (Photocopied Handout); and Stanton, "Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, Seneca Falls" (Photocopied Handout).

W 1/31: Arguing to Convince.

Read for Class:The Aims of Argument, Chapter 5, pp. 69-106; Thoreau, "Civil Disobedience" (Photocopied Handout); and Mead, "Warfare: an Invention -- Not a Biological Necessity" (Photocopied Handout).

M 2/5: Arguing to Persuade.

Read for Class:The Aims of Argument, Chapter 6, pp. 107-145; Swift, "A Modest Proposal" (Photocopied Handout); and Hughes, "Let America be America Again" (Photocopied Handout).

W 2/7: Research and Arguments.

Read for Class:The Aims of Argument, Chapter 9, pp. 227-279; Reyes, "Bilingual Education in a Multicultural Nation" (Photocopied Handout); Richards, "A Flawed Saint" (Photocopied Handout); Sanchez, "Into Las Animas and Myself" (Photocopied Handout); and Robinson, "Female Identity in Kate Chopin's 'The Story of an Hour'" (Photocopied Handout). Argument and Research Paper Assigned.

M 2/12: Interpreting and Evaluating Visual (and Audio-Visual) Arguments.

Read for Class:The Aims of Argument, Chapter 8, pp. 191-226, and from Part Two: Maung photo, p. 330; Anderson cartoon, p. 390; Ad for Women's Jeans, p. 427; Cheney cartoon, p. 483; Trudeau cartoon, p. 515; Twohy cartoon, p. 567; Bernstein photo, p. 598; Ramey photo, p. 654; and Anonymous, photo, p. 703. Also, to be Screened in Class, Supplied by the Instructor: Clip from Berkeley in the Sixties.

Unit One Class Contribution Summary and Evaluation Report

Assigned M 2/12; Due M 2/19.

Introduction to Units Two through Four

    After unit one, we will engage with arguments that arise out of and press forward a series of three distinct sets of social struggles for social change. Each of these struggles challenge mainstream commonsense, in both "liberal" and "conservative" varieties. These arguments represent the interests of people fighting (back) collectively against exploitation, oppression, alienation, and dehumanization and for freedom, justice, democracy, and equality. In these units we encounter so-called "ordinary people" uniting together in "extraordinary" efforts, manifesting extraordinary courage and extraordinary insight, talent, idealism, and commitment, to struggle against powerful capitalist interests and against the state, the chief political representative of these interests. These people have made history, and continue to make it, even when their contributions are largely ignored, or otherwise denigrated and distorted, in conventional history courses and in the mainstream corporate mass media.

    The writers and film makers we will meet in units two through four do not all agree with each other, by any means, but instead represent a considerable array of different positions. These writers and film makers explicitly as well as implicitly contest each other on a number of significant points, and therefore you should feel free to argue strongly against as well as with what these writers and film makers themselves argue. In fact, I will be quite surprised if you do not do so, from time to time, as the arguments we will encounter in units two through four challenge culturally dominant ways of making sense. My principal aims here are to expose you to powerful viewpoints that are largely marginalized within mainstream education and the mainstream media, on vitally important social issues that are often largely neglected if not altogether ignored in these quarters, and to provide you with source material that will be sufficiently provocative so as to stimulate you to take strong stands and write strong arguments of your own.

The Focus of Unit Two: U.S. Labor History of Struggle

    In unit two, we will focus on U.S. labor's history of struggle, engaging with arguments advanced primarily from a rank-in-file workers' vantage point. These arguments challenge both corporate business interests as well as the interests of conservative "business unionism" represented by bureaucratic union leaderships. In this unit we will examine the successes and the failures of self-organized efforts of working class American men and women to strike (back), in mass, from the late 1890s through the present (from "the Great Upheaval" of 1877 through the United Parcel Service strike of 1997 -- and beyond).

    We will pay considerable attention, in particular, to the problems confronting the struggles of organized labor over the course of the past approximately 25 to 30 years in the wake of a substantial decline in the relative strength of organized labor versus that of organized capital and of a fundamental restructuring of the organization of global labor relations. For those who do not recognize the changes to which I am referring in this last sentence, let me just indicate that they include all of the following, and much more: 1.) the "deindustrialization" of the United States with the shift, throughout much of the "First World," from an economy dominated by manufacturing work to one dominated by service work; 2.) the rise of "the global assembly line," "the global hiring hall," and "global free-market capitalism," including the shift of enormous amounts of manufacturing labor to the "Third World" where workers can be paid a pittance versus what would be the case in the "First World," where companies face virtually none of the costs of health and safety, consumer, and environmental protection they would confront in the "First World," and where local, regional, and national governments, as well as transnational lending institutions, provide these companies enormous subsidies to locate in places where the right to strike is illegal and all forms of organized resistance to labor exploitation are usually met with considerable violence on the part of the state; 3.) the rapid growth of temporary, contingent, and part-time forms of labor simultaneous with increased emphasis upon "flexible" employment patterns, the return of de factosix and seven day workweeks along with de facto ten and twelve hour workdays, and the substantial rise in the numbers of men and women who must work multiple jobs at the same time as well as be prepared to shift frequently from one kind of job to another in order to survive; 4.) the return of 19th century "sweatshop" labor conditions on a massive scale in urban and rural pockets of the "First World" as well as throughout much of the "Third World"; 5.) the decimation of the welfare-state social "safety net" and the concurrent movement toward extensive "privatization" of formerly "public" goods and services; 6.) the virtual elimination of long-term labor contracts, especially with guaranteed cost of living adjustments and the guaranteed right of collective bargaining, simultaneous with the emergence of extensive pressure for labor concessions and givebacks, at the same time as union membership in the United States has fallen to its lowest level since the 19th century; and 7.) the accelerating gulf in the extent of social wealth under the control, on the one hand, of the very rich versus that, on the other hand, under the control of virtually everyone else.

    In this unit, you will learn about a major force in American history that has substantially shaped and determined the nature of the ways in which we live and work today, dramatically transforming these from the conditions prevailing in the early days of the initial rise of U.S. capitalism with the advent of the "industrial revolution." This is a social force which continues to make a considerable difference today in all of our lives, even when we are virtually entirely unaware of this fact; the history of labor struggle is a vital part of our history that is in fact rarely, if ever, taught in most schools.

Unit Two: Schedule

W 2/14, M 2/19, W 2/21, M 2/26, W 2/28: Screenings and Preliminary Discussion of Screenings: Films concerned with U.S. Labor History of Struggle.

Films to Be Screened (Tentative List): The Uprising of '34, Struggles in Steel, Drawing the Line at Pittston , The Battle Against Corporate Greed, Lords of the Press: the Detroit Newspaper Strike and the Death of Truth in the Media, Solidarity Forever, and Women Empowering Women: Women in the Unions .

Simultaneous Reading: Brecher, Strike!.

Recommended Reading Schedule: pp. 1-68 (Introduction, Prologue, and Chapters 1-2) by W 2/14, pp. 69-158 (Chapters 3-4) by M 2/19, pp. 159-236 (Chapter 5) by W 2/21, pp. 237-304 (Chapters 6-8) by M 2/26, and pp. 305-365 (Chapter 9) by W 2/28.

Also Read through the Supplemental Packet of Credits Information, (Plot) Summaries, and Background and Contextual Information About the Series of Films as We Proceed with the Screening of These Films.

Please complete all of the above reading by W 2/28.

Unit Two Argument and Critique Paper Assignment Distributed in Class: W 2/14;

Paper Due in Class, in Multiple Copies, on M 3/5.

M 3/5, W 3/7, M 3/12, and W 3/14: Presentation, Discussion, and Critique of Sample Student Unit Two Argument and Critique Papers on Topics Provoked by Unit Two Screenings, Reading, and Preliminary Discussion.

Autobiographical Paper (Revision of Diagnostic Examination Essay)

Due in Class: M 3/12.

Unit Two Class Contribution Summary and Evaluation Report

Assigned W 3/14; Due M 3/26.

The Focus of Unit Three: The 'Celling of America'

    In unit three, we will turn to consider the conditions today confronting one of the most widely despised and brutally oppressed populations in the U.S.: prisoners. Many middle and upper class White Americans are virtually entirely ignorant of what prison life in the U.S. today is really like, and of the actual conditions and circumstances that have shaped and determined most modes of "criminal behavior," relying instead upon Hollywood mystifications and romanticizations as well as right-wing demagoguery and demonizations for what they imagine "the problem of crime" and "the life of the criminal" to be all about.

    In this unit we will examine the following contemporary trends, among others: 1.) the massive increase in the numbers of Americans imprisoned over the course of the past approximately 25 to 30 years with the emergence of what is frequently identified as the U.S. "prison-industrial complex"; 2.) the simultaneous substantial decline of prison living conditions and massive rise of human rights abuses of prisoners; 3.) the extreme race and class imbalance among which "criminals" are imprisoned and which not, for how long, and in what kinds of penal institutions, as well as among whom is punished in what ways and to what degrees, both in prison and beyond, including by means of capital punishment; 4.) the extent to which many poor people, mentally ill people, and people of color are imprisoned and otherwise brutally punished as a result of conviction for crimes where it remains highly questionable that they are, in fact, guilty as charged; 5.) the growing numbers of "political prisoners" locked up in American prisons and the extent to which inmates who actively organize and lobby for prisoners' civil and human rights are usually treated by prison guards and other agents of the state the most severely for exercising these supposedly constitutionally protected liberties; 6.) the cynical manipulation by many mainstream politicians of the so-called "War on Crime" to advance their own professional interests and political careers without at the same time demonstrating much of any real concern to address the conditions of destitution and deprivation that generate and perpetuate most forms of crime; 7.) the huge social as well as economic costs of the so-called "War on Drugs" and the utter failure of this "War" to meet its feigned objectives; 8.) the virtual abandonment of all efforts, and most resources, invested in "rehabilitation" within these ostensible institutions of "correction"; and 9.) the rapidly increasing militarization of police functions throughout our country, on all levels, to the point where even a considerable number of relatively "moderate," "mainstream" human rights activists describe the United States as on the verge of becoming a (neo-fascist) "police state" (at least for many poor and working class men and women, many people of color, and many activists fighting for radical social change.)

    Certainly, a considerable number of those imprisoned in the United States today are guilty of horrendous crimes against others (although, at the same time, the number of Americans imprisoned for non-violent crimes, and for "crimes against property" is a significantly greater percentage than those imprisoned for violent "crimes against persons"). Yet, even for those who have committed violent crimes against others, should we subject them to "cruel and unusual" forms of punishment motivated first and last solely out of a desire for "vengeance," while in effect depriving them of basic human rights and virtually all means by which to salvage their lives beyond their terms in prison? This is only one example of the kinds of questions we will address in this unit. Undoubtedly, it will prove an especially controversial unit, yet I expect that the controversy should prove quite stimulating to provocative discussion and debate.

Unit Three: Schedule

M 3/26, W 3/28, M 4/2, and W 4/4: Screenings and Preliminary Discussion of Screenings: Films concerned with The Celling of America.

Films to Be Screened (Tentative List): USA Incarcerated , Visions of Freedom, The Farm: Life Inside Angola Prison , Incident at Oglala: the Leonard Peltier Story, Mumia: a Case for Reasonable Doubt?, and The Thin Blue Line.

Simultaneous Reading: Burton-Rose, Pens, and Wright, eds., The Celling of America and Selections from Christian Parenti, Lockdown USA: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis, New York: Verso, 1999 (Photocopied Handout).

Recommended Reading Schedule:The Celling of America , pp. 1-61 (Introduction, Part One, and Part Two) and Lockdown USA , pp. 163-81 (Chapters 8-9) by M 3/26; The Celling of America, pp. 64-100 (Part Three) and Lockdown USA, pp. 182-193 (Selections from Chapter 10) by W 3/28; The Celling of America, pp. 102-188 (Parts IV, V, and VI) and Lockdown USA, pp. 213-225 (Selections from Chapter 11) by M 4/2; The Celling of America, pp. 189-249 (Parts VII and VIII) by W 4/4.

Also Read through the Supplemental Packet of Credits Information, (Plot) Summaries, and Background and Contextual Information About the Series of Films as We Proceed with the Screening of These Films.

Please complete all of the above reading by W 4/4.

Unit Three Argument and Critique Paper Assignment Distributed in Class: M 3/26;

Paper Due in Class, in Multiple Copies, on M 4/9.

M 4/9, W 4/11, and W 4/18: Presentation, Discussion, and Critique of Sample Student Unit Three Argument and Critique Papers on Topics Provoked by Unit Three Screenings, Reading, and Preliminary Discussion.

Unit Three Class Contribution Summary and Evaluation Report

Assigned W 4/18; Due W 4/25.

The Focus of Unit Four: Globalization and Its Discontents

    In unit four, we will focus our attention upon the recent rise of an international mass movement organized in opposition to contemporary capitalist "globalization," a movement that first attracted enormous media and public attention in November of 1999 with protests in Seattle, Washington directed against the World Trade Organization (the WTO). Since that time, this movement has continued to grow and has made its presence felt with mass protests in April of 2000 directed against the International Monetary Fund (the IMF) and the World Bank in Washington, D.C., at the Republican and Democratic Party Presidential Conventions in Philadelphia and Los Angeles last July and August of 2000, and at the Presidential Inauguration of George W. Bush in Washington, D.C. this January of 2001 (as well as in many other places and through many other avenues across the globe). This movement targets the anti-democratic, anti-labor, anti-environment, anti-consumer and anti-human rights policies and practices not only of the WTO, the IMF, and the World Bank, but also the multinational and transnational giants whose interests these supranational institutions represent as well as the governments of the major, advanced capitalist nations such as the United States who have eagerly identified our national interests with those of insuring maximal rates of profit expropriation and accumulation for multinational and transnational capitalist enterprises.

    Many commentators argue that this emergence of globalization's vast array of enormous "discontents" marks the rise of the most historically significant popular mass mobilization in the United States since the celebrated movements for social change of the 1960s. What's more, young Americans, especially traditional college-age men and women, are among the largest constituencies involved in this movement. The specific forms, tactics, and strategies of this movement are extensively informed by the values, ideals, and commitments of generations that have come of age in the 1980s and 1990s. For many members of American generations popularly (albeit crudely) labeled as "X" and "Y," the movement organized against capitalist globalization and its concomitant ideology of "neoliberalism" represents today's equivalent of the Anti-Vietnam War, the Black civil rights and Black power, the Democratic Free Speech, the Countercultural, and the Women's and Gay Liberation movements fought and led by many young American men and women in the 1960s and 1970s.

    For these reasons alone, I believe it is important that college students today become familiar with where they stand concerning "globalization and its discontents." Yet this is hardly all, as the processes of capitalist "globalization" effect us all, to an extraordinary degree and in myriad different ways, while many of us are not all-that-familiar with how this is so, or with why so many different groups of people have organized and united to protest, contest, and work to transform the ways in which this process has proceeded to date.

    In unit four of this class, you will gain the opportunity to learn much (more) about today's "globalization and its discontents." This will include inquiring into the social impact of the post-Cold War trend toward integration of the entire "new world order" into a single "free market" under the control of a global capitalist class that is increasingly "freed from" any external constraints upon how it treats its labor force, the consumers of its goods and services, and the surrounding human community and natural environment. Anything that takes away from profit becomes an obstacle.

    Of course, big capitalists have not yet succeeded in achieving complete autonomy, nor have they managed completely to stave off those social forces which aim to limit and restrict their power, yet capital has gained considerable ground in the quest to free itself from labor, community, consumer, and government "interference" over the course of the past approximately 25 to 30 years. The exponential rise in the number of large-scale corporate mergers in recent years, along with the formation of conglomerates who no longer concentrate in any one particular field or array of fields of production or service but instead simply concentrate as many money-making enterprises as they can under the centralized control of one small group of capitalists, are two of the most immediate signs of the greatly enhanced power of "big business" today versus what was the case only a few short decades ago. Once again, I expect that students will find the opportunity, in unit four, to engage with this vitally important set of contemporary issues, and social struggles, of considerable relevance - and interest.

Unit Four: Schedule

M 4/23, W 4/25, M 4/30, W 5/2, and M 5/7: Screenings and Discussion of Screenings: Films Concerned with Globalization and its Discontents.

Films to Be Screened (Tentative List): Sweatshops: a Legacy of Exploitation, a History of Struggle, Showdown in Seattle: Five Days that Shook the WTO, Breaking the Spell: Anarchists, Eugene, and the WTO, Breaking the Bank, and LA 2000.

Simultaneous Reading: Danaher and Burbach, eds., Globalize This! and Cockburn, St. Clair, and Sekula, Five Days that Shook the World.

Recommended Reading Schedule: Danaher and Burbach, pp. 1-123 (Chapters 1-15) by M 4/23; Danaher and Burbach, pp. 124-208 (Chapters 16-26) by W 4/25; Cockburn, St. Clair, and Sekula, pp. 1-86 (Chapters 1-4) by M 4/30; and Cockburn, St. Clair, and Sekula, pp. 87-118 and Concluding Photographic Portfolio by W 5/2.

Also Read through the Supplemental Packet of Credits Information, (Plot) Summaries, and Background and Contextual Information About the Series of Films as We Proceed with the Screening of These Films.

Please complete all of the above reading by W 5/2.

Argument and Research Paper Due in Class: M 4/23.

Unit Four Class Contribution Summary and Evaluation Report

Assigned M 5/7; Due M 5/14.

W 5/9: In-Class Final Essay Examination: Screenings, Readings,

and Discussions Concerned with Globalization and Its Discontents.

M 5/14: English Composition Competency Examination,

8 to 11 a.m., Room T.B.A.

Why Focus on Reading and Writing about Films: The Importance of Visual,

and Audio-Visual, as well as Verbal Literacies

    It may be somewhat surprising to you that we will engage so extensively this semester with arguments presented by audio-visual as well as print texts. The reason why I believe it is important that we do so is as follows. Audio-visual texts, especially audio-visual texts organized around the moving image (i.e. film, television, and video), have come to exert an extremely powerful impact upon the shape and substance of individuals' lived experience of their relationship to the conditions of their own existence. This impact is today prospectively as powerful, if not indeed often considerably more powerful, than that exerted by traditional print media. In fact, film, television, and video have become principal sites within our contemporary "Western" societies for the production and dissemination, as well as the reproduction and reinforcement, of meanings, values, ideas, ideologies, and of social modes of thinking, understanding, feeling, believing, acting, and interacting, even when presented to us as "sheer entertainment." In sum, critical citizens within today's global capitalist culture must be highly literate in the reading and writing of signs and texts from diverse kinds of different sign systems from diverse forms of different media, and not only from linguistic sign systems and not only from traditional forms of print media.

My Stake in Teaching as I Do

    As I see it, college is not, in actuality, a separate world unto itself: college is not "an ivory tower." On the contrary, college is an integral part of a larger society -- even when this does not readily appear to be the case. College always serves specific interests and needs of this larger society. Every college should always strive to be a vital part of the local, regional, national, and international communities in which it is situated, and the college teacher should always teach with this is mind. The knowledge concentrated within the higher educational academy does not exist in a vacuum, and it should not be taught as if it did so exist. Knowledge therefore should always be taught and learned in terms of how and for what it can be socially useful.

    I believe that the knowledges and skills students gain from college study should serve as more than merely means to the acquisition of a degree and to the increase in wealth, status, and power that this degree can help obtain. Students do hear and read and talk about major social and political problems quite often, yet they also frequently tend to think of these as problems which are beyond their capability significantly to influence. I aim to show my students that they do not need to accept this sense of their own insignificance and powerlessness. I believe, on the contrary, that you can begin to make a difference in the positions you take up and in the practices you pursue, every day, within even the most immediate of the local communities in which you participate.

    As I see it, any serious intellectual, working as a professor at the university level, should be open with her students about her stance on the issues she addresses in teaching the texts and topics that she does. In other words, he should have ideas of his own which he represents to his students and he should be accountable to his students for where he is coming from, how, and why. In making my positions clear and being open about them, trusting and respecting you as capable of dealing with these for what they are, I am inviting contestation and I am making it all the less likely that I might in any way "deviously" "manipulate" your own thinking. Teachers who pretend to maintain a position of "disinterested neutrality" in relation to the texts and topics they teach are, in contrast, those who are far more likely to be deviously manipulative, because it is in fact impossible to be genuinely disinterested about social issues that shape and determine who and what we are all about, and it is also likewise impossible to remain effectively neutral in relation to ongoing social struggles over how to conceive and engage with these issues.

    All education is political, and this includes education that claims to be apolitical - that is, to be above and beyond, or indifferent to and unconcerned about politics. The supposedly apolitical classroom in fact supports the maintenance and reproduction of the status quo because it does nothing to question, challenge, critique, and work to change this status quo. If I were to teach this way, I would teach in direct opposition to my own foremost principled convictions. In effect I would be doing either one of two things that I simply cannot and will not, in good conscience, do. Either I would pretend to be a mainstream conservative who is satisfied that "the way things are is the way they should be," or I would accept the despairing conclusion that nothing can be done to change any of this, that I am essentially powerless and inconsequential, and that I should cynically simply "do what I have to do to take care of myself" by merely "going along" with mainstream conservative commonsense in order to "get along" with those who exercise dominant positions of institutional and social power. I refuse to do either of these things; I must stand up for what I believe is right, no matter what the cost might be to my own immediate comfort and security.

    At the same time, I always seek to do justice to positions different from, and opposing, my own -- to my mind no other stance is intellectually, ethically, or politically responsible -- and I welcome, in fact encourage, my students always to feel free to disagree with, argue against, and critique the positions I maintain. I do not seek to "persuade" my students to accept and identify with "my" positions so much as to "compel" you to rethink, reformulate, and rearticulate your previously maintained positions in response to the pressure my arguments, those of your classmates, and those advanced in the texts we will read and the films we will screen exert upon those previously maintained positions. If you agree with me, or find yourself "persuaded" to agree with me, so be it, but that is not my principal objective in openly representing "my own" positions in my pedagogical interaction with you. In short, I want you to think, rigorously and critically, for yourself, and to question all authorities, including me. In the courses I teach no position is ever simply unwelcome and excluded out of hand. I maintain a commitment at all times to free and open inquiry and to critical -- including self-critical -- examination, reflection, and exchange. Students are judged not on what positions they hold and support but rather on how well they argue and account for these and how well they do so by engaging seriously with other positions represented by myself, by other students, and by the writers and film makers we meet.

    I insist upon maintaining a certain amount of discipline and order in how I organize and conduct my classes, and I think this is in fact necessary for students to be "free" to learn effectively from me, from the texts we read in and for class, and from each other. This also means that I do not pretend that I as teacher -- and especially as a doctor and a professor -- occupy the same institutional or cultural position as my students. I do not try to hide or deny the fact that I am called upon to exercise authority in the course and in the classroom. I do not seek to protect myself from student contestation and therefore am upfront about the fact that I am the teacher and am called upon to exercise authority. I account for my authority in terms of how -- and especially for what -- I use it. I believe that the classroom in which the teacher denies and disowns her authority is more likely to be the classroom in which the teacher abuses her authority since this latter kind of classroom allows the teacher to conceal the fact that she does exercise authority and thereby protects her use of this authority from being questioned and challenged.


    While I am providing you an elaborate framework to direct our work together, I firmly believe that the success of any course I teach depends as much -- if not often in fact much more -- on what my students bring and give to the process of learning as what I do. I see college teaching and learning as a collective project and this means its success -- or failure -- depends upon the degree and kind of commitment and the quantity and quality of contribution of everyone involved. Some of the best teachers with whom I have ever worked have insisted that they do not teach their students as much as they teach their students how to teach themselves. Even if this overstates the case, I do think that it is impossible to teach someone who does not sincerely want and who does not assiduously strive to learn. I will always work equally hard and equally seriously to help students who demonstrate this kind of effort succeed, both within my courses and beyond.

    I expect you to approach this course as a course that you sincerely want to take, and in which you sincerely want to learn. I expect you to work hard in this course and to approach this course with both diligence and enthusiasm. I expect you to become, and to remain, interested in the subject matter of the course as an end in itself and not merely as a means to achieve a grade and five credits.

    I expect you to be actively engaged in class discussion, in an intellectually serious manner. Some students prefer courses in which teachers simply tell them what is right, what is true, and everything that these students are supposed to do, so that the students need merely repeat all of this back to their teachers to obtain a good grade while not expending much of any intellectual energy or demonstrating virtually any genuine intellectual growth. This is definitely not that kind of course, and if you approach your work in and for this section of English 110 as a passive learner you will do very poorly.

    If you experience problems at any point over the course of the semester I expect you to contact me right away and discuss these forthrightly with me; I am ready to do whatever I can to help you if and when you experience problems in this course, or elsewhere, as long as you are candid and sincere, but I can't help if you are not upfront about what's going on and if you don't level with me. I am a compassionate as well as a passionate person, so don't hesitate to talk with me about problems if and when you experience them; we can work past many of these, if you contact me in time and if we work together.

    Finally, if you do not find the particular focus and emphasis of this section of English 110 of interest , or prospective interest, and if you would prefer to enroll in a composition course focused on the intensive review and practice of the rules and conventions of Standard Written English, or in writing as personal expression, or in writing as "free creation," or in technical or business writing, or in writing as direct vocational training, or in writing as direct preparation for advanced research projects in higher-level courses to be taken later in the course of your undergraduate studies, I expect you to withdraw from this course and enroll instead in a course or section more suitable to your interests and needs.



    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, the films we screen, by me, and by each other.


    This course cannot contribute effectively to students' learning if students do not attend class. What happens in class is an indispensable part of this course. Therefore, the following attendance policy will apply for students enrolled in this section of English 110:

You should try not to miss classes in which we will spend the period screening video copies of films; don't imagine that you can miss these classes and then easily arrange to obtain copies of the films to watch at another time and place. The films we are using for this course are virtually all produced and distributed by independent, non-profit organizations, and are, as such, not readily available in video collections at UWEC or in Eau Claire. In fact, I have paid a considerable amount of my own money to purchase and rent these videos; these are neither inexpensive nor easy to replace, so I am very reluctant to loan out the single copies of these videos to which I will have access, although we may be able to arrange make-up screenings on campus for groups of students if necessary.

Class Contribution

    I will not lecture in this course; instead, we will proceed together entirely by way of discussion. If you don't contribute substantially to the work of this class not only will you fail to derive much gain from it, 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.

    Quality of participation is more important than quantity, although a sufficient quantity is indispensable to insure quality. 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 will divide your class contribution grade into four parts, one for each unit of the course. I will ask that you prepare a brief written summary and evaluation of your own contribution to the class for each of these four parts. You should turn these reports into me no later than one week later in each case (see the schedules for each of the four units). You will have the opportunity therefore to participate in the determination of your class contribution grade for each of these four units; I will pay careful attention to what you communicate to me in these reports as I make my decision about what grades to give you for your class contributions.

    I will give you specific instructions for what I would like you to take into account as you write your class contribution summary and evaluation reports. I encourage you to include in these reports your reflections and comments on issues raised by our readings, screenings, and discussions that you did not have the opportunity to bring up in class. I will count these reflections and comments as part of your contribution to the class. I recognize that there will always be much more to say about the texts and topics we will study in this course than class time allows, and I also recognize that not everyone is equally comfortable talking in class. I want therefore to give you the opportunity to show me what you have been thinking and doing in contributing to our class that I will not see from simply paying attention to what you say in class discussions and write in your papers. Meeting and talking with me in conferences outside of class will also count positively toward your class contribution grades.

    Class contribution will be worth 5% of the overall course grade in unit one, 7.5% in unit two, 7.5% in unit three, and 5% in unit four; as a whole, class contribution will therefore be worth a total of 25% of the overall course grade.

Diagnostic Examination Essay and Revision: Autobiographical Paper

    On the second day of class, you will write a diagnostic examination essay. I will use this as a measure of your current writing ability. I will ask you to write about something which at first might seem relatively easy, and yet will likely prove more challenging than it seems once you start to work on it: yourself. At the least, this autobiographical essay should prove of interest to you. I will give you the specific assignment for this essay at the beginning of class two, and I will then ask that you take the entire period to work on writing it.

    When I will return your diagnostic examination essay to you I will let you know in what specific areas your writing can use significant improvement. To help you begin to improve, I will give you anindividual assignment to read and study a series of appropriate chapters and sections in Keys for Writers. This reading and study will help you improve your writing in each problem area.

    I will then ask that you revise your diagnostic examination essay to turn it in for a grade. You will need substantially to improve in all areas where I have indicated your writing is problematic, and to correct for all errors of grammar and usage, sentence and paragraph construction, punctuation, mechanics, and spelling. Once you have completed a rough draft of this revision, I will ask that you meet with me in a required conference so that we can talk about what you have written up to that point and so that I can offer you my suggestions and recommendations for further improving this autobiographical paper. At the same time, we can discuss areas in which you continue to have problems as you revise.

    Your autobiographical paper should be typed, double-space, on single sides of standard white letter (8" X 11") typewriter, computer printer, or photographic copy paper. Any standard font and print size (between 10 and 12 points) is acceptable. The pages of your paper should be numbered, your name should be at the top of the first page, and the separate pages of the papers should be stapled together. Your margins should be standard, and all of the other conventions of Standard Written English should be observed as well, including for citation from and documentation of secondary sources (should you find it useful to include these). You should make sure carefully to proofread your paper before turning it in to me for a grade, making all minor proofreading corrections neatly in ink over the mistakes in the typed copy. Your autobiographical paper should be a minimum average of 1500 to 2000 words (approximately six to eight average-sized, double-spaced typed pages); it will be due in class Monday March 12 at the latest and will be worth 10% of the overall course grade.

Argument and Research Paper

    In this paper you will make use of research to support and develop an argument on a topic of particular interest to you, as long as it meets either one of the following two requirements: 1.). The paper deals with a past or present struggle on the part of a group of people to bring about some kind of urgently needed social change, or 2). The paper deals with an important contemporary social issue where you will argue that collective action to bring about change is urgently needed.

    To help you get started in thinking about a prospective argument and research paper, I recommend you turn to Part Two of The Aims of Argument. Here you will find series of essays concerned with the following prospective argument and research paper topic areas: Immigration, Feminism, Marriage and the Family, Gay and Lesbian Rights, The News and Ethics, Liberal Education and Contemporary Culture, Race and Class, and The Twentieth-First Century. You do not need to write on a topic in any of these areas, but you may find it useful to look over these chapters in thinking about a prospective argument and research paper topic, and, if you decide to write a paper in any of these areas, you may use the writings on this topic from The Aims of Argument as part of the research you draw upon to advance your argument.

    As you are working on your argument and research paper, you are required to meet with me in a minimum of one individual conference to discuss your work for this paper, and to gain the benefit of my advice and assistance. You may also arrange to consult with me in conference more than once as you find this to be useful.

    The specific assignment for this paper will be explained in class. The argument and research paper must follow the same stylistic formats and requirements as indicated for the rest of the papers for this course and should be a minimum average of 2500 words. The argument and research paper will be due in class onM 4/23, at the latest, and will be worth 15% of the overall course grade.

Argument and Critique Papers

    In both units two and three I will ask give you to write a critical and argumentative paper. Your paper will engage with the issues upon which we will focus in the unit as well as with the arguments and critiques set forth by the texts we will read and the films we will screen during the unit. You will have the opportunity to argue with and/or against the writers and film makers we will meet in the unit.

    You should make multiple copies of these argument and critique papers, one for each other member of the class. Your unit two argument and critique paper is due in class on M 3/5 while your unit three argument and critique paper is due in class on M 4/9. You are yourself responsible for obtaining access to photocopying facilities, and, as necessary, for paying for all photocopies of your paper. You should be prepared to present, defend, discuss, and critique your own as well as your fellow students' argument and critique papers in class, as we will spend the next four class periods in unit two and the next three class periods in unit three entirely devoted toward engaging with select student argument and critique papers.

    Although you will have the opportunity to revise each of these papers, what you present in class must be a finished paper, and, therefore, you should take time carefully to pre-write and to write, revise, and edit at least one rough draft before preparing the draft of what you present to the class. Students who turn in rough drafts instead of finished papers will receive a substantially reduced grade for so doing.

    Further details concerning the specific assignment for this paper will be explained in class. You should note well, however, that both argument and critique papers must follow the same stylistic formats and requirements required for the autobiographical paper (the revision of the diagnostic examination essay), and in this case I will ask that you make sure to follow MLA guidelines for citation and documentation of sources. The target length for both papers should be a minimum average of 2000 words. The initial finished versions of the argument and critique papers will be worth 5% of the overall course grade in each case, for a total of 10% of the overall course grade.

    I will ask you to revise each of these argument and critique papers, taking into account not only my comments upon and critiques of your initial finished versions, but also all that you have learned, including from your classmates, in our collective discussion of select student argument and critique papers in class. The specific assignment for these revisions will, once again, be explained in class. You must follow the same stylistic format required for the initial finished versions of these papers, yet the target length should be a minimum average of 2500 words. The revisions will be due no later than two weeks after I have returned your initial finished versions to you; the revisions will be worth 15% of the overall course grade in each case, for a total of 30% of the overall course grade.

In-Class Final Examination

    In this examination, scheduled for W 5/9 in class, you will write an in-class critical and argumentative essay concerned with "Globalization and Its Discontents," engaging with a significant number of our readings and screenings from unit four. You will have the entire class period, and you may make use of any textbooks, notes, and handouts you wish as you write this essay examination. Further details concerning this examination will be explained in class. The final in-class essay examination will be worth 10% of the overall course grade.

UWEC English Composition Competency Examination

    The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire maintains two requirements in English composition for obtaining the bachelor's degree. The first is that students pass English 110 or the equivalent; the second is that students pass an independent, standard competency examination with a grade of at least a C. Students should note well that the existence of this requirement at UWEC means that you may pass English 110, and yet, if you fail to pass the English Composition Competency Examination, you will still not complete the University requirement in English composition necessary for graduation. The competency examination requires you to write a single essay in response to a short series of readings and a prompt distributed on the last day of class. The best possible training to do well on this examination is exactly the kind we will be pursuing this semester , in focusing on critical and argumentative reading and writing. I will be responsible for reading and grading your competency examinations. This semester the English Composition Competency Examination, for all sections of English 110 and 112, will be held on M 5/14 from 8 to 11 a.m. ; further details, including the room in which our section will meet for this exam, will be announced later this semester.


    I encourage students to meet with me in conference during office hours or at another mutually convenient time to discuss any issue of interest or concern. Please do not hesitate to drop by during office hours or to ask for an appointment at any time you think this might be helpful; I regard making myself available for conferences with you to be my responsibility as your teacher. Furthermore, I always welcome getting to know and working with my students outside as well as inside of class. I recognize that learning which takes place in conferences can at times be equally as important, and in fact occasionally even more important, than what takes place in class. I am ready to do whatever I can in conference to help you in your understanding of issues addressed in presentations, discussions, and required readings and screenings, as well as to help you in your writing for and participation in this course. You may also feel free to write me via e-mail, and to call me -- or leave a message for me on the answering machine -- at my office. I enjoy meeting and working with students outside as well as inside of class; I really do. I would rather talk with you during my office hours than do anything else, so please do not worry about "disturbing" me in coming to talk with me; my office hours are time that I have set aside to meet, talk, and work with you.


    The Writing Center, located in HHH 385 (the program assistant's office is HHH 352, phone 836-4621, and the Composition Director's office is HHH 427, phone 836-3290) provides free peer tutoring for students enrolled in English 110 and 112. Please make use of this resource by going to the Center and signing up to work with a tutor for any extra help you find that you need. Do not hesitate to consult a tutor about even a relatively "minor" area of question, concern, or difficulty, and go to the Center to start working with a tutor, should you find that you need this extra help, as early in the semester as possible -- the earlier you go, the sooner you will be able to work with a tutor and the sooner you will be able to make progress.


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Professor Bob Nowlan

Last Updated: January 15, 2002