ENGLISH 160: INTRODUCTION TO TEXTS
Any discrete entity that someone can and does interpret as meaningful is a text , not just something that makes use of ordinary (written and spoken) language. Reading occurs whenever anyone interprets a text, of any kind, as possessing or bearing meaning. Writing occurs whenever anyone creates or constructs a text that anyone else can interpret as possessing or bearing meaning.
People write and read all of the following, and many more kind of texts, and they do so continuously, every day, all the time: films, television shows, music and video productions and performances, paintings and drawings, sculpture and architecture, sports, trends in clothing and fashion, commercial advertisements, individual dreams and plans, buildings and rooms, kinds of food and drink, roads and vehicles, ceremonies and rituals, personalities and personal relationships.
English today inquires into all of the vast multitude of processes involved in making meaning and engaging with meaning in all of its possible forms and varieties, in all places and at all times that "meaningfulness" occurs within cultures and subcultures where English is a dominant -- or just a significant -- form of written and spoken language.
This does not mean that literature no longer maintains a special place in contemporary English Studies. On the contrary, "literature" refers to writing that a particular culture, or subculture, considers to be especially "highly valuable." Yet standards for judging what is "highly valuable" change with time and vary from culture to culture as well as from subculture to subculture. What constitutes "literature," and especially "good" or "great" literature, becomes itself a site of significant contestation. New kinds of highly valued "writing," in new forms and from new media, supplant old ones, while classic texts take on new meanings and significances. Different people in different places interpret and evaluate these texts in often strikingly different as well as sharply opposing ways. Criteria for rating (literary) value become themselves objects of investigation, and focuses of debate.
At the college level, students of English can today expect to learn about many different ways of expressing and communicating meaning in many different textual forms and varieties, and can expect to study how these texts are the products of particular cultures and subcultures as well as how these texts in turn impact and influence the cultures and subcultures out of which they emerge. Also, at the college level, students learn how to look at texts critically, not just appreciatively, and they learn how to account for their critiques (in other words, they learn how to argue for their interpretations and evaluations).
The foundation course for the English major - and minor - at UWEC reflects and responds to what English today has become. This foundational course is the one in which you are here enrolled, English 160, "Introduction to Texts."
In this course we begin, in unit one, by inquiring into what we mean when we talk or write about texts as "representing" something. We proceed, from there, in unit two, to consider further interconnections among "texts," "thoughts," and "things." Next, in unit three, we engage with relations between texts and other texts, with "intertextuality." Finally, in unit four, we explore relations among reading, writing, creating, critiquing, expressing, and communicating in textual form by working with a mode of inquiry that Robert Scholes, Nancy R. Comley, and Gregory L. Ulmer (authors and editors of our principal textbook in this course - itself aptly entitled Text Book), identify as the "mystory."
At the end of each of the first three units we will engage with books that complicate conventional understandings of relations between the verbal and the visual, the literary and the historical, the individual and the social, the political and the aesthetic, and the creative and the critical, as well as between form and content, and text and context: Wisconsin Death Trip, Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You, and Fever: the Art of David Wojnarowicz.
Throughout the semester we will investigate a host of visual, audio, and audio-visual, as well as verbal texts. We will also inquire into the texts of your own life experiences, your own prior and other knowledge, and your own most deeply entrenched and firmly committed attitudes, outlooks, habits, beliefs, values, and modes of behavior.
1. Scholes, Robert, Nancy R. Comley, and Gregory
L. Ulmer, eds., Text Book:
Writing Through Literature. 3rd Edition. Bedford/S.
Martin's, 2002. Purchase.
The following required texts are available at the UWEC Bookstore:
* I will supply you with photocopied handouts of all supplementary readings used in the course. I strongly recommend you buy a 3" wide, letter-sized (8" X 11") notebook as well as a paper punch in which to keep photocopied handouts from the course. This will help you greatly in keeping organized. And keep in mind, we use all recycled and recyclable paper here at UWEC; these handouts make readily available to you, for free, information that you would otherwise have to seek out, and at times pay a good deal for, on your own; providing these photocopies to you demonstrates my commitment to making sure that I provide you with a range of materials to help you learn that could not possibly be found in any single published textbook. *
** I will also periodically post study guides and other learning materials on my UWEC faculty website - https://people.uwec.edu/ranowlan - as well as make resources available to you at an internet classroom I have created for this course. In addition, we may also make use of the UWEC faculty-student shared computer drive and electronic reserve through McIntyre Library. I will explain how to use these facilities in class. **
Week 1. Introduction and Orientation. Reading, Writing, Texts. T 1/22, W 1/23, and R 1/24.
Weeks 2-3. Text Book : Texts as Representation. M 1/28, T 1/29, W 1/30, R 1/31, M 2/4, T 2/5, W 2/6, and R 2/7.
Week 2: "Story and Storyteller," "The 'Literary' Anecdote," and "The Short Story."
Read for Class, M 1/28: Text Book, pp. 1-29.
Week 3: "Character and Confrontation" and "Representation and Its Complications."
Read for Class, M 2/4: Text Book, pp. 29-61.
Weeks 4-5. Wisconsin Death Trip . M 2/11, T 2/12, W 2/13, R 2/14, M 2/18, T 2/19, W 2/20, and R 2/21.
Specific Reading Assignments to be Announced.
Weeks 6-7. Text Book : Texts, Thoughts, and Things. M 2/25, T 2/26, W 2/27, R 2/28, M 3/4, T 3/5, W 3/6, and R 3/7.
Week 6: "The Linguistic Basis of Metaphor," "Metaphor in Three Poems," "Metaphor and Dream," "Surrealist Metaphor," and "Poetic Uses of Metaphor."
Read for Class, M 2/25: Text Book, pp. 62-94.
Week 7: "Metaphor as a Basis for Thought," "Metaphorical Concepts," "Hidden Meaning: Parables and Allegory," and "Metaphor and Metonymy: Advertising."
Read for Class, M 3/4: Text Book, pp. 94-149.
Weeks 8-9. Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. M 3/11, T 3/12, W 3/13, R 3/14, M 3/18, T 3/19, W 3/20, and R 3/21.
Specific Reading Assignments to be Announced.
Weeks 10-11. Text Book: Texts and Other Texts. T 4/2, W 4/3, R 4/4, M 4/8, T 4/9, W 4/10, and R 4/11.
Week 10: "Intertextuality," "Transforming Texts (1)," "Transforming Texts (2): Sleeping Beauties," and "Completing Texts: the Reader's Work."
Read for Class, T 4/2: Text Book, pp.150-190.
Week 11: "Identifying with Texts," "On Interpretation," "Interpreting Texts," and "Text and Hypertext."
Read for Class, M 4/8: Text Book, pp. 190-239 and Hypertext Example at http://www.bedfordstmartins.com/textbook
Weeks 12-13. Fever: the Art of David Wojnarowicz . M 4/15, T 4/16, W 4/17, R 4/18, M 4/22, T 4/23, W 4/24, and R 4/25.
Specific Reading Assignments to be Announced.
Weeks 14-15. Text Book: Texts and Research: The Mystory. M 4/29, T 4/30, W 5/1, R 5/2, M 5/6, T 5/7, W 5/8, and R 5/9.
Week 14: "Voice," "Mood," "Identification," "The Personal is Political," "The Writer as Actor," "Recognition," "Epiphany," "Popcycle," "Pleasure and Bliss," "Roland Barthes: the Fragment," "Fragments of Identification: a Guide," and "Archive: Texts of Identification."
Read for Class, M 4/29: Text Book, pp. 240-313.
Week 15: "The Signature," "The History of Names," "The Power of Names," "Writing from Signatures," "Signing (The Proper Name)," and "Archive: the Play of the Text."
Read for Class, M 5/6: Text Book, pp. 313-376.
* R 5/2: Fourth Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper
Assigned. Due M 5/13. *
Week 16: Presentation and Discussion of Student "Mystories." M 5/13, T 5/14, W 5/15, and R 5/16. Specific Days, Times, Places to be Determined.
ORGANIZATION AND CONDUCT OF CLASS SESSIONS
I will not formally lecture at any point in this course, although I will from time to time make relatively brief, informal presentations when and where I believe this will prove helpful to the class. I strongly believe in the value of teaching by way of discussion; I conceive of learning as a collective project in which you learn much better and far more through active co-production than through passive consumption. At the college level this is especially important, and especially at a college or university dedicated to liberal arts education, as UWEC is. You are adults, not children, and I will always treat you this way. At the same time, I expect you to assume the responsibility and meet the challenge of engaging in class as mature, responsible adults.
Our class discussions will follow a variety of different formats. I will introduce and explain these as we proceed, but I do want to let you know right away that I will often ask that you to do some short, relatively informal writing outside of and in preparation for class to help facilitate our discussion in class. I also will expect all students to make a sincere effort to contribute - seriously and thoughtfully - to class discussion. I likewise encourage students to argue with and critique me, each other, and the texts we read and discuss, as far as you feel inclined to do so - at least as long as you do this in a relevant and constructive fashion.
I think we all learn a great deal through intelligent argument and critical exchange. Please never hesitate to pursue this. Do not assume that pretending to agree with what seems to be an explicit or implicit consensus on the part of the majority of the class, even when you really don't agree, best serves the interest of learning; on the contrary, the opposite is, most definitely, almost always the case.
GENERAL EXPECTATIONS OF STUDENTS
I expect students in this course to be 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 everything I possibly can to help answer these questions and solve these problems.
SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS FOR THE COURSE GRADE
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.
This course cannot contribute effectively to your education if you do not attend class. What happens in class is an indispensable part of this course. I will take note of student attendance and therefore I expect students to adhere to the following attendance policy for this course:
Learning and Contribution
What This is and Why it is Important
My foremost aim in teaching this course is to help you to learn something of significance and value. I will judge you to a significant degree on what you learn, how - and how hard - you strive to learn, and on how - as well as how well - you contribute to the 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.
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.
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 all of the rest of us, gain from the experience of this course. If you believe that you can make significant contributions to the success of our class in ways other than by speaking in our class meetings, please arrange to talk with me about this in a conference as early in the semester as possible. I will be glad to support these efforts if they seem potentially productive to me, but I need to know about them and to discuss with you what I think about them in order to endorse them. I certainly understand some people enter college better prepared and more confident speaking in class than others, but I would like to engage with what each one of you is thinking and feeling as we proceed through the semester, so if you tend to be somewhat shy in class, make up for this by coming to talk with me outside of class and by sending me questions and comments over e-mail.
Also, on the internet classroom site I have created for this course, you will be able to "conference" (in other words, "chat") with fellow students on topics you raise related to course texts and discussions; I will encourage students to use this "conference" space to share ideas and to discuss - and debate - issues of interest with each other; if you find it easier to "talk" in this way that in class itself, I strongly urge you to take advantage of it. This way you can help each other as you grapple with the texts, including by discovering areas where you and others would like to ask me additional questions to help you out as you work to understand new kinds of texts and new ways of thinking about texts.
Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper/Learning and Contribution Grades
I will divide your learning and contribution grade into four parts: one to cover the period from 1/22 to 2/14, one to cover the period from through 2/18 through 3/7, one to cover the period from 3/11 through 4/18, and one to cover the period from 4/22 through 5/9. At the end of each of the four learning and contribution periods I will ask you to prepare a learning and contribution reflection paper, assessing your learning and contribution over the course of the preceding period of the semester. As I see it, this provides you an 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.
You may here 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.
I will provide you specific directions in the assignment 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 reflection paper. These papers do not need be any specific length or follow any particular format but I expect you to answer them precisely and thoroughly. I expect you to take these assignments seriously and to write as clearly and carefully as possible; failure to do so will result in a significantly lower learning and contribution grade. Each learning and contribution grade will be worth 10% of the overall course grade, for a combined total of 40% of the overall course grade.
At the end of the first three units I will assign you a paper, asking you to work with the texts and concepts we discussed in the preceding unit. I will give you multiple options in each case. You should type these papers, double-space, on singles sides of standard white letter (8" X 11") paper. Your margins should be standard-length, and your name should be at the top of the first page. You should staple the separate pages of the paper together and proofread what you write before turning this in to me for a grade. You may use any standard font you prefer while your print size may range between 10 and 12 points. You must try to follow all the rules and conventions of Standard Written English as closely as possible, including MLA guidelines for citation and documentation of sources. Every English major and minor should own a handbook or a style book that explains how to do all of this; if you do not yet own such a book, please purchase one as soon as possible. Your grade on these papers will take into account matters of style as well as substance, and, especially, how well you unite the two. You should aim for an approximate average target length of 1500 to 2000 words per unit paper (roughly the equivalent of six to eight double-spaced, typed pages).
For unit four you will prepare your "mystory" paper (your paper for unit four) in the form of an oral presentation to be presented during final examination week. Each of you will work together in a peer group of no more than four students to help each other out as you prepare your mystory papers for presentation. You will then present these papers as a group at a combined conference where we will also leave time to talk about what each of you presented after you have done this. We will arrange the days and times of these conference presentations later in the semester; further details about this assignment will also be announced and explained in class at that time. If you want to get started early in your work on this paper, I recommend reading through the selections in chapter four of Text Book ahead of the time we will address these in class, and coming to talk with me about your mystory paper in an individual conference when you are ready to do so.
Each unit paper will be worth 15% of the overall course grade, for a combined total of 60% of the overall course grade.
If you wish to pursue the possibility of receiving extra credit in this course, you may choose to write a paper or arrange an interview conference on a topic of specific interest and concern to you, subject to my approval, in relation to one of the following books: Wisconsin Death Trip , Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You, or Fever: The Art of David Wojnarowicz. The extra credit paper should be the same approximate average target length as the first three unit papers, and follow the same required presentation format; the interview conference should be approximately one to one-half hours long in length, and will involve me asking you to address a series of challenging questions as well as to present the results of your reflection and preparation.
We will need to talk about this in a preliminary conference if you intend to pursue this option, in either form. The extra credit paper or interview conference will be worth 15% of the overall course grade.
THE GOALS OF THE BACCALAUREATE
This university is, as many of you 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:
UWEC strives to help you meet these objectives in the course of the higher education you pursue here. Please note that in making these our foremost aims, we at UWEC clearly distinguish ourselves from technical colleges as well as from all other UW schools, especially places like Stout, River Falls, and Stevens Point. This section of English 160, Introduction to Texts will help contribute to you meeting goals 1-4, 6, and 9-11.
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 related to what we are doing in this course. Learning that takes place in conferences can at times be equally as important, and in fact occasionally even more important, than what takes place in class. Please do not hesitate to meet with me 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 outside of class to be an indispensable part of my responsibility as your teacher. Moreover, I always sincerely do welcome getting to know and working with my students outside as well as inside of class. I am ready to do whatever I can to help you in your understanding of issues addressed in texts and discussions, as well as to help you in your writing for and participation in this course. I want to make sure that I do all that I can to help you succeed in this course and I want to help you, as far as I can, to gain as much out of it as possible through your participation in and work for it. 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 . PLEASE DO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS OPPORTUNITY! And, remember, once again, taking the time to meet and talk with me periodically in conference is a great way to contribute to the class.
I strive to be as accountable to my students as possible. I believe it is crucial that students become aware of the ideas and the values which shape and direct their education, and I believe students should expect that all of their teachers will be prepared to explain why they teach as they do. Please, therefore, take the time, as early as you can this semester, to read through and think carefully about my "Statement of Teaching Philosophy" that I have posted on my UWEC faculty website:
This statement explains WHY I teach as I do. I think It is extremely important that you know and understand where your teachers are coming from in teaching you as they do. You will find me one who trusts you sufficiently always to be frank about this with you.
This material is copyrighted (©)Professor Bob Nowlan