University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

Professor Bob Nowlan





W, 7 to 10:30 p.m., Screenings,

and F, 1 to 3:30 p.m., Discussions, HHH 321

Four Credits

Fall 2002, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire


Office: HHH 425, (715) 836-4369

Office Hours: M 12-1 and 3-5 p.m., T 10:30-11:30 p.m.,

W 10:30-11:30 p.m., and By Appointment.


    English 381 and 581, "Topics in Film, Video, and Moving-Image Culture: Cinematic Representations of Ireland and the Irish" inquires critically into the history of cinematic representations of Ireland and the Irish, with particular emphasis upon films from the past approximately three decades. The latter period of time roughly coincides with the emergence of a significant extent of indigenous Irish film production after five decades of extensive censorship and repression, along with considerable indifference and neglect.

    Although film production, distribution, and exhibition first came to Ireland as early as it did to the rest of Western Europe and North America, up until quite recently Ireland (both South and North) offered one of the most-if not in fact the most-difficult, and in fact hostile, environments for film makers working within these supposedly all "advanced capitalist," "First World," "Western liberal democratic" nations. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, therefore, many theorists have long argued that "post-colonial" Ireland maintains significantly greater degrees of commonality, at least in historic and cultural terms, with "Third World" nations of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Oceania than do virtually all of the other nations of North America and Western Europe). In sum, Irish film making, along with much of the rest of 20th Century Irish cultural and social life, suffered the costs of:

1. Over 700 years of colonial domination and exploitation.

2. Decimation of the native population as a result of devastating famine along with ongoing waves of massive emigration that continued well into the 1980s (the population living in Ireland today is still only approximately 50% of what it was before 1846).

3. Continuing substantial areas of extreme poverty and relative economic underdevelopment.

4. The death and destruction involved in the war for national independence (itself the culmination of centuries of often violent struggles for native Irish civil and human rights, Irish local self-determination, Irish "Home Rule," and Irish freedom from subjection to British control) as well as the subsequent "post-independence" Civil War, dividing "Free Staters" versus "Republicans."

5. Partition of the island into a.) the 26-county "Irish Free State" and b.) the six counties of the new statelet called "Northern Island."

6. Brutal suppression of and discrimination against the large "nationalist" "minority" population in Northern Ireland on a scale comparable to the practices of European-White-settler apartheid regimes in South and South Central Africa, at the same time requiring much of the dominant "unionist" population simultaneously to maintain a perpetually fearful garrison mentality.

7. The ultimate eruption of the so-called "Troubles" in Northern Ireland following the thoroughgoing exposure of the moral and political illegitimacy as well as the subsequent collapse of the always materially precarious "independent" government of Northern Ireland when this government responded with violent force to a peaceful movement seeking civil rights for the Catholic, Nationalist population in the six counties.

8. The resultant subsequent long war over the future of the six counties of Northern Ireland between Irish Republicans and the British state, as well as among Republicans, Loyalists, and the British, involving decades of direct (military) rule from London as well as the imposition of draconian martial law along with considerable loss of life and limb (not to mention huge losses of foreign investment - other than from the British state - and extensive destruction of physical property).

9. Decades of submission by the state along with virtually all other major social institutions in conformity to the theocratic hegemony of an arch-conservative Roman Catholic authority in the 26-County "South of Ireland."


10. Simultaneous domination throughout the South, over the course of the same nearly five decades, of highly insular, romantically backward-looking, isolationist, xenophobic, and censorial efforts on the part of successive Irish governments-along with the other principal components of the allied ruling bloc in the 26 Counties (what many Irish people to this day refer to as "Official Ireland")-to keep "Irish Ireland" purely separate from, and essentially uncontaminated by, "external," and especially "decadent," "foreign" influences.

    Of course the contradictions of life in 20th century Ireland (both North and South) frequently enough allowed room for enjoyment, satisfaction, and fulfillment, as well as the pursuit of folk-alternative and critical-oppositional kinds of social and cultural practices. Yet, given the harsh historical circumstances I enumerated above, it still amazes that Irish cinema now enjoys worldwide respect, and, what's more, earns this acclaim despite 1.) Ireland's relatively small size in terms of both population and geography, 2.) the overwhelming global might of Hollywood; and 3.) the considerably high costs as well as extensive logistical difficulties involved in even small-scale commercial film making (i.e., film making designed for distribution and exhibition to a sizeable popular audience as part of a profit-making "industry," even when targeting a relatively narrow, "limited release," "niche-market"). At the same time as indigenous Irish film making has attracted significant positive interest, production of films from a combination of American, British, European, multinational, and international sources have also recently focused considerable popular as well as critical attention on cinematic representations of issues of "Ireland and the Irish." In fact, although something of an exaggeration, many commentators have described the past approximately fifteen years as marking a "renaissance" in film emanating from Irish sources and reflecting upon Irish topics.

    At its most incisive, contemporary Irish cinema (especially indigenous Irish cinema) has explored a vast array of social and political issues (often quite "controversial") that previous cinematic representations of Ireland and the Irish almost always elided. What's more, some of the best of this contemporary Irish cinema at the same time has pursued these explorations in often quite challenging, innovative, and experimental forms. Even when not formally experimental, moreover, today's Irish film makers still draw upon a rich range of Irish narrative traditions, as well as a broad array of aesthetic styles and sensibilities that offer at least partially distinctive modes of peculiarly Irish engagement with issues of nature, culture, community, society, family, music, art, sport, religion, morality, ethics, history, politics, economy, geography, nationality, internationality, subnationality, transnationality, regionality, globality, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, youth and age, mental and physical (dis)ability, and war and peace.

    At the same time, however, much of the best work in Irish film, video, and television production remains substantially undistributed (or under-distributed) beyond Ireland itself, while even in Ireland much of this work often shows up only at film festivals and at other non-profit venues as part of "educational" forums (as well as, occasionally, on television). In addition, more than a few recent so-called "Irish films," especially big-budget films made by non-Irish film makers, and "Irish films" that heavily depend upon non-Irish sources of funding, offer reductive, simplistic, trivializing, sentimentalizing, and sensationalistic takes on "Ireland" and "Irishness," thereby effectively supporting socially and politically conservative "mainstream" values and outlooks, as well as recycling (and yet further reinforcing) tired, insulting stereotypes. Ireland and Irishness enjoy a significant appeal within the cultural imaginary of peoples living across the globe today (in significant part due to the influence of the vast Irish diaspora), but that does not by any means necessarily guarantee intelligent, sensitive examinations of what constitute "Ireland," "The Irish," and "Irishness."

    Moving-image culture exerts an extremely powerful impact, for better and worse, especially in addressing emotional, aesthetic, sensual, kinetic, psychical, imaginary, phantastical, mythical, and spiritual (as well as cognitive and intellectual) dimensions of the lived-experience of audiences' relations with the everyday conditions of their existence, and with both the extraordinary as well as the ordinary events and circumstances of their lives. We need therefore, as we proceed together this semester, to submit the representations we encounter to critical scrutiny, even as we should always attempt to account for how the films and videos we study seek to exert appeal. (In other words, a sensitive critique must always seek to ascertain what kinds of sympathetic audiences these films and videos strive to elicit as well as what kinds of positions-for instance, of identification, discovery, pleasure, and desire-they construct for sympathetic audiences to occupy in attending to the tales they tell; the sensitive critique must pursue this aim even in the case of texts that it ultimately judges to be asinine, dangerous, or otherwise reprehensible.)

    We can begin the critical work I have just outlined by recognizing that neither "Ireland" nor "the Irish" are simple, singular phenomena. Both "Ireland" and "Irishness" instead operate as sites of continuously ongoing dialogue and contestation. In other words, both "Ireland" and "Irishness" act as focuses of the work of 1.) imagination and reimagination, 2.) mythologization and demythologization, 3.) construction and deconstruction, 4.) remythologization and reconstruction, and 5.) reproduction and transformation. In short, we can-and should-define "Ireland" as referring to a considerable number of different (kinds of) entities, and the same holds true for both "the Irish" and for "Irishness" as well.

    "Irish films" (and here I am extending this label broadly to include a wide range of films "about Ireland and the Irish") reflect and respond to preexisting conceptions of what constitutes "Ireland and the Irish." At the same time, however, they also contribute significantly to the invention of new conceptions of Ireland and Irishness that influence thought, feeling, belief, and action far beyond the province of cinema spectatorship/ auditorship alone (i.e., impacting audiences long after they turn away from the moment of their immediate absorption in attending to the pictures and sounds these films set forth). As we examine various cinematic representations of Ireland and the Irish together this semester, we need therefore to keep raising the following two sets of questions of each and every title we engage:

    In addition, as we proceed together this semester we also need to consider the following kinds of questions directly pertaining toward making sense of the art of representation as this operates through the media of film and video:

1. What do the makers choose to show us-what specifically do they include and what do they exclude in showing this subject to us? What do they invite us presuppose (or assume), and thereby take no time directly to explain? To what specifically do they allude (without showing this to us directly)? What do they elide or evade (i.e., deny or suppress)? How, moreover, do they play with relations between onscreen and offscreen space, and between recorded time and unrecorded time?

2. From what distances and what angles do the makers show us what they do?

3. For what durations of time do they show us what they do?

4. How do they organize, and especially order, what they show us as this unfolds over time?

5. What kinds of lenses do they use to show us what they do, and do they change these or filter what we see through them in any significant way?

6. In what kinds (or patterns) of light do the makers show us what they do?

7. What colors, shades, and hues do they emphasize?

8. What degrees of sharpness, brightness, and contrast do they emphasize?

9. What degrees of focus and exposure do they employ?

10. What kinds of sounds do the makers use to accompany the images they show us? How, in particular, do they use speech, live location sounds, sound effects, music, and silence ?

11. How do the makers frame what they show us? How do they stage or compose the scene that we see?

12. How is what we see edited together? Using what kinds of transitional devices?

13. What kinds of movements within the shot and in relation to the scene do the makers employ?

14. Do they use any trick optical or other special effects?

    This is, in fact, only a sample list of some of the kinds of questions we need to think about in examining the particular ways that film and video work as media of representation. Ultimately, however, I suggest an even more important set of questions to ask, concernswhy these films and videos represent what they do concerning "Ireland and the Irish" to us, and why they do so in the precise ways that they do:

15. What kind of responses (thoughts, feelings, beliefs, actions) does the film or video encourage in representing to us what it does, in the way that it does? What ends does it advance and what interests does it serve?

    We will examine cinematic representations of Ireland and the Irish from a variety of critical perspectives while situating the films we screen within a broad range of historical, social, aesthetic, and political contexts. In particular, we will explore representations concerned with the following sets of issues:

1. Interconnections among nationalism, popular culture, and cinema in (post)modern Irish history.

2. Traditions of cinematic representation of Ireland and the Irish: romanticism and the Irish landscape.

3. Traditions of cinematic representation of Ireland and the Irish: political violence and the myth of Irish racial and cultural atavism.

4. Traditions of cinematic representation of contrasts and conflicts between modernization and tradition as well as between the urban and the rural in Irish culture.

5. The specific array of institutional as well as wider social and cultural factors that sparked the recent emergence and rapid development of a substantial indigenous Irish film culture and the three successive "waves" of indigenous Irish cinematic production since the 1970s.

6. Contrasting topical emphases and perspectival takes from: a.) short versus feature length film and video, b.) fictional versus documentary film and video, c.) film and video made initially for television versus for commercial or for festival exhibition, and d.) films made with varying degrees of substantial British, European, and/or American financial as well as logistical support versus films made entirely through indigenous Irish technical and financial means.

7. Contemporary Irish cinema as instrument of social and political critique, particularly in exploration of complexities and heterogeneities across different kinds of Irish cultural communities, and as contemporary Ireland confronts changing varieties of race, class, gender, and sexual lines of identity and difference.

8. Irish Cinema confronts-as well as avoids-the task of making critical sense of "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland. Also, representing "The Troubles": mystification, demystification, and remystification.

9. Irish Cinema and the "Celtic Tiger" economy of the last decade: triumphs and gaps, especially in relation to class, race, gender, and regional lines of tension and contradiction.

10. Renegotiating and transforming Irish national identity in relation to contemporary capitalist "globalization" (and "Europeanization") along with making sense of Ireland's complicated relation to the economics and politics of post-coloniality, to post-colonial critical theory, and to post-colonial forms of artistic creation and expression.

11. The future of Irish film, video, and other moving-image varieties of cultural production and reception.

    Finally, I welcome you to join me in seizing the opportunity this course provides to learn more about who we are and where we are located, where that is we come from and what we are about, as we compare and contrast our life-experience, for most if not all of us lived largely "outside of Ireland," with what we learn in studying the mythical as well as ideological work performed by means of the production and dissemination of cinematic representations of Ireland and the Irish. This should lead us to ask an array of further questions of ourselves :

1. What multiple and contesting kinds of myths and ideologies define, for instance, how we conceive of and relate to "America," ourselves as "Americans," and our "Americanness"-or, to take another example, to "Britain," ourselves as "Britishers," and our "Britishness"?

2. For those of us, moreover, who identify ourselves as "Irish-American," (or, perhaps even, as "Irish-British") what does this mean? Why is our Irishness important to us? How is it important to us? What constitutes a meaningful "Irish-American" (or "Irish-British") cultural identity? How does it impact and influence the ways we lead our lives, what we value, and what we aspire to achieve?

3. In what ways do film, video, television, and other kinds of visual and audio-visual texts contribute toward the fabrication, and promotion, of these kinds of (national) myths and ideologies?


    The following required
texts are available at the UWEC Bookstore:

1. McLoone, Martin. Irish Film: the Emergence of a Contemporary Cinema. London: British Film Institute, 2000. Purchase.

2. Pettit, Lance. Screening Ireland: Film and Television Representation. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000. Purchase.

3. Cineaste. Vol. XXIV, Nos. 2-3, 1999, Contemporary Irish Cinema Supplement: 23-76. Purchase.

4. Duffy, Sean. The Illustrated History of Ireland. Chicago: Contemporary Books (McGraw-Hill), 2002. Purchase.

5. McCormack, W.J. The Blackwell Companion to Modern Irish Culture. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2001. Rental.

    I will assign specific readings over the course of the semester from 1.) through 4.), while 5.) provides you a comprehensive reference tool to help you make sense of allusions and other references from the films. This last book provides you abundant helpful background information on figures, movements, organizations, events, as well as myriad other aspects and dimensions of Irish cultural life-experience. I may well recommend specific sections from this encyclopedia to you from time to time, but for the most part I will leave it up to you to make use as you best see fit. I strongly recommend, however, taking full advantage of what theCompanion offers; doing so will answer numerous questions likely to spring to mind as you attempt to come to terms with areas of Irish history and culture previously unfamiliar, or only limitedly familiar, to you.

    These four books and one journal issue provide contexts in which and perspectives from which to begin making sense of the films we screen in this course. The films themselves, however, will function as the principal texts in our course. I will supply copies of all these to screen in either DVD or VHS video format, in all cases with large-screen projection and high fidelity stereo sound reproduction.

    I will also supply periodic supplementary readings on the films and issues they address, by way of photocopied handouts as well as by means of recommendations of web links that I will post on a Blackboard electronic classroom I am creating for this course.

    In addition, your own thoughts, feelings, beliefs, background, knowledge, and experience will function as important "texts" in this course, including as you share your perspectives and response with the class in the form of occasional short writings to help initiate and stimulate our collective discussion.


Week 1

W 9/4: Screening, The Informer and About Adam

F 9/6: Introduction and Orientation; Discussion, The Informer and About Adam.

Week 2

W 9/11: Screening, Irish Cinema: Ourselves Alone?, Man of Aran, and The Quiet Man

F 9/13: Discussion, Reading for Class,Irish Cinema: Ourselves Alone?, Man of Aran , and The Quiet Man.

Reading for Class: Irish Film, pp. 33-59 (Chapter 2); Screening Ireland, pp. 28-48 (Chapter 2), pp. 64-67 (From Chapter 3), and 4, pp. 77-80 (From Chapter 4).

Week 3

W 9/18: Screening, When Ireland Starved and Grosse Isle: Gateway and Graveyard

F 9/20: Discussion, Reading for Class,When Ireland Starved , and Grosse Isle: Gateway and Graveyard.

Reading for Class: The Illustrated History of Ireland, pp. 61-166 (Chapters 3 through 5, and from Chapter 6).

Week 4

W 9/25: Screening, Michael Collins and Broken Harvest

F 9/27: Discussion, Reading for Class, Michael Collins , andBroken Harvest.

Reading for Class: The Illustrated History of Ireland, pp. 167-217 (From Chapters 7 and 8); Irish Film, pp. 9-32 (Chapter 1); and Select Articles/Excerpts on Michael Collins, Broken Harvest, and Related Issues (To Be Announced).

-> First Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Assigned.

Week 5

W 10/2: Screening, The Day Before Yesterday

Week 6

W 10/9: Screening, Out of Ireland, The Irishmen , and The Book that Wrote Itself

F 10/11: Discussion, Reading for Class,The Day Before Yesterday , Out of Ireland, The Irishmen, and The Book that Wrote Itself.

Reading for Class: Screening Ireland, pp. 71-77 (From Chapter 4), 82-90 (From Chapter 4), pp. 214-216 (From Chapter 10); Cineaste, pp. 64-69 (O'Brien); and Select Articles/Excerpts on The Day Before Yesterday, Out of Ireland, The Irishmen , and The Book that Wrote Itself (To Be Announced).

Week 7

W 10/16: Screening, Atlantean

-> First Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Due.

F 10/18: Discussion, Reading for Class and Atlantean .

Reading for Class: The Illustrated History of Ireland, pp. 1-59 (Chapters 1-2); Cineaste, pp. 28-34 (McLoone); Irish Film, pp. 85-110 (Chapter 4), and Select Articles/Excerpts on Atlantean (To Be Announced).

Week 8

W 10/23: Screening, Odd Man Out and The Devil's Own

F 10/25: Screening, One Island, Two Nations

Week 9

W 10/30: Screening, War and Peace in Ireland and Some Mother's Son

F 11/1: Discussion, Reading for Class,Odd Man Out, The Devil's Own, One Island, Two Nations, War and Peace in Ireland and Some Mother's Son.

Reading for Class: Irish Film, pp. 60-84 (Chapter 3); The Illustrated History of Ireland, pp. 217-239 (From Chapter 8); Screening Ireland, pp. 205-226 (Chapter 11); and Select Articles/Excerpts on Odd Man Out, The Devil's Own,One Island, Two Nations , War and Peace in Ireland , Some Mother's Son, and Related Issues (To Be Announced).

-> Second Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Assigned.

Week 10:

W 11/6: Screening, My Left Foot and The Commitments

F 11/8: Discussion, Reading for Class, My Left Foot , and The Commitments.

Reading for Class: To Be Announced.

Week 11

W 11/13: Screening, Hush-A-Bye Baby and The Snapper

-> Second Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Due.

F 11/15: Discussion, Reading for Class, Hush-A-Bye Baby , andThe Snapper.

Reading for Class: To Be Announced.

Week 12

W 11/20: Screening, Mother Ireland, The Visit , and December Bride

F 11/22: Discussion, Reading for Class, Mother Ireland , The Visit, and December Bride.

Reading for Class: To Be Announced.

Week 13

W 12/4: Screening, I Went Down and The Butcher Boy

F 12/6: Discussion, Reading for Class, I Went Down, andThe Butcher Boy.

Reading for Class: To Be Announced.

-> Third Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Assigned.

Week 14

W 12/11: Screening, Disco Pigs and On the Edge

F 12/13: Discussion, Reading for Class, Disco Pigs, andOn the Edge.

Reading for Class: To Be Announced.

-> Third Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Due: W 12/18 in my English Department Mailbox, HHH 405.




     In this course we will do two things in class: screen films and hold discussions. We will discuss the following: 1. the films we have screened; 2. readings providing contexts and perspectives in which to help make sense of and to critique these films, and 3. diverse issues which the films and readings raise for us. Screenings will take place Wednesday evenings. Discussions will take place Friday afternoons. We will take a brief break in the middle of both our Wednesday night and Friday afternoon classes.

    In discussion classes you will work from time to time for part of a class period in small groups or do some short writing in response to questions I ask you (especially after reviewing clips from the films screened the previous Wednesday night) to then share with the class; both of these approaches (and others that I will try out as well) will, I hope, help initiate and stimulate discussion. At other times I will ask you to post short response essays, as well as review your classmates' responses, ahead of our discussion class meeting, and to do so on our Blackboard electronic classroom website. This will enable you to enter class Friday afternoon already having staked out a provisional position and considered others' positions in relation to the films, readings, and issues subject to discussion for that week.


    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.



     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 adultissues, including ones that offer 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 andin your writings and presentations for class . If you find a position or practice represented in a text or topic included in the assigned readings or screenings 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 do confront in class exists in this institutional space as symptomatic of positions and practices that operate beyond the confines of the classroom, the course, and the university. If and when you find any text or topic genuinely appalling, you maintain the ethical responsibility, as a mature adult and as a responsible citizen, not simply to try to hide from these positions and practices but rather to work to critique and change them.

    Students should expect therefore that you may well on occasion encounter representations that you will find troubling, in this UWEC course and in many others as well; within this Department you will receive no right of exemption from engaging with these and no welcome for simply complaining (especially to a higher administrative authority) about their inclusion. Instead you should bring your objections forthrightly to bear in your contributions to class discussion. Finally, to conclude this particular point of discussion, a professor differs from a high school teacher in many respects, but one key difference is that we maintain a principal professional, ethical responsibility forthrightly to represent the most advanced knowledges in our fields of expertise and to proceed from there to work toward their further development and dissemination. In short, we must create, advocate for, and profess these knowledges; you should expect that your professors may from time to time take strong and indeed controversial positions on difficult and challenging issues, eschewing the pretense of disinterested neutrality. To do anything less than assume this responsibility, and to do so with alacrity, would be to shirk our professorial responsibility and to render ourselves unworthy of maintaining our professorial position.



    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 and videos we screen, 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

    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 certainlycan extend far beyond mere speaking in class: it mayinclude 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 Blackboard electronic classroom website I am setting up for this course, you will be able to "conference" (in other words, "chat") with each other and share questions and concerns on topics related to course readings, screenings, and discussions; I encourage you 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 than in class itself, I strongly urge you to take advantage of it.

Learning and Contribution Reflection Papers/

Learning and Contribution Grades

    I will ask you to prepare three learning and contribution reflection papers, demonstrating as well as critiquing your learning and contribution over the course of the preceding period of the semester.

    I will give you specific instructions on what I would like you to address with each paper assignment, yet in each case I will ask that you: a.) interpret and evaluate films screened in the course, b.) refer to and engage with the required reading as well as our discussions in class, and c.) summarize and evaluate what you have learned as well as what, how, and how well you have contributed. 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 and screenings.

    I ask that you type these papers, double-space, on singles sides of standard white letter (8" X 11") paper. Your margins should be standard-length, your name should be at the top of the first page, and you should staple the separate pages of the paper together before turning this in to me for a grade. You may use any standard font you prefer and your print size may range between 10 and 12 points. I also ask that you try to follow rules and conventions of Standard Written English as closely as possible; at the least, I expect you will strive to write clearly, precisely, and coherently. You will receive a higher grade the more cleanly and effectively you communicate your ideas.

    Also, I would like you to make clear all sources to which you refer in your paper, including film titles, and to fully document any outside sources you use (sources other than those used in and assigned for this class). I recommend following MLA guidelines for proper documentation of outside sources, yet I will accept other formats as long as your documentation is adequately comprehensive and you follow a consistent documentation pattern.

    You should aim for an approximate minimum average target length of approximately 2000 words per reflection paper (roughly the equivalent of eight double-spaced, typed pages). Each learning and contribution reflection paper will contribute significantly to your learning and contribution grade for the period of the semester the paper covers. The learning and contribution grades will each be worth 25% of the overall course grade-combining for a total of 75% of the overall course grade.

Group Projects and Class Conference

    Early in the semester (by the end of the third or fourth week of classes), students will sign-up to participate in a project group; each group will involve no more than four students. Each group will work together from that point to prepare a group presentation in relation to two films significantly focused upon representing Ireland and the Irish that we will not screen together as part of this course. I will recommend specific pairs of films that may work well together and which I can obtain VHS and/or DVD copies for you to use as you prepare and present your project.

    Your group should research background information about the production, distribution, exhibition, and reception as well as study reviews and critiques of your two films in the course of developing your own critical analysis (including comparison and contrast) of the two. You should also conduct research on issues in Irish history and culture that will provide valuable perspectives on and contexts within which to make critical sense of these films, ultimately working toward your own carefully argued, thoughtfully incisive assessment of how usefully and/or problematically you believe these films two represent (important aspects and dimensions of) Ireland and the Irish.

    Toward the end of the semester, each group will offer a presentation of its research findings and critical analysis as part of a final class conference. Each group will have a maximum of one and one-half hours to offer its presentation and engage with questions and comments from a public audience in a subsequent discussion of the group's presentation. The presentation should include a summary of the group's research findings, an elaboration of the group's own critical analysis, and an illustration of the group's key points by means of the screening of short clips from the films the group is addressing; this should take a maximum of 45 minutes and the subsequent discussion should take a maximum of 45 minutes as well. All students are urged to attend and participate in discussion of as many of their fellow students' presentations as possible, and the conference will itself be advertised around campus as open to other interested members of the campus community. All members of the class will be required to attend at least one other group presentation beyond their own and will receive additional credit for attending more than one.

    Here are some possible group project pairings:


The Brothers McMullen

Far and Away


Nothing Personal

Resurrection Man



In the Name of the Father


Hang Up Your Brightest Colors: the Life and Death of Michael Collins

Curious Journey: The Fight for Irish Freedom


The Patriot Game

Irish Ways


The Field



This is My Father

A Love Divided


The Secret of Roan Inish

My Friend Joe


The Playboys

A Man of No Importance



The Dead


Fools of Fortune

Love and Rage


The General

When the Sky Falls


The Last of the High Kings




Into the West


Divorcing Jack

The Long Good Friday



The Railway Station Man


Shake Hands with the Devil

The Crying Game


Miller's Crossing

State of Grace


The Public Enemy

Angels with Dirty Faces


Studs Lonigan

The Luck of Ginger Coffey



A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man


Barry Lyndon

Ryan's Daughter


Hidden Agenda

Four Days in July


Riverdance: the Show

Michael Flatley: Feet of Flames


From a Whisper to a Scream

Far from the Shamrock Shore


The Matchmaker

Circle of Friends


Frankie Starlight




The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne


Titanic Town

The Boxer


Reefer and the Model

Trojan Eddie



The Van


The Irish Empire

Long Journey Home: the Irish in America


War of the Buttons

Eat the Peach

The group project will be worth 25% of the overall course grade.


    At a mutually convenient time in November we will take a class field trip together, most likely to either St. Paul or Minneapolis, to share in the fun of a contemporary Irish and/or Irish-American experience. We will either car pool or rent a bus (I will subsidize students either way so that you can afford the cost). I am not sure what we will do yet, but we may attend a film screening, a theatrical production, a musical performance, a dance concert, an interactive wake, dinner at an Irish restaurant, a pub session, a sporting event, a private or public lecture, an historic walking tour, or something else altogether. You will receive extra credit for participating in this field trip.


    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 381, Topics in Film, Video, and Moving-Image Culture will help contribute to you meeting goals 1-4, 6-7, 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 work 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.

Return to Bob Nowlan's Home Page

UW-Eau Claire Home

This material is copyrighted (©)

Professor Bob Nowlan

Last Update: September 3, 2002