Section 001: M 3-6:30 pm, Screenings, and
    W 3-5:30 pm, Lectures and Discussions, HHH 323


    Office: HHH 425, Office Phone: (715) 836-4369
    Office Hours: M 6:40-7:30 pm, T 8:50-9:30 pm, W 5:40-6:30 pm,
    and By Appointment



    Drew Cramer (cramerdr@uwec.edu), Amanda Fay (fayal@uwec.edu),
    Scott Hansen (hansensm@uwec.edu), Ryan Le May (lemayre@uwec.edu),
    Alex Long (longac@uwec.edu), and Kat Parks (parkskc@uwec.edu)


    English 181: Introduction to Film, Video, and Moving-Image Culture is an introduction to the critical study of film and video: to the interpretation and evaluation of film and video in cultural context.  

    Culture includes everything that we, as human beings, have created in the course of our entire history, in distinction from what nature itself has given us.  A specific culture comprises the sum total of the distinct knowledges, capacities, fields of work and fields of play, customs and habits, traditions, values and attitudes, social roles and identities, and shared ways of thinking, feeling, acting, interacting, and behaving that members of a particular social group (such as a nation, a region, a locale, a neighborhood, a class, a profession, etc.) share in common.  As such, the specific culture of a particular social group unifies that group and distinguishes it from other groups of the same kind (such as other nations, regions, locales, neighborhoods, classes, professions, etc.).   

    Film and video constitute principal constituents of three kinds of cultures:  

1.) moving-image culture (i.e., culture produced, distributed, exchanged, and consumed in the form of constellations of moving-images),

2.) human culture in general, and

3.) myriad specific national, regional, local, racial, ethnic, class, gender, sexual, generational, political, religious, artistic, philosophical, recreational, and avocational cultures (as well as “subcultures”–which are partially independent cultures that operate at the margins of larger cultures, and usually construct their cultural identities in some kind of critical relation with those larger cultures).  

(For the sake of simplicity of expression, I will refer from this point forward in the rest of this course explanation statement to 'films' when I am actually describing films, videos, and other kinds of moving-image cultural productions.)

    Throughout the history of world cinema, three principal objectives have driven forward the production, distribution, exhibition, and reception of film:

1.) the provision of entertainment, especially as diversion, distraction, and amusement;

2.) artistic expression and communication–concerned with aesthetic issues such as capturing and conveying the felt experience of the ordinary and the extraordinary, the everyday and the unusual, the familiar and the unfamiliar, and, especially, "the beautiful" and "the sublime"–in both the natural world and human society;


3.) social critique–as contribution to, and instrument of, social change.

Many films, as well as many cinemas, aspire to meet two or three of these goals, often employing one as means toward the achievement of at least one of the other two (e.g., artistic expression as a vehicle of social critique).  Yet it is still useful, in beginning to come to terms with the aims of different kinds of film and cinema, to recognize these as primarily oriented toward serving one of these three ends.  

    (“Cinema” here refers to a particular institutional form governing the production, distribution, exhibition, and reception of a series of films, especially a series of films sharing common subjects, styles, social vantage points, and cultural backgrounds: e.g., “German Expressionist Cinema,” “Classical Narrative Realist Hollywood Cinema,” “Italian Neo-Realist Cinema,” “French New Wave Cinema,” “Dogme 95 Cinema,” “1960s American Underground Cinema,” “British Free Cinema,” and “The New Queer Cinema.”)

    The kinds of pleasures film can provide us in fact come in many forms, at times quite complicated and sophisticated, including those that usefully subvert culturally dominant ways of making sense.  Yet Hollywood (along with other, allied sectors of the multinational conglomerate, large-scale corporate capitalist, mass media) often encourages us to approach the pleasure we experience from film primarily, if not exclusively, as a purely escapist form of entertainment.  In other words, Hollywood frequently encourages us to retreat from, rather than to confront, understand, and strive to overcome life's problems and difficulties.

    What's more, even when mainstream media productions do address serious issues, they often do so in reductively simplistic and sentimentally trivializing ways.  Usually they don't extend messages quite as trite as "everything always turns out for the best," "don't worry, be happy," "crime never pays," or "good always triumphs over evil," yet they still usually embrace, rather than critique, cultural clichés.  For example, a film might suggest that hard work and a positive outlook on life will overcome all obstacles, or that the support of a loving family and true friends should be all we ever need to pick us up when and if we are down and need help, or that heroic individuals can always defeat even the most brutal (ab)uses of state and corporate power.

     At the same time, another popular current in contemporary Hollywood film rejects, even mocks, these naive attitudes but does so only to support a cynical view of contemporary social existence as an alienated quest for survival in an essentially selfish, corrupt, and vicious world where might makes right, style (in the sense of superficial "flash" and "glitter") matters far more than substance, and maintaining an outward facade of cool, confident control, along with a pose of proudly defiant self-reliance, always trump manifestations of fellow feeling, shared concern, and social solidarity.  In addition, other common trends in contemporary Hollywood involve making films a.) that function as little more than opportunities to demonstrate the look, sound, and feel of the latest special effects technology, or b.) that delight in facile forms of pseudo-comedy–comedy devoid of wit, charm, and even humor–so as to revel in the gross, the mean, and the cruel.

    Hollywood films often tend, moreover, to discourage us not only from questioning, challenging, and critiquing the social status quo but also from thinking for ourselves as we come to terms with what they represent to us in the course of our experience watching (and listening to) them.  These films frequently tell tales that represent "the way things are" as simply "the way they have to be"–or, even more insidious, as "the only way they can and should be."  They insert us into positions within the illusory worlds they construct such that we experience no incentive to reflect either upon the process of construction or the meaning of illusion, where we are reassuringly protected from having to confront any genuinely unsettling thoughts or feelings–i.e., thoughts or feelings that linger to trouble us long after the film has ended.  These films flatter us by providing us with a false sense of our omniscience– false because these films not only do our seeing and hearing for us but also because they attempt to take charge as well of our thinking, feeling, reacting, and responding in relation to virtually everything we encounter from the beginning to the end of the film's running time.

    In this course we will reflect critically upon the processes of manipulation I have just recounted as well as examine a number of alternative models of film production and reception that challenge this interpellation of the film spectator-auditor (i.e., viewer-listener) into the position of uncritical, passive consumer.  In fact, the films we screen in class will most often represent this–latter–kind of cinema.  Yet we will also carefully consider the contradictions involved in processes of film production, distribution, exhibition, and reception that spark usefully critical engagements with even the most "mind-numbing," "desensitizing," and "trivializing" forms of mainstream Hollywood "blockbuster" film.  Hollywood has been, is, and will continue to be a contradictory site (that means, in contrast with the kinds of Hollywood films I discussed above, a good number of Hollywood films–or, as is common today, films that are partially Hollywood and partially non-Hollywood–have been, are, and will be themselves genuinely quite innovative, challenging, critical, and progressive).  And it is always possible to “read against the grain.”  

    In other words, we will seek to inquire critically into how and why films, of all kinds, appeal as they do, to whom, when, where, and in response to what needs and desires, rather than simply judging them as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, as ‘likeable’ or ‘unlikeable’, as seemingly “realistic” or “unrealistic,” or as merely offering us occasions where what we see–and hear–is easy to identity with or not.  That means we have to reflect critically on our own biases as we approach films–where we are coming from, how, and why–as well as keep an open mind toward backgrounds, experiences, perspectives, and outlooks that are very different from our own.

    It is important that we subject film to critical study because, over the course of the past 110+ years, films have come to exert an extremely powerful impact upon both the shape and the substance of individuals' lived experience of their relationship to the conditions of their own existence.  This impact is today often considerably more powerful than that exerted by traditional print media.  In fact, film, television, video, and "cyberspace" 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 social modes of thinking, understanding, feeling, believing, acting, and interacting, even when presented to us as "sheer entertainment."        

    This course will begin, first, with “an introduction to film analysis and to writing about films” followed by an introduction to “narrative form” in film.  From that point, we will turn, second, to learn about film makers' use (to express and communicate meaning) of techniques of a.) “mise-en-scène,” b.) “cinematography,”  c.) “editing,” and d.)  “sound.”   We will here concentrate on influential and innovative uses of these techniques, including representation from "independent" film makers working outside of Hollywood and beyond the United States as well as examples from historically significant Hollywood films.  After this, we will, third, inquire into the art and politics of representation in (especially) American (primarily Hollywood) film.  In this third section of the course, we will begin with an introduction to and overview of the study of representation and ideology in film and related media, turn from there to discuss the structure and history of Hollywood, as industry and institution, along with alternatives to Hollywood.  From that point, we will proceed to examine representations of race and ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality in (especially American) film.

    The films I have selected to screen in this course represent a critically acclaimed and historically influential variety.  One of my principal responsibilities in teaching this course (a course that I myself designed and developed for this department and university) is to introduce you to titles of films, and kinds of film making–as well as ways of interpreting and evaluating films–that you often have not encountered before.  Like past students in the many Introduction to Film, Video, and Moving-Image Culture classes I have previously taught, I hope you too will come to appreciate the opportunity this course provides for an "eye-opening" experience.


    The following required textbooks are available for purchase at the UWEC Bookstore in Davies Center:

1.    Pramaggiore, Maria and Tom Wallis.  Film: a Critical Introduction.  2nd Edition.  Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2008.  ISBN#: 978-0-20-551869-2.  This Edition Only.

2.    Benshoff, Harry M. and Sean Griffin.  America on Film: Representing Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality at the Movies.  2nd Edition.  Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.  ISBN#: 978-1-4051-7055-0.  This Edition Only.

You may feel free to purchase these books from any other bookstore or book outlet, including by means of on-line ordering outlets (such as www.amazon.com), as you wish, as long as you do acquire them in time to use in and for class (and as long as you obtain the correct edition).

    I will supply copies of other required texts used in this course–photocopied handouts, weblinks, documents posted on our Desire2Learn electronic classroom, and possibly yet others as well.  At each screening session I will give you a study packet to use in preparing for our Wednesday discussion as well as to help guide you in making sense of readings, screenings, and connections between the two.  I will also provide the DVD copies of all the films we will screen in class this semester.  


    KEY: FCI=Film: a Critical Introduction, and
    AF=America on Film: Representing Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality at the Movies.
1/25: Screening, The Exterminating Angel and Memento.

1/27: Introduction and Orientation; Initial Discussion of The Exterminating Angel and Memento.

2/1: Screening, The Science of Sleep and Images.

2/3: Discussion, Introduction to Film Analysis and Writing About Film, The Exterminating Angel, Memento, The Science of Sleep, and Images.

    Read–Completely–Before Class on W 2/3 at the Latest: FCI, Chapter 2, “An Approach to Film Analysis,” and Chapter 3, “Writing About Film,” 9-57.

2/8: Screening, Brick and Me and You and Everyone We Know.

2/10: Discussion, Narrative Form, Brick, and Me and You and Everyone We Know.

    Read–Completely–Before Class on W 2/10 at the Latest: FCI, Chapter 4, “Narrative Form,” 61-86.    

    * Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #1 Assigned, W 2/10. *

2/15: Screening, Dogville.  

2/17: Discussion, Mise-en-Scène and Dogville.

    Read–Completely–Before Class on W 2/17 at the Latest: FCI, Chapter 5, “Mise-en-Scène,” 87-128.        

* Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #1 Due by 4 pm, F 2/19, in my English Department Mailbox, HHH 405.  Do not send this paper to me by email. *
2/22: Screening, The Conformist and Children of Men.  

2/24: Discussion, Cinematography, The Conformist, and Children of Men.  

    Read–Completely–Before Class on W 2/24 at the Latest: FCI, Chapter 6, “Cinematography,” 129-190.
3/1: Screening, The Battle of Algiers and Bloody Sunday.

3/3: Discussion, Editing, The Battle of Algiers, and Bloody Sunday.

    Read–Completely–Before Class on W 3/3 at the Latest: FCI, Chapter 7, “Editing,” 191-232.

3/8: Screening, Trainspotting and Brassed Off.

3/10: Discussion, Sound, Trainspotting and Brassed Off.

    Read–Completely–Before Class on W 3/10 at the Latest: FCI, Chapter 8, “Sound,” 233-278.

    * Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #2 Assigned, W 3/10. *

3/15 and 3/17: Mid-Term Exam, Parts 1 and 2.

3/22: Screening, High Noon and The Manchurian Candidate.

3/24: Discussion, Film Form, Representation, Ideology, High Noon, and The Manchurian Candidate.

    Read–Completely–Before Class on W 3/24 at the Latest: AF, Chapter 1, “Introduction to the Study of Film Form and Representation,” 3-20; FCI, Chapter 11, “Film and Ideology,” 331-354.

* Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #2 Due by 4 pm, F 3/26, in my English Department Mailbox, HHH 405.  Do not send this paper to me by email. *
4/5: Screening, The Player and Close-Up.  

4/7: Discussion, Hollywood, Alternatives to Hollywood, The Player, and Close-Up.

    Read–Completely–Before Class on W 4/7 at the Latest: AF, Chapter 2, “The Structure and History of Hollywood,” 21-44; FCI, Chapter 9, “Alternatives to Narrative Fiction Film: Documentary and Avant-Garde Films,” 279-307.      
4/12: Screening, The Letter: An American Town and the ‘Somali Invasion’, A Dream in Doubt, and Rabbit in the Moon.

4/14: Discussion, Race and Film, The Letter: An American Town and the ‘Somali Invasion’, A Dream in Doubt, and Rabbit in the Moon.

    Read–Completely–Before Class on W 4/14 at the Latest: AF, “Introduction to Part II: What is Race?,” 47-49;  Chapter 3, “The Concept of Whiteness and American Film,” 51-77; and Chapter 6, “Asian Americans and American Film,” 123-142.
4/19: Screening, Mystic River and Paranoid Park.

4/21: Discussion, Class and Film, Mystic River and Paranoid Park.

    Read–Completely–Before Class on W 4/21 at the Latest: AF, “Introduction to Part III: What is Class?,” 167-170; Chapter 8, “Hollywood Cinema and Class,” 171-186; and Chapter 9, “Cinematic Class Struggle After the Depression,” 187-209.        

    * Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #3 Assigned, W 4/21. *

4/26: Screening, The Ballad of Little Jo and The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio.

4/28: Discussion, Gender and Film, The Ballad of Little Jo, and The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio.

    Read–Completely–Before Class on W 4/28 at the Latest: AF, “Introduction to Part IV: What is Gender?,” 213-216; Chapter 10,  “Women in Classical Hollywood Filmmaking,” 217-237; Chapter 11, “Exploring the Visual Parameters of Women in Film,” 238-256; Chapter 12, “Masculinity in Classical Hollywood Filmmaking,” 257-277; Chapter 13, “Gender in American Film Since the 1960s,” 278-302; and “Case Study 10: The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2005),” 404-405.

    * Take-Home Final Examination Assigned, W 4/28. *

** Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #3 Due by 4 pm, F 4/30, in my English Department Mailbox, HHH 405.  Do not send this paper to me by email. **

5/3: Screening, Kinsey and Shortbus.

5/5: Discussion, Sexuality and Film, Kinsey, and Shortbus.

    Read–Completely–Before Class on W 5/5 at the Latest: AF, “Introduction to Part V: What is Sexuality?,” 305-308; Chapter 14, “Heterosexuality, Homosexuality, and Classical Hollywood,” 309-328; and Chapter 15, “Sexualities On Film Since the Sexual Revolution,” 329-355.

5/10: Screening, Far from Heaven and Quinceañera.

5/12: Discussion, Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality, and Film, Far from Heaven, and Quinceañera.

    Read–Completely–Before Class on W 5/12 at the Latest: “Case Study 12: Quinceañera (2006),” 408-409.

* Take-Home Final Examination Due by 4 pm, W 5/19 in my English Department Mailbox, HHH 405.  Do not send this paper to me by email. *

[N.b.: we will not meet in class during final exams week, but will have a class party–at my house, day/time yet to be determined–instead.]


       On Mondays we will screen films.  We will take a brief break of no more than five minutes between each screening on days in which we will screen more than one film.  Students are welcome to bring pillows, blankets, and folding lounge chairs to use if you find these more comfortable than the classroom chairs.  You may also bring snacks as long as you take care to eat and drink quietly as well as not to spill anything on the classroom carpet.  Please note well that occasionally screening sessions will run slightly longer than three and one-half hours, and occasionally they will run shorter; students are expected to stay through the end of screening sessions that run late, yet may leave as soon as screening sessions that run short end–the time commitment will all balance out.

    On Wednesdays we will discuss topics in film, video, and moving-image culture study based upon the assigned readings for the week as well as the films screened the preceding Monday.  From time to time, I will show clips from the films screened the preceding Monday as well as, occasionally, DVD extras to initiate and stimulate discussion.  I will also, sometimes, show clips from other videos, and more to help explain and illustrate key concepts.  Drew, Amanda, Scott, Ryan, Alex, and Kat, your academic apprentices (teaching assistants), and I will occasionally make use of other kinds of equipment and associated materials to demonstrate techniques, concepts, and practices as well.

    I will direct our discussions, assisted by Drew, Amanda, Scott, Ryan, Alex, and Kat.   Often I will combine discussion with some extended opening comments and relatively short, informal initial presentations of my own.  However, I will also ask you to help out as I introduce and explain positions, concepts, methods, and practices.  Wednesday classes will in general involve extensive questioning of and discussion with students, following a variety of formats, including plenty of work in small groups.  I always prefer to teach primarily by way of discussion as opposed to primarily by way of lecture; students learn better through active engagement and dialogue with each other as well as with me than they do from having me talk the bulk of the time while you only listen and take notes.  But you should take notes on the short presentations I make, as well as, briefly, and insofar as you find helpful in advancing your critical thinking, during the screenings of the films themselves.   

    In addition, on Mondays, at the beginning of screening sessions, I will distribute copies for every student of a packet of questions and comments focusing on key issues related to the readings and screenings for the week; you should use this packet to prepare for discussion on Wednesday, to help you in thinking critically about the readings and screenings, and in reviewing ideas we addressed in class discussion as you work subsequently on writing papers and taking exams.  At times these packets will include copies of ‘print lectures’ where I will offer you an extensive introduction to and overview of key concepts and issues in this form (rather than taking up precious class time to do so).  Pay careful attention to these lectures; they are meant to help your understanding, and to deepen your awareness and appreciation.  Finally, I will include within each week’s packet for study, discussion, and review your homework assignment, which will always be due at the beginning of each Wednesday’s class meeting.  


    These are the five most important, official goals all UWEC undergraduate courses are designed to help you meet:

1.    Knowledge of Human Culture and the Natural World

2.    Creative and Critical Thinking

3.    Effective Communication

4.    Individual and Social Responsibility

5.    Respect for Diversity Among People            

These goals require your striving to meet them.  Striving means learning actively and deliberately, completing assignments in a thorough and timely fashion, participating in class discussion, and making connections between what we do while meeting in class and what you do when engaged outside of the classroom.
    Although I expect that students enrolled in this course do enjoy watching films for pleasure (as I most certainly do), and although I also suspect that some of you may have already had some experience in film production or may wish to pursue this work in the future, as participants within this course students should be sincerely interested in learning about the critical study of film and culture.  This class is not a place for you simply to be entertained or merely to engage as a fan.  This means you need to be prepared to go far beyond reacting to films, or kinds of films, as things you personally merely ‘like’ or ‘dislike’.   At the least this means always being prepared to explain why you like and/or dislike what you do, how so, and why so, as well as to take into account how and why others might respond in opposing ways–and to take into account, furthermore, how and why films, and kinds of films,  might be significant in ways that have nothing at all to do with how likeable or unlikeable they happen to be.

    I expect students in this course to be consistently intellectually serious as well as academically diligent.  I expect you to strive to bring actively to bear–in your writing for class and your contributions to class discussion–insights you gain through your engagement with the films we screen, the required readings, and the topics these films and readings raise for our consideration.  And I expect you to let me,  Drew, Amanda, Scott, Ryan, Alex, and Kat know right away when and if you have any questions or problems in relation to any aspect of how you are doing with the course, so that we can do everything we possibly can to help answer these questions and solve these problems.

    I also want to call your attention to the fact that the English Department aims to provide you with an intellectually challenging education.  This means we often include texts and introduce topics in our courses that candidly explore adult issues, 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 in class discussions and in your writings and presentations for class.  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.

    Students should expect therefore that you may 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.  And this does mean we will as part of this class at times screen films that include extensive, explicit, even graphic depictions of violence, and of sex; none of this involves showing violence merely for the sake of showing violence or sex merely for the sake of showing sex–it is always included, in the films we will engage, for significant social, historical, political, and artistic reasons–but it still may indeed be disturbing, even shocking, at times.  You should keep in mind, whenever you encounter a disturbing, even a shocking, representation in a film, that film makers, like all serious artists, often deliberately aim to disturb and shock their audiences as a way of provoking strong responses and stimulating intense thinking, feeling, discussion–and action.  You don’t need to like what you see, or hear, and you don’t need to agree with what the film, and its makers, are arguing (implicitly as well as explicitly); not at all.  But you do need to respond in an intellectually serious and mature adult manner–at all times.    

    Finally, you should also recognize and respect the fact that 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 forms of knowledge in our fields of expertise, and that includes forms of knowledge that some will find disturbing.  In short, we must profess these knowledges; if we fail to assume this responsibility we shirk our professorial responsibility and render ourselves unworthy of maintaining our professorial positions.


General Criteria for Evaluation of Student Work
    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 films, videos, and other electronic texts we screen; the graphic texts we read; by me; by Drew, Amanda, Scott, Ryan, Alex, and Kat; and by each other.


    This course cannot contribute effectively to your education as critical students of film if you do not attend class.  What happens in class is an indispensable part of this course.  I will keep track of student attendance and therefore I expect students to adhere to the following attendance policy for this course:

1.) Students should not exceed a maximum of two unexcused absences.

2.) Students should provide me with written confirmation of a serious, individual or family emergency for any further–excused–absences beyond the maximum of two unexcused absences.

3.) Students who miss more than six classes total, except for an official UWEC authorized absence, should expect that they are unlikely to pass the course, and therefore should withdraw from the course and enroll again in a subsequent semester.

4.) Attendance at all classes in which films will be screened is required as well, even if and when the films we screen are readily available on video for you to watch and listen to elsewhere and at another time.  

5.)  Students are expected to arrive at class on time and to stay through the end of class.  Coming late or leaving early, unless for emergency or other exceptional reasons, counts as absent.   I will also note well students who leave class after the break during these screening sessions; not attending the entire screening session (unless you have made arrangements with me ahead of time to leave early) will count as an absence from class that day.

6.)  Students need to be awake, alert, and attentive while in class, including throughout screening sessions; this means you can’t expect to sleep or rest in class.  Again, if you do so, this will count as an absence from class.  And the same is true of doing other schoolwork in class or attending to other–personal–matters irrelevant to the focus of what we are about in this course (e.g., text-messaging).   CELL PHONES SHOULD BE TURNED OFF AND PUT AWAY DURING CLASS, INCLUDING DURING SCREENING SESSIONS.  STUDENTS WHO SPEND TIME PLAYING WITH THESE WHILE THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BEING PAYING CLOSE, CAREFUL, CRITICAL ATTENTION TO FILMS–INCLUDING BY TAKING NOTES AS YOU WATCH AND LISTEN–WILL SUFFER A GRADE PENALTY EACH TIME I OR ONE OF THE ACADEMIC APPRENTICES OBSERVES YOU DOING THIS.    

7.)  Students are responsible for finding out and making up whatever you miss if and when you do miss class.                


    Starting the second week of the semester I will give you one homework question (or series of short questions) at each Monday screening session for you to write out your response to prior to our subsequent Wednesday discussion class.  This question (or series of short questions) will relate primarily to the assigned readings for that week, but also likely will ask you to refer to films you will watch, and listen to, in class that Monday.  Homework will always be collected at the beginning of class on Wednesday.  

    For each homework assignment you should type out your response, double-space, you should make sure to put your name on what you write, you should number your pages and staple separate pieces of paper together, and you should aim to cover an average of approximately two pages (or 500 words).  Key here, in evaluating your work on these homework assignments, will be how accurately, carefully, and thoughtfully you engage with the question(s) asked of you, as well as the quality of the insights you offer and the effort you demonstrate both in preparing well for discussion and in using the writing out of your response to this homework assignment as itself an occasion for significant learning.  Neither I nor the academic apprentices will be sticklers for minute points of writing style, but you should nevertheless try to express yourself, and communicate to us, clearly and precisely.  

    The academic apprentices will read and offer evaluative comments on homework first, before I do this second.  I will do all of the grading.  Each academic apprentice will be responsible for an average of five to six students’ homework for each homework assignment; they will rotate from assignment to assignment so that each academic apprentice will likely evaluate your homework twice over the course of the entire semester.  I will look over every student’s homework for every homework assignment.

    Each homework assignment will be worth 2.5% of the overall course grade, and you should make sure that you do twelve of these assignments, to complete the total required percentage of the course grade that homework will constitute: 30% of the overall course grade.   You should note well that you will receive thirteen homework assignments this semester, which means you can choose to do any twelve of the thirteen.  It also means that if you do all thirteen you can earn 2.5% extra credit.  I will give you a mid-term homework grade, for your work on the first six homework assignments, worth 15% of the overall course grade, and then I will give you a final homework grade, for your work on the last six homework assignments, worth 15% of the overall course grade.  

    I will grade homework on a curve, taking account of how well the class as a whole is doing with these assignments.  The principal aim of these assignments is to help you–to help you learn through thinking in writing, and by providing you the opportunity to work directly with ideas you are studying in this course.  If you make a serious, conscientious effort to learn, and you respond well to suggestions and recommendations for improvement as you proceed from one homework assignment to the next, you should do very well with this work, and be thankful to have the opportunity it provides you–including to share your thoughtful reflections on all of the films we will screen and discuss in class over the entire course of the semester.

Learning and Contribution/Learning and Contribution Reflection Papers

    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–along with how well–you contribute to the learning for the rest of the class.

    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.  And don’t worry about whether what you have to share is ‘the right response’ or ‘sounds good’.  Often, we will discuss issues that it is possible to make sense of any many equally viable ways, and, even so, you learn better ways of making sense by sharing ideas which you are not by any means certain or confident about.  Also, all of you are beginning critical students of film; I don’t expect you to speak in a highly polished and sophisticated way–not at all–and you shouldn’t maintain unreasonable expectations of yourself either.  You get better with practice–and experience.  And I am here to help.  If you make a serious effort I will respect and appreciate that a lot.  

    In addition, you really shouldn’t worry about how your understandings and interpretations–or your ways of putting these–compare with other students in the class.  Almost always, when students are worried about that kind of thing, they see and hear themselves versus their peers entirely differently than I do.  Other students in this class really aren’t likely to be significantly ‘better’–or ‘worse’–in their ability to speak in useful ways than you, even when you falsely imagine this to be the case.  People are different: you have your own style of expressing yourself, and others have theirs; don’t worry about being different in this way.

    At the same time, however, I also want to make clear that talking a great deal in class does not necessarily mean you are making a quality contribution to the class in aiding the learning we aim to accomplish.  Quality of participation is much more important than quantity, although a sufficient quantity is indispensable to insure quality.  Still, I want to emphasize here that I perceive talking which pulls us off on far-fetched tangents, which remains disconnected from and disengaged with the reading and the rest of the class, or which effectively silences others to be negative participation.  Quality class participation does not, moreover, involve merely asking questions of me and responding to my questions; quality class participation means working to advance a serious and substantial discussion with your peers too.  

    Contribution to the class certainly can extend far beyond mere speaking in class: it may include a variety of ways in which you can bring to bear your insights to help yourself as well as the rest of us gain from the experience of this course.  Excellent  writings for and in response to class homework assignments, for exams, and as part of learning and contribution reflection papers are also highly valuable ways to contribute to class.  At the same time, listening carefully, respectfully, and thoughtfully in class discussions is yet another very important form of contribution–as is taking time to meet and talk with me and with Drew, Amanda, Scott, Ryan, Alex, and Kat outside of class.  In fact, meeting and talking with us outside of class can be an excellent way to contribute–as well as to show us how seriously interested in and engaged with the course material you are.

    Learning and contribution will constitute a significant proportion of your overall course grade.  As part of this grade, you will write three short learning and contribution reflection papers.  For these papers I will ask you, simply, to assess how, along with how well, you have been learning and contributing in the class over the course of the preceding approximately four week period of time.   As I see it, these short papers provide you a useful opportunity to communicate with me how you believe you are doing with the course, as well as why so, and to demonstrate your critical self-reflexivity, the hallmark of a liberal arts education.  As you are assessing your own learning and contribution, you may include thoughts in reaction to issues raised in class discussion that you did not have the opportunity or did not feel comfortable enough to share in class; these additional reflections can help me get a better sense of what you have been thinking about and how you have been responding to class discussions, as well as to the readings.  I will take into account what you write in determining your learning and contribution grade for the preceding semester period; performance on these papers represents a vital component of your learning and contribution grade.

    I  will provide you specific directions in the assignments I give you for each of these papers.  The first learning and contribution grade will be worth 5% of the overall course grade, the second learning and contribution grade will be worth 7.5% of the overall course grade, and the third learning and contribution grade will be worth 10% of the overall course grade--adding up to a total worth 22.5% of the overall course grade.  

    Once again, academic apprentices will read and offer evaluative comments on these papers first, and then I will do this second.  And yet again, as with all assignments in this course, I will do all the grading.  Each academic apprentice will be responsible for approximately five to six learning and contribution papers each time around, and they will rotate so they work with different students’ papers from the first to the second to the third assignment.  I will read, evaluate, and grade all papers, from all students, each time.

Mid-Term Exam

    The mid-term examination will take place as follows.  On Monday March 15 you will write short critical analyses of a series of four clips from films screened prior to this point in the semester which I will re-screen for you at this time, prior to you writing each of these short critical analyses.  In each case you will respond to specific questions about the clip, the film from which it is excerpted, and the concepts I have selected it to illustrate.  This will proceed for approximately two hours and constitute part one of the mid-term examination; it will be worth 10% of the overall course grade.  

    After a short break I will then screen a film for you that we have not previously watched, and listened to, together–for the remainder of the period.  On Wednesday March 17, I will screen a key clip, or several clips, from this same film at the beginning of class.  After this, you will have the remainder of the period to write a critical analysis of this film in relation to the concepts we have been studying and working with up to this point in the semester.  Again, I will give you a specific set of questions to address in doing this work.  This essay will constitute part two of the mid-term examination; it will also be worth (an additional) 10% of the overall course grade.

    This is an “open book” examination, meaning you may refer to your textbooks, photocopied handouts I will have prepared for you, notes, and any other written materials you think might prove useful in responding to the questions (both parts of) this examination poses of you.   

    Once more, academic apprentices will read and offer evaluative comments on these exams first; I will then do so second, and I will grade all of the exams.  Each academic apprentice, again, will be responsible for evaluating approximately five to six students’ mid-term exams.

Final Exam

    The final examination will be a take-home essay examination, asking you a series of short essay questions directly related to concepts and films we have addressed in class during the second half of the semester.  As long as you take this exercise seriously and work on it conscientiously, striving to express yourself and communicate to me in as clear, accurate, precise, and thoughtful a way as possible, you should do very well with this assignment.  The final examination will be worth 22.5% of the overall course grade.  

    I will consult with academic apprentices in evaluating these exams, but other than that, I will do all the reading, evaluating, and grading of all students’ final exams.

Formatting: Homework, Papers, and Final Exam
    You may handwrite homework assignments, learning and contribution reflection papers, and the take-home final exam, as you wish, as long as you do so neatly and legibly, but I prefer that you type these writings.  The mid-term exam you will write in class, so this will be handwritten.  

    Double space what you write, keep your margins standard, include your name on the first page, number your pages, and staple separate pages together.  Use any standard font you wish, but make your point size 11 points or higher.  

    Try to follow rules and conventions of Standard Written English as far as possible, although the key here is clarity, coherence, precision, and specificity.  Document sources that you use beyond ones from this class, if and when you use these, in sufficient detail so that anyone reading what you write could readily find these sources.  
Late Work

    If you make arrangements with me ahead of time, or shortly after an assignment is due, because of some emergency of other exceptional development in your life, you may turn in late work.  If not, your grade will be reduced.  Sometimes problems come up; I understand.  You don’t need do every homework assignment to do well, and I will offer you a number of opportunities to earn extra credit to make up for work you don’t get a chance to do (on time), or don’t do particularly well with.  

Academic Honesty

    If you are drawing from someone else’s ideas, and these are not matters of fact, give them credit.  Otherwise do your own work; you won’t learn if you don’t, and the penalties at this university–like most others–for students found guilty of plagiarism are severe.  Don’t risk it.

Extra Credit

    Usually when I teach this course I take students–and friends from outside as well as inside of our English 181 class–with me one Saturday to Minneapolis to see some films, and to otherwise hang out and have fun.  I pay for the bus.   Just for coming along, you can earn 7.5% of extra credit.   We will talk further about this class field trip as the semester proceeds.

    In addition, the academic apprentices and I will select films from the Spring 2010 weekly UWEC Campus Film Series and from the Eau Claire Progressive Film Festival (April 16 through 25) which we will make available as opportunities to earn extra credit.  In these cases, you’ll attend a screening, and then write a short reflection paper on the film, following guidelines the academic apprentices and I will give you.  You will be able to earn 1.25% extra credit for each short reflection paper you write, as long as the academic apprentices and I agree that it represents quality work on your part.

    Finally, at the end of the semester, you and your friends–from outside as well as inside of our English 181 class–will be invited to a class party at my house.  You will earn 2.5% extra credit just for coming to this party.  The party will take place during finals week, on a day and at a time to be announced.  

    We may even offer additional extra credit opportunities, but, as you can tell by this point, I want to give you plenty of chances to do well in this class, including to make up for not doing well on some assignments.  


    I encourage you to meet with me in conference during office hours or at another mutually convenient time to discuss any issue of interest or concern that you develop as a student in this course and as a member of this class.  I recognize the value of learning that takes place in conferences; I know this can at times be equally as important, and in fact occasionally even more important, than what takes place in class.  It also provides you an opportunity to contribute beyond what you say in class and write for class.  So please do not hesitate to meet with me at any time you think this might be helpful to you–or whenever you’d just like to talk further with me.   I want to help you in your understanding of issues addressed in texts (including audio-visual texts) and discussions, as well as in your writing and participation.  And you may certainly also feel free to contact me by e-mail or by (my campus office) phone as well.  Please come see me if you have questions or concerns as you are doing work for class; I will be glad to help you.

    I really do like to get to know my students; students at this university continually demonstrate impressive ability, talent, knowledge, experience, insight, vitality, and good character.  I am lucky to get to know you; it enriches me.   And one thing is worth emphasizing from the start, as I know just the fact that one is a professor can be intimidating, even when, like me, one never thinks of himself as an intimidating kind of person, and that is, above all else, I like my students, I always do, I like you a lot, and I care about not only how you are doing in class but also about your well-being in general.  The more and the better I get to know you, the more and better I can help you, and, it’s quite possible, as has been the case with many students I’ve taught over the years too, that we can even become friends.

    In addition to all of that, please keep in mind that Drew Cramer, Amanda Fay, Scott Hansen, Ryan Le May, Alex Long, and Kat Parks have joined this class as academic apprentices–teaching assistants–because they want to work with and help you.  These people will read and write evaluative comments on your written work (although I will do all the grading) and they will help out in class discussions as well as with class screenings, presentations, demonstrations, activities, and field trips.  In addition, all six will hold office hours where they will be available to meet with you to discuss interests this class raises, as well as to help you with work for class.  Drew, Amanda, Scott, Ryan, Alex, and Kat can be of great help do you; take advantage of the opportunity to work with them outside as well as inside of class.  The fact that I have invited these six men and women–all advanced, experienced, and highly capable upper-level undergraduate students themselves–to join our class to work with me and you as teaching assistants should make clear to you that I sincerely want to do everything I possibly can to make this class a valuable experience for you, and to assist you in doing well with it.   

    So, finally, once again–we are here to help.  We want to help you.  We want you to do well.  We want you to learn and grow.  We want you to find what we engage stimulating and fulfilling.  And we want you to have fun too, even as you work hard and as we engage with many serious issues and challenging representations.  

    * Any student who has a disability and is in need of classroom accommodations, please contact the instructor and the Services for Students with Disabilities Office. *        

    In the interest of accountability–me to you–I am here providing you weblinks: 1.) to my statement of philosophy as a college teacher: http://people.uwec.edu/ranowlan/philosophy.htm and 2.) to my autobiographical profile: http://people.uwec.edu/ranowlan/PROFILE_.htm.  You are also welcome to check out 3.) my myspace page, http://www.myspace.com/insurgentseanmurphy, and to look me up 4.) on facebook, http://www.facebook.com, where I just started a page last summer under ‘Bob Nowlan’.  [If you are interested in becoming myspace or facebook friends, feel free to contact me about that.]  In addition, you can find 5.) my professional vita (the academic equivalent of a resume) at: http://people.uwec.edu/ranowlan/VITA.htm.  I encourage you to check these sites out; it is useful for you to know who your teacher is, what he’s about, and where he’s coming from–and I like to be open, honest, and forthright with you about all of that.  I look forward to a great semester working together with you!