Tuesdays, 6-8:45 pm, Spring 2012, UWEC, HHH 222

    Office: HHH 425, Office Phone: (715) 836-4369
    Office Hours: MWF 11:55 am to 12:25 pm, M 5:50 pm to 6:20 pm,
    T 8:50 pm to 9:20 pm, W 4:20 to 4:50 pm, as well as By Appointment



    English 715: Critical Theory and English Studies inquires into how significant and influential theorists and critics have engaged with literature, culture, and everyday life.  We will focus in particular on theorists and critics who have exerted considerable direct and indirect impact upon work in English Studies.  In 715, our discussions of how this impact has happened will help students enter a diverse array of ongoing conversations and contestations in English Studies.  We will engage with major figures, positions, concepts, and arguments in critical theory from modernism through postmodernism.  We will relate these readings and discussions of work in critical theory to a variety of cultural texts and to a variety of everyday as well as topical concerns, with a particular emphasis on literature, including literature itself as locus of theory and criticism.  Although we will, in part, study theory and criticism by situating this work in historical context, we will, of necessity, be highly selective, focusing on working with concepts that maintain prospectively broad applicability, across large expanses of time (and space), as well as on major lines of thought.  What follows below, in the “Course Explanation” section of this syllabus, is a more extensive explanation of what we will be doing, how, and why, which also serves as the equivalent of an introductory ‘print lecture’.  


    "Critical theory" refers to a series of pathways for intellectual inquiry that first emerged with the end of the 18th century European Enlightenment and in particular with the initial widespread waning of intellectual confidence that the newly hegemonic bourgeois society would succeed in realizing Enlightenment ideals.  In short, critical theory represents the intellectual articulation of the conviction that modern capitalist society cannot–at least not without significant reformation or substantial transformation–realize the Enlightenment ideal of an enlightened–that is, a rational, just, and humane–society. According to Enlightenment consensus, this ideal society is to be one which will genuinely embody the highest values of human civilization, and which will thereby insure steady progress in the attainment of liberty, justice, prosperity, and contentment for all of its citizens.

    Critical theory begins by inquiring into what prevents the realization of this Enlightenment ideal.  In doing so, critical theory questions and challenges the seeming obviousness, naturalness, immediacy, and simplicity of the world around us, and, in particular, of what we are able to perceive through our senses and understand through the application of our powers of reason.  Critical theory is therefore concerned with discovering and uncovering, and with describing and explaining "mediations"–environmental, ecological, physical, physiological, psychological, intellectual, emotional, historical, social, cultural, economic, political, ideological, linguistic, semiotic, aesthetic, religious, ethical, etc. –between "object" and "subject," "event" and "impression," "impression" and "perception," "perception" and "cognition," "cognition" and "reflection," "reflection" and "response," "response" and "reaction," "reaction" and "action," and "action" and "practice."  At the same time, "critical theory" also always involves questioning and challenging the passive acceptance that "the way things are"–or "the way things seem"–simply "is" the "natural" way they necessarily "should" or "must" be.   In other words, critical theory questions and challenges the conviction that what is, or what is in the process of becoming, or what appears to be, or what is most commonly understood to be, or what is dominantly conveyed to be, is also at the same time right and true, good and just, and necessary and inevitable: critical theory does not, at least not automatically, accept any of this.  Critical theory is always particularly concerned with inquiring into the problems and limitations, the blindnesses and mistakes, the contradictions and incoherences, the injustices and inequities in how we as human beings, operating within particular kinds of structures and hierarchies of relations with each other, facilitated and regulated by particular kinds of institutions, engaged in particular kinds of processes and practices, have formed, reformed, and transformed ourselves, each other, and the communities, cultures, societies, and worlds in which we live.


    Critical theory has always occupied tenuous positions within traditional academic disciplines, and has always moved restlessly across disciplinary borders; after all, when we think of what critical theory has influenced, we must include such diverse disciplines as sociology, political science, philosophy, economics, history, anthropology, psychology, and even biology and physics, as well as studies in English and other national, regional, and ethnic languages and literatures.  Critical theory, in sum, is by no means merely a province of English Studies, and neither need it be, should it be, nor can it be confined to English Studies alone, or to language and literature studies more generally.

    Explicit focus on education in critical theory as part of English Studies reflects how much the disciplines of English and their constituent fields of intellectual inquiry have changed over the past approximately forty-five to fifty years.  Even as many English Departments continue to prioritize courses in what at first glance might seem like traditional areas–e.g., literature, rhetoric and composition, linguistics, creative writing, and English education–much has nevertheless changed both in the ways that many of these courses are taught and the aims that are often pursued in teaching these courses.  Even more important than these changes, however, is the fact that English has been at the cutting edge of the transformation of the humanities into the principal broad arena of intellectual concern with relations between texts and cultures such that even those departments and programs that do not explicitly declare themselves as doing “cultural studies” often in fact are extensively engaged in doing so.

    Cultural studies has challenged the predominance of the governing categories of traditional literary studies (the virtually exclusive central focus of early to mid 20th century work in English) such as the "canon," the discrete and homogenous "period," the formal properties of "genre," the literary object as autonomous and self-contained, the "author" of the "work" as a figure of transcendent "genius," the act of reading as a private mode of reverential contemplation and ecstatic escape from the mundane pressures of the everyday, and the "greatness" of literature as measurable in terms of universal standards of aesthetic beauty and eternal principles of ethical right and good.

    Ultimately even more important, however, in distinguishing cultural studies from traditional literary studies, is the fact that cultural studies is directly concerned with the "writing" and "reading" of all "texts" of culture, and not just conventional "literary" texts.  According to cultural studies, we "read" whenever we interpret what something "means," and we "write" whenever we create something which others must interpret so as to determine what it means.  This leads us to approach all products of culture as "texts" insofar as they are written and read, insofar as they are understood as possessing or bearing meaning.  "Texts" include everything from the seemingly most "profoundly meaningful" to the seemingly most "mundanely meaningless" (as, after all, to be considered insignificant, or of little or no meaning, is to be judged to mean in a particular way as well).  Cultural studies thus focuses on making sense of "texts" such as films, television shows, music and video productions and performances, paintings and drawings, sculpture and architecture, sports teams and games, trends in clothing and fashion, commercial advertisements, individual dreams and plans, shopping lists and checkout receipts, buildings and rooms, kinds of food and drink, roads and vehicles, manners and gestures, ceremonies and rituals, personalities and personal relationships, and individual actions and specific incidents.

    Cultural studies may well, according to this conception, include literary studies as a constituent component.  It has by now been nearly thirty years since Terry Eagleton proposed, in the first edition of his Literary Theory: an Introduction, that because "literature" is so difficult precisely to define, and, as such, is an extremely incoherent and unstable category, the field of "literary studies" should be replaced by a field of "cultural studies" that focused on making sense of the rhetoric and politics of texts of all different kinds.  However, it really should be no surprise that we have not witnessed the "death of literature" implicit in this and many similar kinds of recommendation made around the same time.  After all, Eagleton does admit that literature can be defined as whatever a particular culture (or subculture) happens to regard as especially "highly valued writing."  Whereas Eagleton suggests that this means "literature" may no longer serve as a particularly useful category, I suggest that this reconception of what “literature” entails in fact opens up many new possibilities for work in literary studies conducted as part of work within a larger field of cultural studies: i.e., inquiring into what makes for different conceptions of highly valued writing within and across different historical cultures–and subcultures.                                         

    Critical theory crucially informs and enables all these developments and transformations in English Studies I have just described, yet the value of education in critical theory extends beyond its contribution to the core disciplines of any particular academic department, including English.  

    Throughout the everyday lives of each and every one of us, our ability to make sense of the world around us–and to orient ourselves to engage in relation to it on the basis of how we make sense–means that we are continually working with "theories" of one kind or another.  At the same time, because our everyday lives also demand that we make numerous judgements according to various standards and criteria and that we then proceed according to the judgements we have made, we are also continually thinking and acting in ways which are at least rudimentarily "critical" as well.  Nevertheless, in our everyday lives most of us do not all that often reflect upon precisely what theories are guiding and sustaining us, how so, and why so, nor do we frequently examine how and why we think and act critically in the ways that we do.  Moreover, if asked to produce a rigorous intellectual explanation, precisely accounting for and meticulously justifying the theoretical and critical influences upon and determinants of our everyday ways of thinking, understanding, feeling, believing, interacting, communicating, acting, and behaving, most of us would have a very difficult time.  A principal aim of studying and learning to think, read, write, and act theoretically is to develop the ability to recognize, understand, explain, and account for the theories that guide and sustain us throughout our everyday lives.  Likewise, a principal aim of studying and learning to think, read, write, and act critically is to develop the ability to recognize, understand, explain, and account for the kinds of judgements, the ways in which we make judgements, and the standards and criteria we use in making judgements throughout everyday life.
    Because the theories that guide and sustain us and the ways in which we think and act critically in our everyday lives are rarely simply the result of our own uniquely individual creation and rarely a matter simply of our own autonomously free choice–especially when we either are not conscious of their effects upon us or are unable to explain, account for, and justify these in a sustained and rigorous fashion–we are always working according to the influence and the determination of theoretical and critical approaches which are much larger than the space "inside" of our own "heads" or "minds": we are always working according to theoretical and critical approaches which occupy particular places within particular societies and cultures and which are formed as particular products of particular histories and politics.  A course in "critical theory" presents an opportunity not only, therefore, to learn about the theoretical and critical approaches of what might often at least initially seem like an elite caste of distant and specialized others–specific, and frequently famous, named "theorists" and "critics"–but also, and more importantly, to reflect upon how and why all of us work with the kinds of theoretical and critical approaches we do; where these come from and what gives rise to them; where they lead and what follows from them; which such approaches predominate in what areas of everyday life today, in what places within what societies and cultures, with what uses and effects, toward the advancement of what ends and toward the service of what interests; and what alternative approaches are possible, what alternatives are desirable, what alternatives are necessary, and how do we get from here to there.

    In this specific course we will focus broadly on movements in critical theory–as well as in cultural studies, including English Studies–from “modernism” to “postmodernism.”  This focus enables us to engage with a wide extent of major conversations–and major contestations–in critical theory, in areas where these conversations, and contestations, particularly strongly coincide, in turn, with major areas of long-standing interest and concern among those working in cultural studies, and, especially, English Studies.  Among some of these major areas are the following: (1.) problematics of identity–especially concerning divisions within identity, (2.) relations between language and subjectivity, (3.) relations between the individual and society, (4.) what counts as knowledge and especially what counts as useful and valuable knowledge, (5.) how do we know what we know and what are the inevitable and necessary limits to our ability to know, (6.) relations between the aesthetic and the ethical, (7.) relations between the artistic and the political, and (8.) the impact of class, gender, race, and other, similar social categories on experience, perspective, agency, and ideology.  Because ‘modernism’ and ‘postmodernism’ encompass a vast amount of work in artistic forms of cultural production (as well as critical theory), and because both modernist and postmodernist forms of critical theory challenge neat divisions among supposedly clearly distinct kinds of discourse, we will engage extensively with a series of literary texts that deal centrally with many of the same issues as do the critical theory texts we will read.  We won’t, moreover, merely ‘apply’ the theory texts we read to these literary texts, as we will  also ‘apply’ these literary texts as ways of making sense of theory texts–using literature as itself site and source of ‘theory’.  

    Finally, I want to offer some helpful points to keep in mind, and to make use of, as you approach our work with critical theory this semester.  

    First, we can only engage with a small number of significant contributions to the immense amount of work that has been generated in critical theory over the course now of many hundreds of years.  Even at the graduate level, this is merely an introduction to a potential lifetime’s pursuit; don’t expect that what we read and study this semester represents the ‘ultimate truth’ or the final answer to what constitutes the most important work in ‘critical theory” (or ‘Critical Theory and English Studies’).  Feel free to explore writers and writings beyond those assigned, as you find this of interest and use.  

    Second, the reading you will do for this course should, from time to time, challenge you; you should at times find it difficult, at least initially so; and you should not expect that what you read will always make intuitive sense or provide immediate satisfaction.  Of course, I hope that eventually you will experience a sense of confidence, even excitement, in working with critical theory, but I do not want you to imagine you necessarily should be able to do this right away, with ease.  Not at all.  For many of you, this is likely one of your first courses in theory and criticism, whereas, in most cases, you have already taken many courses, and read many texts, in “literature” even well before you began undergraduate studies.  Imagine what it might be like to take a course of introduction to literature having never previously taken such a course, studied or read any of the material, or maintained much, if any, familiarity with what literature involves and what it might mean to make sense of and respond to it.  Expect, therefore, in this class, that you will grow in understanding, facility, and confidence; don’t be needlessly hard on yourself–accept that you will learn through trial and error, through taking risks and trying out ideas, and by making mistakes.  You don’t need “THE right answer” or “THE right way to say it” to talk (both of which, for that matter, critical theory by and large rejects as impossibly quixotic goals); learn through talking, and through becoming comfortable recognizing and accepting what you don’t already clearly understand and what you can’t already clearly articulate.

     Third, you will need, consistently and conscientiously, not only to work hard to remain patient, and to keep an open mind, but also not to rest content with the superficially apparent, the merely commonsensical, the seemingly self-evident, and the already familiar; critical theory deliberately challenges all of this, and in order to appreciate what it means to think, speak, listen, read, write, act, and interact in a critical theoretical manner, you will need to follow this path as well.

    Fourth, even as I will provide specific sites for testing and applying what we can extract from our readings in critical theory, I will count on you to take the initiative to do this yourself as well.  You have to be an active participant in this course; you will gain little if you don’t bring to bear your own knowledge, experience, interests, and concerns.  You have to work to find ways to make what we read and study relevant to you.

    Fifth, and following closely upon the last point, since all of you enrolled in this course are advanced students, I expect you to demonstrate the intellectual maturity you have acquired as a result of this previous work.  I know people enrolled in English 715 have, in most cases, taken many English as well as other courses for a considerable number of years now; you should feel free to draw upon this knowledge and experience (even when or where it doesn’t immediately seem obviously relevant).  It will help you–and us.

    Sixth, ask questions, offer comments, try not to be afraid to speak, and try to write what you think, no matter how tentative, uncertain, or confused you might find yourself (i.e., be prepared to take the risk that what you say, or write, might turn out to be–or, more likely, to appear or to seem–‘wrong’).  In fact, don’t look for hard and fast, simple right and wrong answers; critical theory is as much, if not much more, focused upon asking questions as it is about securing answers, and the process of theorization, and critique, is continuously ongoing.   All positions are limited, and those long engaged with critical theory accept this as a matter of course.

     Seventh, while I welcome you always to disagree with anything we read whenever you find yourself so inclined, and even encourage you to do so, I expect, at the same time, that you will first strive to understand what you read ‘on its own terms’, especially when you find yourself troubled or disturbed by it, so that you will not simply dismiss or reject what you oppose but instead carefully argue against and precisely critique it.  I expect you first to aim to do justice to the positions you engage, and to try to represent them as their adherents would recognize them, even when you aim to move from this first stage to a second stage in which you argue strongly to the contrary.  I expect you will do the same with positions I as your teacher advance as well as those your classmates advance.  And I encourage you eventually to work to find critical theoretical positions that you can stake out, and argue for, as your own, even as you strive to understand where others might be coming from, how so, and why so (especially when they seem to be coming from very different places than you).

    Eighth, don’t look to me as one ‘who has all the answers’; I am an experienced guide, but I am continually learning as well.  We will engage with many complex issues in this class that I would absolutely never claim to have ‘mastered’–these are issues great minds have long struggled with and continue to struggle with.  I don’t consider myself ‘a great mind’; I consider myself one who is knowledgeable and experienced enough to be able to help you find your way as you begin working at a graduate level in ‘Critical Theory and English Studies’.  


    The following required books are available for purchase at the UWEC Bookstore in Davies Center; all nine are required:

1.    Cahoone, Lawrence E., eds.  From Modernism to Postmodernism: An Anthology Expanded.  2nd Edition.  Blackwell Philosophy Anthologies.  Wiley-Blackwell, 2003.  ISBN#: 978-0631232131.  This Edition Only.

2.    Kolocotroni, Vassiliki, Jane Goldman, and Olga Taxidou, eds.  Modernism: An Anthology of Sources and Documents.  University of Chicago Press, 1999. ISBN#: 978-0226450742.

3.    Drolet, Michael, ed.  The Postmodernism Reader: Foundational Texts.  Routledge, 2004.  ISBN#: 0-415-16084-7.

4.    Stevenson, Robert Louis.  Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  A Norton Critical Edition.  W.W. Norton, 2003.  ISBN#: 0-393-97465-0.  This Edition Preferred.     

5.    Fallada, Hans.  Alone in Berlin.  Penguin Books, 2010.  ISBN#: 978-0141189383.   Other Editions Also Acceptable.

6.    Petry, Ann. The Street.  Mariner Books, 1998.  ISBN#: 0395901499.  Other Editions Also Acceptable.

7.    Ginsberg, Allen.  Howl.  50th Anniversary Edition.  Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006.  ISBN#: 978-0-06-113745-7.  This Edition Preferred.

8.    Beckett, Samuel.  Waiting for Godot.  Grove/Atlantic.  ISBN-13: 978-0-8021-3034-1.  Other Editions Also Acceptable.

9.      Auster, Paul.  The New York Trilogy: City of Glass; Ghosts; The Locked Room.  Contemporary American Fiction Series.  Penguin, 1990.  ISBN#: 978-0140131550.  This Edition Preferred.     

    You need to obtain these books in time to use for class, as assigned in the Schedule section of this syllabus.  You may feel free, however, as you wish–and as you find convenient–to obtain these from another outlet, including by ordering them online (such as by way of www.amazon.com, for example).    

    We will only be reading selections–between 1/4 and 1/3 of the whole–from the three theory anthologies (#1 through #3 above), but these books will also prove useful for you in work on papers, presentations, and for further study beyond the scope of this course.  I strongly recommend the versions of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as well as of Howl I list above, as both those editions include extensive supplementary materials that should prove most helpful, and indeed stimulating, to our discussion of those two books.

    I will supply copies of guides, outlines, lecture notes, and more, as well as supplementary, illustrative texts–video, audio, audio-video, etc.–that we will make use of throughout the semester.  


T 1/24: Introduction and Orientation.

T 1/31: Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

    Read for Class, T 1/31:  The entire book, including “Background and Contexts” and “Criticism.”

T 2/7:  Descartes, Kant, Condorcet, and Horkheimer and Adorno (From Modernism to Postmodernism); Foucault (The Postmodernism Reader).

    Read for Class, T 2/7: From Modernism to Postmodernism: 19-26 (From Meditations on First Philosophy), 45-49 (“An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?”), 63-69 (From Sketch for an Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind), and 159-168 (From Dialectic of Enlightenment); The Postmodern Reader: 41-52 (“What is Enlightenment?”).

T 2/14: Freud (From Modernism to Postmodernism); Freud [2], Le Bon, Simmel, Shlovsky, and Artaud (Modernism).

    Read for Class, T 2/14: From Modernism to Postmodernism: 144-148 (From Civilization and Its Discontents); Modernism: 36-38 (From The Crowd: a Study of the Popular Mind), 47-51 (From The Interpretation of Dreams), 51-60 (From “The Metropolis and Mental Life”), 217-221 (From “Art as Technique”), 470-472 (From “Theatre and Cruelty”), and 472-477 (From “The Dissection of the Psychical Personality”).

T 2/21: The Street.   Student Presentation Paper(s).

    Read for Class, T 2/21: The entire novel. * Learning and Contribution Paper #1 Assigned. *

T 2/28: Marx and Engels (From Modernism to Postmodernism); Marx, Marx and Engels, Trotsky, Kollontai, Brecht, Read, Gil, Stead, and Eisenstein (Modernism).

    Read for Class, T 2/28: From Modernism to Postmodernism: 75-81 (“Bourgeois and Proletarians”); Modernism: 5-8 (From “Letter to Ruge" and From The Communist Manifesto), 229-237 (From Literature and Revolution and From “Make Way for the Winged Eros”), 465-469 (From “The Modern Theatre is the Epic Theatre”), 526-536 (From “What is Revolutionary Art?,” “All Art is Propaganda,” and From “The Writers Take Sides”), and 551-556 (From “A Dialectic Approach to Film Form”).

T 3/6: West (From Modernism to Postmodernism); Hughes, Du Bois, Hitler, Benjamin [2], and Breton/Trotsky/Rivera (Modernism).

    Read for Class, T 3/6:  From Modernism to Postmodernism: 298-309 (“A Genealogy of Modern Racism”); Modernism: 65-68 (From The Souls of Black Folk), 417-421 (From “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”), 560-576 (From “Speech Inaugurating the ‘Great Exhibition of German Art’,” From “Surrealism, the Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia,” and From “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”), and 597-601 (“Manifesto: Towards a Free Revolutionary Art”).

T 3/13: Gilman, Loy, Marsden, and Jackson (Modernism); Young, Butler (From Modernism to Postmodernism); Irigiray (The Postmodernism Reader).

    Read for Class, T 3/13: Modernism: 185-189 (From The Man-Made World or Our Androcentric Culture), 258-261 (“Feminist Manifesto”), 331-332 (From “I Am”), and 485-488 (Foreword to Pilgrimage); From Modernism to Postmodernism: 370-382 (From “The Scaling of Bodies and the Politics of Identity”) and 390-401 (“Contingent Foundations: Feminism and the Question of ‘Postmodernism’”); The Postmodernism Reader: 222-229 (From An Ethics of Sexual Difference).  * Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #1 Due *

T 3/27: Alone in Berlin.   Student Presentation Paper(s).

    Read for Class, T 3/27: The entire novel.

T 4/3:  Nietzsche [4], Saussure, and Derrida (From Modernism to Postmodernism); Nietzsche (Modernism).

    Read for Class, T 4/3: From Modernism to Postmodernism: 109-117 (“On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense,” “The Madman,” “How The ‘True World’ Finally Became Fable,” and “The Dionysian World”), 122-126 (From Course in General Linguistics), and 225-240 (“Differance”); Modernism: 17-22 (From Preface to Human, All Too Human).

T 4/10: Howl.    Student Presentation Paper(s).

    Read for Class, T 4/10: The entire book, including “Original Drafts,” “Carl Solomon Speaks,” “Author’s Annotations,” and “Appendices.”

T 4/17: Berman; Lyotard, From The Postmodern Condition: a Report on Knowledge; Jameson; Lyotard, From “Answering the Question: What is the Postmodern?”; and Bauman (The Postmodern Reader).

    Read for Class, T 4/17: The Postmodern Reader: 53-66 (From “Introduction–Modernity: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” in All that is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity), 123-146 (From The Postmodern Condition: a Report on Knowledge), 189-202 (From Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism), and 230-249 (From “Answer to the Question: What is the Postmodern?” in The Postmodern Explained to Children: Correspondence 1982-1985 and “A Sociological Theory of Postmodernity” from Intimations of Postmodernity).

T 4/24: Waiting for Godot.  Student Presentation Paper(s).    

    Read for Class, T 4/24: The entire play. * Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #2 Assigned. *

T 5/1: City of Glass.  Student Presentation Paper(s).

    Read for Class, T 5/1: The entire novel.  * Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #2 Due. *

T 5/8: Ghosts and The Locked Room.  Student Presentation Paper(s).

    Read for Class, T 5/8: Both entire novels.

T 5/15: Term Paper Due by 6 pm, in my English Department Mailbox, HHH 405.



    This class will proceed as a seminar where we will engage in extensive collective discussion of assigned readings and of issues raised by these readings.  We will aim to hear regularly and extensively from everyone.  I will direct the overall course of our discussions, but I do not aim to take too much class time too often making extended presentations (“lectures”) in class.  At the same time I will do so (briefly), from time to time, as useful, and also, from time to time, bring ‘supplementary texts’ to class–including, prospectively, audio, video, and audio-video texts– in order to give us further sites for application of ideas from course readings.  And I may well from time to time prepare ‘written lectures’ which I’ll post on our Desire2Learn electronic classroom website, send to you by email, and/or give to you in print form, if and when it seems useful for me to offer a more elaborate and extensive sets of comments on something we are reading and discussing.  Likewise, I may well from time to time offer you some specific suggestions and recommendations of points to concentrate on, or questions to consider, as you are doing the readings for the following week (again making these available to you either in print form, via email, or on Desire2Learn).  The weeks in which students will have prepared class presentation papers, and posted these ahead of class on Desire2Learn (see description of this below, in the section on “Specific Requirements for the Course Grade”), those students who have done so will take the lead in initiating our class discussion.  

    Since this will be a discussion-intensive class, come to class prepared to talk.  Come to class prepared to help the class as a whole work toward compelling understandings of significant issues raised by the readings for that week, compelling reflections on implications of these issues, and compelling connections with other cultural texts as well as with other areas where you maintain particular knowledge, experience, interest, and concern.  


    I expect students in this course to strive to become sincerely interested in learning about the subject matter of this course, and to be consistently intellectually serious as well as academically diligent in their pursuit of this learning.  I expect students to strive to bring actively and extensively to bear–in their essays and contributions to class discussion–insights they gain through their engagement with the texts and topics addressed as part of this course, and I expect students to strive at the same time to relate these texts and topics as closely and as fully as possible to subjects of genuine interest and concern in their own lives.  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.

    In addition, although I expect this is something I can readily assume you already understand and accept, you should keep in mind that 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 ever encountering anything you might possibly find in any way objectionable.  If and when you find any text or topic disturbing, you maintain the responsibility to deal with this in an intellectually serious manner; after all, disturbing positions exist extensively outside of the classroom as well as in what we confront in and for class.  ‘Disturbing positions’ we engage with here, in this institutional space, are symptomatic of positions that operate considerably beyond the confines of the classroom, the course, and the university.  Along these lines, it is also worth bearing in mind that professors maintain the professional, ethical responsibility forthrightly to represent the most advanced knowledges in our fields of expertise (no matter how challenging–or even, occasionally, disturbing–they might seem).  In short, we must profess these knowledges; to do otherwise would be to shirk our professorial responsibility and render ourselves unworthy of maintaining our professorial positions.



    In evaluating all work done for this course, I will take account of how carefully, seriously, intelligently, enthusiastically, and imaginatively students engage with the concepts, issues, positions, and arguments addressed in the course and represented by the texts we read, by me, and by each other.


    Attendance is expected, every class of the semester.  This is a small class that meets only fifteen times during the semester, which we will conduct as a seminar.  We will count on everyone.  If you aren’t in class not only will you lose out, but so will everyone else.  Of course, emergencies come up now and then which make it impossible to attend; I understand that.  But please restrict absences to emergencies, and please let me know as soon as possible if you cannot make a class, and why not—I appreciate this notice a great deal.


     My foremost aim in teaching this course is to help you to learn something of significance and value.  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 wait until you feel like you have ‘THE right comment’ or ‘the PERFECT way of expressing what you have in mind’; those times never come, and striving for that is not only self-defeating but contrary to what critical theory is all about–which is a ceaselessly ongoing exploration of issues where there never is only one right answer, and never simply one best way to express anything.  

    At the same time, quality of participation is more important than quantity, although a sufficient quantity is indispensable to insure quality.  Quality class participation does not involve merely asking questions of me and merely responding to my questions; quality class participation requires you to work to advance a serious and substantial discussion with your peers about the texts and topics subject to discussion.  Come to class prepared to try to help us all in interpreting and reflecting on implications of ideas you encounter in the readings you do for class.  Don’t wait for me, the teacher, alone to do this.  In a graduate seminar you should come to each class with specific ideas you want to talk about, specific questions you want to ask, specific comments you want to make, specific interpretations you want to raise, specific arguments and critiques you want to advance, specific connections and applications you want to draw, etc.–not just follow my lead.  

    Learning and contribution will constitute a significant proportion of your overall course grade.  As part of this grade, you will write two learning and contribution reflection papers.  For each of these papers I will ask you questions that will require you to reflect upon both what you have been learning as a student enrolled in this course, and how, along with how well, you have been contributing to your own learning, and to that of others in the class.  As I see it, these papers provide you a useful opportunity to communicate with me how you believe you are doing with the course, as well as why so, and to demonstrate your critical self-reflexivity.  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 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.  Performance on these papers will represents a principal component of your learning and contribution grade for each half of the semester (although I will also include my own reflections on what I otherwise observe concerning your learning and contribution).

    I  will provide you specific directions in the assignments I give you for each of these papers.  Each learning and contribution grade (including each learning and contribution reflection paper) will be worth 20% of the overall course grade, for a total of 40% of the overall course grade.  I estimate you should aim, in writing these papers, for approximately 10 double-spaced pages on average (or an approximate average of 2500 words), although, again, quality is what I am concerned with, not quantity–and the page (and word) targets are merely suggestions.

Class Presentation Paper

    Each student will be responsible for preparing one paper one week during the semester to help spark discussion of the readings for that week.  The paper will help us interpret and reflect on the implications of ideas raised by the readings for that week.  I will give specific assignments with each presentation paper.  

    You will be responsible for posting your paper on our Desire2Learn electronic classroom website no later than 12 midnight the Sunday before the Tuesday we meet to discuss the readings you are writing about.  Everyone should read the class presentation papers posted for that week between Sunday night and our Tuesday class.  

    After the class when we discuss your paper as well as the readings assigned for the week, you will have the opportunity to revise the paper in light of class discussion–and subsequent rethinking–before you submit it to me a week later for a grade.

    The class presentation paper will also be worth 20% of the overall course grade.  Once again, I estimate you should aim, in writing this paper, for approximately 10 double-spaced pages on average (or an approximate average of 2500 words), although, as with the learning and contribution reflection papers, quality is what I am concerned with, not quantity–and the page (and word) targets are merely suggestions.
Term Paper

    Each student will write one term paper, due at the end of the semester.  Here you will engage with a significant issue or nexus of issues in critical theory that you have been reading about and we have been discussing together this semester.  You will stake out an argument for a position here in dialogue with writers we will have read and discussed this semester (including, as you find useful, writers of the literary texts we will take up), and connect this argument with specific areas of particular interest and concern to you (including, potentially, areas where you maintain substantial knowledge and experience).  By the middle of the semester, you should submit a prospectus to me outlining what you are thinking of writing about in this paper, and why, as well as describe for me some of what you at least tentatively plan to cover in developing your argument.  I will respond to what you propose in your prospectus with suggestions and recommendations for where to go from there.

    The term paper will be worth 40% of the overall course grade.  Here I estimate you should aim, in writing this paper, for approximately 20 double-spaced pages on average (or an approximate average of 5000 words), although, as with the learning and contribution reflection papers and the class presentation paper, quality is what I am concerned with, not quantity–and the page (and word) targets are merely suggestions.


    Papers should be typed, double-spaced, using standard margins, on standard white letter-sized paper. You may use any standard font you wish, but make sure the point size is at least 11.  Number your pages, type your name at the top of your first page, and staple the separate pages of your paper together (or paperclip them together, if you prefer).  Follow the rules and conventions of Standard Written English, including MLA style for citation and documentation of sources.   

Late Papers
    If an emergency or an exceptional situation develops that mean you need to turn your paper in late, let me know as soon as possible; keep me informed, and we can deal with this.  If you turn in papers late without explanation or without seeking my permission to do so, you will suffer a grade penalty.

Academic Honesty
    Plagiarism is of course a serious offense, and unethical as well as contrary toward enabling you to learn through what you do.   

Final Comment

    Please consult with me as much as you wish as you are working on your papers; I will be glad to help.  I’m happiest when everyone does well, and everyone has found writing her or his paper to be a satisfying experience.  I am glad to work with you to make that happen.


     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 discussions and readings, 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.

    * 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 early in the semester. *


     In the interest of accountability–me to you–I am here providing you a weblink to: 1) my autobiographical profile: http://people.uwec.edu/ranowlan/PROFILE_.htm.  You are also welcome to look me up 2.) on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1755562371 [If you are interested in becoming facebook friends, feel free to contact me about that].  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!