Section 002, T 7-9:45 pm, HHH 323    

    Office: HHH 425,  Office Phone: (715) 836-4369
    Office Hours: MWF 1-1:30 pm, M 6:40-7:20 pm, T 9:50-10:30 pm,
    and W 5:40-6:20 pm as well as By Appointment.



    Some basic definitions:

Theory = a conceptual explanation of an entity, including, in particular, of why it is as it is.

Criticism = an evaluative judgement in relation to an entity, supported by reasons and evidence.  

In short, theory grounds and thereby enables criticism while criticism in turn draws upon and, through practical application, generates the impetus for further development and refinement of theory.  


    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.        
    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 of "introduction to theory and criticism” 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 fact, as I see it, the foremost aim of beginning to learn, to think, read, write, and act theoretically must be to develop and refine the ability to recognize, understand, explain, account for, and justify the theories that guide and sustain us throughout our everyday lives.  Likewise, the foremost aim of beginning to learn to think, read, write, and act critically must be to develop and refine the ability to recognize, understand, explain, account for, and justify the kinds of judgements, the ways in which we make judgements, and the standards and criteria we use in making judgements throughout everyday life.  

    In short, in this course you to begin to learn how to theorize, and to critique, not simply to know something about–to be able merely to identify and describe–the theories and critiques that others produce.    


    Explicit concern with the study of theory and criticism in English Studies reflects and responds to how much the disciplines of English and their constituent fields of intellectual inquiry have changed over the past approximately forty-five 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.  In these challenges, cultural studies is continuous with developments over the last forty years of work in literary studies from structuralism through postmodernism and beyond.  

    Ultimately more important, however, in distinguishing cultural studies from (traditional) literary studies, therefore, 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 very 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.                                    

    In particular, work in theory and criticism inquires into how, and for what, is work to be conducted within contemporary English studies, the field of text and cultural studies encompassing yet extending beyond the traditional combination of literary studies plus rhetoric and composition studies plus linguistic studies plus studies in creative writing plus English educational studies.  In other words, work in theory and criticism helps us explore how are diverse kinds of texts studied within “English” today approached, made sense of, interpreted, evaluated, and, yes, put to use–as well as why so.

       We will begin this course, after an initial class of introduction and orientation, by spending three weeks working with selections from Jeffrey Nealon’s and Susan Searls Giroux’s The Theory Toolbox: Critical Concepts for the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.  This book provides an accessible introduction to and overview of a consensus within contemporary theory and criticism on how to make sense and use of the following fundamental concepts: theory, author/ity, reading, subjectivity, culture, multiculturalism, popular culture, media culture, ideology, history, space/time, postmodernism, poststructuralism, postcolonialism, difference, gender, sexuality/queerity, race/ethnicity/nationality, class, and agency.  After working with The Theory Toolbox we turn next to read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which we will interpret and evaluate by making use of concepts from The Theory Toolbox and by drawing upon prior approaches to interpretation and evaluation, especially of ‘classic’ literary texts, with which you are already familiar.  From that point forward we will work with Lois Tyson’s Critical Theory Today: a User-Friendly Guide to learn about eight leading approaches in contemporary theory and criticism: psychoanalytic theory and criticism; Marxist theory and criticism; feminist theory and criticism; deconstructionist theory and criticism; lesbian, gay and queer theory and criticism; new historicist and cultural materialist theory and criticism; African American theory and criticism; and postcolonial theory and criticism.  We will spend one week on each of these approaches, including discussing, as Tyson does, how they each enable us to make sense of The Great Gatsby.  At the same time, as we study each of the eight approaches, we will also engage a limited selection of primary texts representative of the approach in question (while reading and referring as well to some additional relevant sections from The Theory Toolbox).  As time permits, I will periodically screen a short film or two in class per critical theory, offering us a further opportunity for extrapolation, application, and reflection in relation to ideas that studying the critical theory raises for our consideration.  Finally, in our last, final examination, class each student will make a short individual presentation, sharing with the rest of us a thoughtful articulation of what is most important to you in relation to your own developing theoretical and critical outlook at this point in your life.  


    In order to gain the most you can from this course you will need to keep several points in mind as we proceed:  

    First, we can only engage with a small number of significant contributions to the history of theory and criticism, and only very briefly in each case.  This is an introductory course, the opening 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 ‘theory and criticism’.   Feel free to explore writers and writings we do engage further than our assigned textbooks allow and feel free as well to bring other theories and modes of critical practice, represented by other figures and groups, to bear as we proceed in discussion.

    Second, the reading you will do for this course should challenge you; you should find it difficult from time to time, 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 the excitement that comes from working with these levels and kinds of knowledge-practices, but I do not want you to imagine you necessarily should be able to do this right away, with ease.  For most of you, this is your first course in theory and criticism, whereas, in most cases, you had already taken many courses, and read many texts, in the area of “literature” well before you began your university 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 maintaining even much, if any, familiarity with what literature involves and what it might mean to make sense 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; by no means–learn through talking, and through becoming highly 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, or the already familiar; work in theory and criticism 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 and theoretical manner, you will need to follow this path as well.

    Fourth, you have to be an active participant in this course; you will gain relatively little if you don’t bring to bear your own knowledge, experience, interests, and concerns in direct relation to the concepts and practices we study.  You have to find ways to make what we read and study relevant to and for you; you need to extrapolate; you need to start engaging as someone who seeks to theorize and critique, not just learn something about theories and modes of criticism.  A cynical approach toward the material here which regards it as simply what you are ‘required’ to study in one course for one semester in order to fulfill the requirements of a major or minor on the way to a degree will leave you confused, frustrated, unfulfilled, and actually disabled from taking advantage of the contribution this course is designed to make toward your success in that very same major or minor field of study.

    Fifth, I know people enrolled in 284 have in many cases taken many English as well as other higher educational courses for a number of years now; all of this, including the meaning, value, significance, relevance, and effectiveness of what you have studied and learned, as well as have not, should become ‘grist for the mill’ in our discussions together this semester.  Be confident you have much to bring to bear and to offer–all of you, always.

    Sixth, you will need to participate actively–to ask questions, to offer comments, to not be afraid to speak, and to write what you think, no matter how tentative, uncertain, or confused you might find yourself (i.e., you must be prepared to take the risk that what you say, or write, might turn out to be ‘wrong’).  In fact, don’t look for hard and fast, simple right and wrong answers; the study of theory is as much, if not much more, about asking questions as it is about securing answers, and this process is continuously ongoing.  All positions are limited, in one way or another, and those seriously engaged in theoretical and critical work quite readily recognize and accept this fact.  We are constantly striving to extend, develop, refine, enrich, renew, open up, pass beyond, approach again, and to push in new and different directions–and all the while continuously updating our thinking and understanding because the objects of our theoretical and critical work do not remain static.  They change, often dramatically, with time and over space, plus the work of theorizing and critiquing these objects changes them, in turn requiring new theorizations and new critiques.

    Seventh, and finally, while I welcome you always to disagree with anything we read whenever you find yourself so inclined, and even strongly encourage you to do so, I expect, at the same time, that you will always 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 to work hard first to do justice to the positions you engage, and to be able to re-present them as their adherents would recognize them, even when (perhaps especially 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 theoretical and critical positions that you can stake out as your own, and use your sincere commitment to these as the basis for your engagement with others; to do so means you have to listen, read, and try very hard to understand where others might be coming from, how so, and why so (including when they seem to be coming from very different places than you).


    The following required books are available in the UWEC Bookstore at Davies:

1.    Nealon, Jeffrey and Susan Searls Giroux.  The Theory Toolbox: Critical Concepts for the Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences.  Lanham, MD: Rowan & Littlefield, 2003.  ISBN#: 0-7425-1994-5.  Purchase.

2.    Fitzgerald, F. Scott.  The Great Gatsby.  New York: Scribner, 1925/1953.  ISBN#: 978-0-7432-7356-5.  Purchase.

3.    Tyson, Lois.  Critical Theory Today: a User-Friendly Guide.  Second Edition.  New York: Routledge, 2006.  ISBN#: 0-415-97410-0.  Purchase.

Please note well that Modern Criticism and Theory: a Reader, edited by David Lodge and Nigel Wood, is also listed as a rental text for this class at the UWEC Bookstore.  But, because we will be using so few selections from this book, I am going to have each of these photocopied, scanned, and then posted to our Desire2Learn electronic classroom website, as well as to the student-faculty shared, or ‘W’, drive, so that you can read these selections that way (as well as those I am including from The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism).  You may feel free to acquire the three required textbooks from any other source, besides the UWEC Bookstore, as you wish (including by ordering these on-line from outlets like www.amazon.com), as long as you do obtain access to these in time to do the reading for class, and to bring your books to class.  I will supply copies of all additional texts we will use in class for the purposes of illustration and application, including audio, video, and audio-visual texts.


9/7    Introduction and Orientation/Why Theory?

    Read for Class, 9/7: The course syllabus and The Theory Toolbox, Chapter 1, “Why Theory?,” 1-8.

9/14    Author/ity and Reading.

    Read for Class, 9/14: The Theory Toolbox, Chapter 2, “Author/ity,” and Chapter 3,“Reading,” 9-20.

9/21    Subjectivity and Culture.

    Read for Class, 9/21:  The Theory Toolbox, Chapter 4, “Subjectivity,” and Chapter 5, “Culture,” 35-82.

    * Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #1 Assigned, T 9/21 *

9/28    Ideology, History, and Space/Time.

    Read for Class, 9/28: The Theory Toolbox, Chapter 6, “Ideology,” Chapter 7, “History,” and Chapter 8, “Space/Time,” 83-124.

10/5    The Great Gatsby.
    Read for Class, 10/5: The Great Gatsby, the entire novel.

    * Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #1 Due, F 10/8, in my English Department Mailbox, HHH 405, by 3 pm. *

10/12    Psychoanalytic Critical Theory.

    Read for Class, 10/12: Critical Theory Today, Chapter 2, “Psychoanalytic Criticism,” 11-52.   Also, Freud, “The Premises and Technique of Interpretation, and Manifest and Latent Elements [From Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis]” and Rose, “Daddy” (Available on Desire2Learn and the Student-Faculty Shared–the ‘W’–Drive).

10/19    Marxist Critical Theory//Class.

    Read for Class, 10/19: Critical Theory Today, Chapter 3, “Marxist Criticism,” 53-81, and The Theory Toolbox, “Class,” 180-186.  Also, Williams, “Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory,” and Althusser, From “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses” (Available on Desire2Learn and the Student-Faculty Shared–the ‘W’–Drive).

    * Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #2 Assigned, T 10/19 *

10/26    Feminist Critical Theory//Gender.

    Read for Class, 10/26: Critical Theory Today, Chapter 4, “Feminist Criticism,” 83-133, and The Theory Toolbox, “Gender,” 164-170.  Also, Woolf, From A Room of One’s Own; De Beauvoir, “Myth and Reality, and Woman’s Situation and Character [From The Second Sex]”; and Cixous, “Sorties [Selections]” (Available on Desire2Learn and the Student-Faculty Shared–the ‘W’–Drive).

11/2    Deconstructionist Critical Theory//Postmodernism and Poststructuralism.

    Read for Class, 11/2: Critical Theory Today, Chapter 8, “Deconstructive Criticism,” 249-280, and The Theory Toolbox, “Postmodernism” and “Poststructuralism,” 125-140.  Also, Miller, “The Critic as Host” and Nietzsche, “On Truth and Lies in an Extra-Moral Sense” (Available on Desire2Learn and the Student-Faculty Shared–the ‘W’–Drive).

    * Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #2 Due, F 11/5, in my English Department Mailbox, HHH 405, by 3 pm. *

11/9    Lesbian, Gay, and Queer Critical Theory//Queer.

    Read for Class, 11/9: Critical Theory Today, Chapter 10, “Lesbian, Gay, and Queer Criticism,” 317-357, and The Theory Toolbox, “Queer,” 170-175.  Also, Weeks, “The Sphere of the Intimate and the Values of Everyday Life [From Invented Moralities]”; Sedgwick, From “Introduction” to Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire and From “Introduction: Axiomatic” to Epistemology of the Closet; and Halberstam, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Men, Women, and Masculinity” (Available on Desire2Learn and the Student-Faculty Shared–the ‘W’–Drive).

11/16    New Historicist and Cultural Materialist Critical Theory//Agency.  

    Read for Class, 11/16: Critical Theory Today, Chapter 9, “New Historical and Cultural Criticism,” 281-315, and The Theory Toolbox, Chapter 11 “Agency,” 193-206.  Also, Greenblatt, “The Circulation of Social Energy” and White, “The Historical Text as Literary Artifact” (Available on Desire2Learn and the Student-Faculty Shared–the ‘W’–Drive).

11/23    African American Critical Theory//Race.

    Read for Class, 11/23: Critical Theory Today, Chapter 11, “African American Criticism,” 359-415, and The Theory Toolbox, “Race,” 175-179.  Also, Hughes, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”; Smith, “Toward a Black Feminist Criticism”; and Hooks, “Postmodern Blackness” (Available on Desire2Learn and the Student-Faculty Shared–the ‘W’–Drive).

    * Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #3 Assigned, T 11/23 *

11/30    Postcolonial Critical Theory//Postcolonialism.

    Read for Class, 11/30: Critical Theory Today, Chapter 12, “Postcolonial Criticism,” 417-449 and The Theory Toolbox, “Postcolonialism,” 140-155.  Also, Said, “Crisis (in Orientalism]” and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Taban Lo Liyong, and Henry Owuor-Anyumba, “On the Abolition of the English Department” (Available on Desire2Learn and the Student-Faculty Shared–the ‘W’–Drive).

    * Final Exam Assignment Distributed and Explained, T 11/30 *

12/7    Conclusion: Final Examination Presentations and Discussion.

    * Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #3 Due,  F 12/10, in my English Department Mailbox, HHH 405, by 3 pm. *


    I will often make initial presentations (i.e., give short lectures) in class, but I will always allow room at the end for questions, while we will frequently engage in extended class discussions of the readings, and of the issues they raise for us.  Discussions will follow a variety of possible formats, including work from time to time in pairs or small groups.  In addition, I may on occasion ask you to write responses to questions or other prompts prior to class, or to do brief writing in class, in order to enhance the effectiveness of our class discussion.  As time permits, I will on occasion screen short films, and we will discuss these in relation to the issues in theory and criticism you are reading about and studying at that same time in the semester.  We may also make use of other kinds of cultural texts as sites of extrapolation and application.  

    In sum, although I will direct the course of our engagement with the texts and topics you will be studying this semester, I strongly welcome–and encourage–all of you to become actively involved in class by frequently asking questions and offering comments, including in response to each other.  You tend to learn much better that way than by merely listening to me, and you should keep in mind throughout the semester that you are all in the same position because you are all new students of theory and criticism; you therefore can–and should– help each other.  No pressure either–participation in discussion is not about ‘looking good’ in front of me or your peers; it’s about learning, including by working with–and through–confusion, uncertainty, hesitancy, puzzlement, lack of familiarity, and lack of understanding.  It’s quite reasonable–and indeed quite helpful–to voice all of those kinds of responses, and, in fact, doing so often ‘looks much better’ than holding back or pretending that ‘everything is, always, perfectly clear’.  Lots and lots of things I don’t know and find difficult to understand, that will always be the case, and I’m continually learning (not to mention continually ‘re-learning’ and ‘un-learning’); no reason why you should be any different from me in that regard.  At the same time, don’t feel intimidated by what I know, or about how I am able to articulate what I know; after all, I’ve been working at this for many, many years, and I’m supposed to have acquired a certain amount of expertise, and to have achieved a certain amount of fluency.  Otherwise I wouldn’t be in my position.  I don’t ever expect you to maintain or demonstrate a professor’s level of knowledge, and articulateness.  You are beginning students of theory and criticism; relax and work from where you are at.


    The following is the official mission statement of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, a mission which includes us all, and which each and everyone of us helps realize, bringing to bear our own distinct talents, abilities, knowledges, skills, backgrounds, and experiences:

    We foster in one another creativity, critical insight, empathy, and intellectual courage, the hallmarks of a transformative liberal education and the foundation for active citizenship and lifelong inquiry.

This is a mission to aspire to meet, and each of you has a vitally important role to play in helping us do so.

    The following, in addition, are the five most important, official goals all UWEC undergraduate courses are designed to help you meet, and this class can help you with all five of these goals:

    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.


    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 your pursuit of this learning.   I expect students to strive to bring actively and extensively to bear–in your essays and contributions to class discussion–insights you gain through your engagement with the texts and topics addressed as part of this course, and I expect you 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 your own lives, past and present.  And I expect you to let me know right away when and if you have any questions or problems about any aspect of how you are doing in and with the course, so that I can do whatever I possibly can to help answer these questions and solve these problems.

    In addition, you need to be ready to engage seriously, thoughtfully, and respectfully–at all times–with positions that you don’t necessarily agree with, and even with ones that you may find troubling.  After all, great works of art–including many great works of literature–are often created with the deliberate aim of disturbing, even shocking many people who will encounter these.  Often the intent is to provoke strong response, as well as thought–and action–that goes beyond what has become familiar, conventional, commonsensical, and, especially, merely “safe.”  Likewise, as you will learn to understand and appreciate over the course of the semester, work in critical theory, across diverse varieties, often aims, quite deliberately, to defamiliarize commonsense, and often follows the famous declaration by postmodernist critical theorist Gilles Deleuze: “thinking begins in provocation.”  You are capable of dealing with these kinds of challenges in an intellectually serious, mature adult manner–and I will expect you to do so.  


General Criteria: Evaluation of Student Performance

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


    This course cannot contribute effectively to students' learning if students do not attend class.  What happens in class is an indispensable part of this course.  Therefore, the following attendance policy will apply for students enrolled in this section of English 284, except for students who must miss an extended period of the semester due to an emergency for which they arrange an officially authorized absence from class (in the latter case, we will work together to make arrangements to help you make up for what you miss):

1.)    Students who exceed a maximum of one unexcused absence will suffer a penalty of a loss of one full letter grade for each additional unexcused absence.  An unexcused absence is one where you offer no reasonable excuse for missing, but choose this to be a day that you miss class.

2.)     Students should provide me with verifiable confirmation of a debilitating injury or illness, or of any other serious individual or family emergency, for the excusing of any further absences beyond the maximum of two unexcused absences.

3.)    In addition to the maximum of two unexcused absences, students may miss a maximum of two excused absences without suffering a grade penalty.  Four  total absences will result in a loss of  two full letter grades.  Students who miss more than four classes total should withdraw from the course and enroll again in a subsequent semester; otherwise they will most likely receive a grade of F.

* Students are expected to arrive for class on time and to stay through the very end of class.  If you don’t do so, you won’t be counted as attending class.  In addition, you need to be awake, alert, and attentive while in class; 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 school work in class or attending to other–personal–matters irrelevant to what we are focusing on at that point in time in class (e.g., you should avoid text-messaging, or web-searching, or facebooking, or playing games on your cell phone, or checking out youtube while in class–just to mention a few common temptations).  *

** In addition, IT IS VERY IMPORTANT IN THIS CLASS THAT YOU COME TO CLASS HAVING DONE THE READING REQUIRED OF YOU PRIOR TO CLASS.  The quality of your own learning, and that of the rest of your classmates depends upon you taking this seriously and carrying it out conscientiously. **

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.  At the same time, 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 for talking’s sake–especially 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 requires you to work to advance a serious and substantial discussion with your peers about the texts and topics subject to discussion.

     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 writing for class is also a valuable way to contribute to class.  At the same time, listening carefully, respectfully, and thoughtfully in class discussions is yet another important means of contribution–as is taking time to meet and talk with me outside of class.  In fact, meeting and talking with me outside of class can be an excellent way to contribute–as well as to show me how seriously interested in and engaged with the course material you are.

    Each learning and contribution reflection paper will offer you an opportunity to apply concepts and practices we have just been working with to cultural texts of your own choice.  Paper one will ask you to apply select concepts from The Theory Toolbox.  Paper two will ask you to apply–and to compare and contrast–psychoanalytic, Marxist, and feminist critical theory.  Paper three will ask you to apply–and to compare and contrast–three of the following approaches: deconstructionist critical theory; lesbian, gay, and queer critical theory; new historicist and cultural materialist critical theory; African American critical theory; and postcolonial critical theory.  In addition, I will offer you the opportunity to briefly assess how, along with how well, you have been contributing to your own learning and to that of your classmates in the preceding approximately one-third of the semester to help me gain an even better sense of your learning and contribution (in ways I might not otherwise recognize).  These papers provide you the occasion not only to show me your learning, but also to advance this, as you often learn a great deal about something by writing about it.  At the same time, these papers provide you the means to demonstrate your critical self-reflexivity, the hallmark of a liberal arts education.

    I  will provide you specific directions in the assignments I give you for each of these papers.  I estimate, as a rough average, you should aim here for approximately 6 to 8 double-spaced typed pages in length (or 1500 to 2000 words) for the first learning and contribution reflection paper, and approximately 10 to 12 double-spaced pages in length (or 2500 to 3000 words) for the second and third learning and contribution reflection papers.  The grade in response to each of these papers will constitute the following percentages of the overall course grade: #1, 25%; #2, 30%; and #3, 30%.

Final Examination
    This assignment–involving preparation for a short individual presentation to make to the class–will be distributed and explained at our next to last class meeting.  It will function therefore as a ‘take-home’ exam, but, at the same time, take a form you likely never previously encountered with a final, and, I suspect, based upon my experience using this with previous Introduction to Theory and Criticism classes, a form that is also considerably more interesting and valuable than usual.  You will receive a grade worth 15% of the overall course grade for your performance on this final examination assignment. 

General Formatting Requirements: Papers
    All papers should be typed, double-space, on standard white letter-sized (8" X 11") typewriter, computer printer, or photographic paper.  You may use any standard font you wish but your print size must remain between 10 and 12 points.  Pages should be numbered, and your name should be at the top of the first page.  The pages of your paper must be stapled together and you are responsible for doing so; I do not bring staplers to class.

     You are also responsible for proofreading your paper before you turn it in; if you catch any typographical errors, you should neatly cross these out and write your corrections on top of these with a pen.  

    I will expect you, furthermore, to observe the rules and conventions of Standard Written English to the very best of your ability in writing these papers, including MLA format for citation and documentation of sources outside of those read for–and discussed in–class. 

Plagiarism and Academic Honesty

    Plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty are serious offenses.  They not only undermine the goal of learning but also are exploitative of the work of others.  Deliberate dishonesty in written work as part of this course will result in a failing grade.  In addition, plagiarism may result in further disciplinary action on the part of the University administration, ultimately including expulsion from the University.  Also, if you directly echo someone else’s thoughts as articulated in the course of class discussion you should add the last name, followed by the letters CD (for class discussion), followed by the date, in a parenthetical citation right after the end of the sentence, viz: (Nowlan, CD, 9/19/10).

Late Papers

    Late papers will lose credit unless you have made arrangements ahead of the time with me to turn in these papers late due to a serious personal or family problem.  Alternately, if you provide a reasonable explanation why you are late shortly after the paper is due, you won’t suffer any grade penalty.  It is best to talk with me directly about this, and to make sure to do so within a week’s time of the due date at the absolute latest.  I do understand that at times real problems come up for all of us, no matter what we might intend or prefer.  


    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 be equally as important, and at times 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; making myself available for conferences with you outside of class is 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.  Keep in  mind “my office hours” are for you, and I would rather talk with you during my office hours than do anything else, so please do not worry about “disturbing” me in coming to talk with me.   These office hours are time that I have set aside to meet, talk, and work with you.

    * Any student who has a disability and is in need of classroom accommodations, please contact both the instructor and the Services for Students with Disabilities Office, Old Library 2136; for more information on the services the latter office provides you, check out their webpage: http://www.uwec.edu/ssd/index.htm *


    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, site, and to look me up 4.) on facebook, http://www.facebook.com [If you are interested in becoming facebook or myspace 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 very open, honest, and forthright with you about all of that.  I look forward to a great semester working together with you!