HHH 222, MW 1-2:50 pm, Fall 2011, UWEC


Office: HHH 425 Office Phone Number: (715) 836-4369
Office Hours: MW, 2:50-3:20 pm and 7:15-7:45 pm, as well as By Appointment
ranowlan @uwec.edu

    I first encountered the music of Joy Division during my freshman year as an undergraduate student, 1979-1980, at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.  Right away, the band made a powerful impact upon me.  At the time I identified strongly with punk music, from the likes of the Sex Pistols and the Clash.  Listening to Joy Division I heard the same freshness, urgency, and intensity that attracted me to punk, yet also something that transcended the immediacy and directness of punk, conveying, in contrast, a richly resonant sense of both distance and precision, a controlled fury emanating from a fiercely passionate yet also agonizingly vulnerable exploration of emotional, psychological, physical, and metaphysical extremes.  I knew, if Joy Division would come to tour and play in the United States, that I would do whatever I possibly could to see them live.  And I played their music in my dorm room, for my friends, as well as on my radio show, at our campus community radio station, WESU.  I learned that they did plan to come to the US shortly before I was shocked and saddened to read a detailed account, in an independent music zine I subscribed and contributed to at the time, of the life and death of Ian Curtis, lyricist, vocalist, and frontman for Joy Division, starting and ending with an account of his suicide on May 18, 1980, at the age of 23.  Ever since then I regularly listen to the music of Ian Curtis and Joy Division;  it continues to live on and travel with me throughout my life, through every twist and turn I follow–and I continue to play this music today for my friends and on my radio show, at Eau Claire’s community radio station, WHYS.  

    I am far from alone.  As indicated on the back jacket of Paul Morley’s book, Joy Division Piece by Piece Writing About Joy Division 1977-2007, “Joy Division are the perennial cult post-punk band.  Four young men with weight on their shoulders, the drama and the tension of their music remains unsurpassed.”  Indeed, if anything, Joy Division is more popular and widely respected today than in the band’s time: new generations of music listeners–and new generations of  musicians–repeatedly, ever since the band’s end in 1980, discover Joy Division, and discover for themselves meaning, value, and significance in Joy Division’s music.  Paul Morley, aptly described on the back jacket of his book about Joy Division as “one of Britain’s foremost cultural commentators for 30 years,” well demonstrates the kind of obsessive interest Joy Division can elicit.  Morley has frequently written about Joy Division, again and again for now well over 30 years, and Morley has continually found Joy Division stimulates his thinking about–and his feeling in relation to–an ever widening array of deeply substantial issues (especially questions and considerations of “the ultimate,” interestingly enough, what critical theorist Mircea Eliade famously argues represents the core concern of all religions, and, implicitly as well, all spiritualities).  At the same time, as Morley more than once mentions, in Joy Division Piece by Piece, it seems to him, in a strange yet profound way, that ‘he has always been writing about Joy Division’.  

    Joy Division’s posthumous achievement is remarkable (even as they did break through, winning critical as well as popular recognition as a band of major importance, prior to Ian Curtis’ death).  Joy Division: four working class lads from Salford and Macclesfield, in Northwest England, all of whom taught themselves how to play music from scratch, and who struggled to attract much of any interest, let alone acclaim, in the years they moved from “Stiff Kittens” to “Warsaw” to “Joy Division.”  Only near the end of their time together did it become possible for Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner, and Steven Morris all to stop working full-time at other jobs while also making and playing music.  Joy Division only recorded two studio albums, Unknown Pleasures and Closer (as well as multiple singles and a limited array of demos, unfinished takes, and live performances).  Although they gigged extensively, Joy Division left, by early 21st century standards, a paucity of video performances, as well as few live performances on radio, and few interviews, through any venue.  Yet, by the beginning of the 21st century not only did serious writers begin to write steadily more and more articles and books about Joy Division, and Ian Curtis, but also three feature-length films have been made in which the band, and especially Curtis, represent a principal focus: Twenty Four Hour Party People, directed by Michael Winterbottom, released in 2002; Control, directed by Anton Corbijn, released in 2007, an Ian Curtis biopic; and Joy Division, directed by Grant Gee and released in 2007, a Joy Division biopic.  Images of Joy Division, and again especially of Ian Curtis, now enjoy iconic stature, and continue to influence new trends in fashion and design.  Numerous, first, ‘alternative’ and then, second, ‘indie’ bands, emerging from the early 1990s onward, frequently cite Joy Division, and, often enough, in particular, Ian Curtis, as major influences on their own music, and on their own ethos and aesthetics.  Pitchfork retrospectively rates both Unknown Pleasures and Closer as each a perfect 10 out of a possible 10.  In Macclesfield, Ian Curtis’ hometown, the 30th anniversary of his death sparked a summer-long festival of exhibitions, tours, tribute compositions and performances, and workshops, lectures, and symposia.  Today, in Manchester, Peter Hook is re-using the famous Factory name for musical and related kinds of artistic projects (Factory Records was the independent label, led by the late Tony Wilson, that played a huge role in Manchester music and culture from the late 1970s through the mid 1990s, with Joy Division the first and possibly still the most famous of the bands Factory recorded).   Hook and partners opened FAC 251 in 2010; he is also reviving use of the Haçienda trademark (the most famous and influential center of the mid 1980s to mid 1990s ‘Madchester’ club scene, including the birthplace of acid house, was the Haçienda, which closed in 1997, and which was demolished and replaced by apartments in 2002).  Hook also has toured across Britain, Western Europe, and North America, playing the entirety, first, of Unknown Pleasures (2010) and then, second, of Closer (2011), with his latest band, Peter Hook and the Light.  New Order, which Hook, and fellow surviving Joy Division bandmembers Sumner and Morris formed shortly after Curtis’ death (and who were joined eventually by Gillian Gilbert), rarely ever played any Joy Division music.  Sumner and Morris sharply criticize Hook for his current actions.  As a result, Hook is now even further alienated from Sumner and Morris, increasing the already considerable extent of estrangement that exists today among these former New Order–and surviving Joy Division–bandmates, but that’s another story.

    I write the last because Joy Division and New Order strike me, and indeed many others who have long followed both, as ultimately far more discontinuous than continuous phenomena.  Central in explaining this discontinuity is Ian Curtis.  All members of Joy Division contributed enormously to the band’s collective achievement, and the band would not exist without all of their contributions.  Likewise their manager, Rob Gretton, their producer, Martin Hannett, their graphic designer, Peter Saville, and their promoter, publicist, and mythmaker, Tony Wilson (to name just a few of the other most prominent figures in the yet larger group that truly made Joy Division what it was) all provided indispensable contributions.  But, to borrow words from the man himself, Ian Curtis was–and is–the heart and soul of Joy Division.  His lyrics, his vocals, his sensibility, his style, and his presence set the pace.  And it is undoubtedly due to the tragic complex of multiple difficult tensions he suffered, and his ultimate suicide, that the band has achieved the kind of historic aura that it has.  

    Commonly, many identify the music of Joy Division, and with understandable reason, certainly encouraged by Curtis’ suicide, as ‘depressing’, but this characterization vastly oversimplifies both the music and Curtis’ life.   Curtis, as you shall learn, like so many of us in fact do, fused myriad contradictions; as those who knew him best frequently attest, he often acted like ‘just an ordinary bloke’ of his age coming from the place and time in which he lived.  He was friendly, considerate, fun-loving, outgoing, and playful; he was rakish and laddish; he was kind and generous; he was shy and sensitive; he was intense, ambitious, driven, troubled, wild, and disturbed; he was obsessive, compulsive, self-absorbed, and ego-centric; he was lonely and vulnerable; he was loving and romantic; he was cold and distant; he was physically exuberant and mentally voracious; and he was physically and mentally ill.   His lyrics and Joy Division’s music, moreover, transcend the details of Ian Curtis’ own individual life–and death–even if this connection marks one significant direction for making sense of what these lyrics, and this music, can mean.  Like the best music, and the best lyrics, that of Ian Curtis and Joy Division invites, encourages, and enables listeners to situate this music, and these lyrics, in contexts far removed from any direct connection with the life, or death, of those responsible for initially creating it, so that listeners are able to make compelling sense and use of this music in ways that its initial creators could never have dreamed.  The sheer fact that the music of Ian Curtis and Joy Division continues to attract new fans and to exert significant impact on new listeners long after Curtis’ death, and long after the end of Joy Division’s time together as a band, underscores how far this music engages with thoughts, feelings, convictions, ideals, perceptions, and sensations that surpass and supersede the merely autobiographical.  

    But I’d like to add a further more personal response to the characterization of Joy Division’s music as ‘depressing’ because not only do many serious commentators on this music find it demands this kind of personal openness and honesty, but also because I myself do not find it ultimately depressing, in my own experience, as much as I understand and respect that kind of response.  Here’s how I summed up this point at the time of the 30th anniversary of Curtis’ death:

    Ian Curtis was a great lyricist and a powerful singer and frontman; together with the rest of those involved in Joy Division, he fearlessly explored intensities, extremities, subliminalities, and liminalities that many others never would or could, and his music, while often extremely dark and somber, is never simply that–it is about seeking, struggling, reflecting, examining, and opening one’s self up to sensation, perception, emotion, and understanding that presses past familiar layers of protective mediation toward not only intense vulnerability and emptiness but also intense clarity and insight.  Joy Division’s music fuses the intellectual with the emotional with the spiritual with the somatic–in terms of exploration and questing, in both passionate and dispassionate terms, and in relation to a striving for and imposition of control meeting up with the absolute limits and sheer impossibility of meaningfully striving for and seeking to impose control– all with a seamlessness, and a brilliance, rarely matched in popular rock music.  Ian Curtis himself was certainly a highly–and multiply–troubled, often highly confused, and often highly difficult man, but he was also a brilliantly intuitive, driven, committed, impassioned, thoughtful, and serious lyricist and musician.


    Twice in the recent past I taught English 484, Seminar in Theory and Criticism, to focus, broadly, on “Critical Studies in Contemporary Popular Music Cultures” (in the spring of 2008 and the fall of 2009) and, also, in the fall of 2008 I taught English 372, to focus, again broadly, on “Music, Protest, and Resistance.”  I enjoyed teaching all three classes immensely; the students did great work, including many highly impressive final projects, from which I learned much myself that I most definitely continue to value.  This time around I wanted to teach a different kind of class in popular music as cultural studies, one focused more narrowly on a particular musician and musical group, working with that musician and that musical group as a point of departure, and a point of return, in engaging a host of critical and theoretical, as well as historical and cultural, issues.  Given my long fascination with Ian Curtis and Joy Division, the choice of musician and musical group became obvious quite quickly. 

    Nonetheless, a focus on Ian Curtis and Joy Division presents a major challenge.  Striving to meet this challenge will ultimately make this class a more rewarding experience for all of us.  Curtis and fellow members of Joy Division deliberately eschewed overt reference to immediately topical issues in their music.  As a result, in this class we will investigate the often complexly mediated ways that intelligent, sensitive popular music productions reflect, respond to, draw upon, rework, transform, impact, and influence larger social-historical conditions and relations.  Curtis maintained limited direct interest in the most immediate form that ‘politics’ takes, for most people, and, the same with many immediate cultural trends (in short, he would be the kind of fellow student, if he were here, who would likely tell us that he finds what most people think of as ‘politics’ of ‘little interest’, and he would likewise evince little interest in current cultural fads he was not directly ‘into’ himself) .  He, and following his lead, the rest of Joy Division as well, made music focused on phenomenological, existential, mythical, spiritual, metaphysical, psychological, aesthetic, fantastical, romantic, and dystopian dimensions of human experience.  Nevertheless, political and cultural forces did affect Curtis and Joy Division, but those that exerted the greatest impact are deeper and longer, encompassing dimensions of human experience extending beyond merely what directly and uniquely pertained to a life lived in Greater Manchester, England from 1956 through 1980.  If politics is ultimately about relations of power–and if culture is ultimately about creativity, productivity, expression, communication, activity, and interactivity–then matters of politics and culture consumed Curtis, even, often enough, overwhelming him, pulling him to an extreme edge.  Notoriously, Curtis derived the name ‘Joy Division’ for his band from the name given by the Nazis to concentration camp victims forced to serve as virtual sex slaves for their captors.  At times this association, and other oblique references to Nazi Germany at gigs and in promotional materials, led observers to imagine a connection between Joy Division, the band, and Nazi-style ideology.  But, aside from representing typical, punk-style, critical appropriation and resignification of what a dominant culture finds most frightening and disturbing, and which it has worked the hardest to marginalize, even to repress, in choosing the name ‘Joy Division’ Curtis identified himself, and his band, with the victims, and with the humiliation and pain these victims suffered, as well as with their desire to escape and their fear that escape is impossible.  

    What’s more, the powerful appeal of Joy Division’s music long after Curtis’ death and the band’s end, as well as far away from Manchester itself, demonstrate that making sense of Ian Curtis and Joy Division ‘in historical and cultural context’ directs us to explore widely, and to test out connections that superficially maintain little to do with the specific place and time in which Ian Curtis spent his life, and with the specific place and time in which Joy Division came together to make their music.  For this reason, readings in social theory that range from the classic tradition through modernism to post-modernism and beyond provide us with lenses, or frameworks, that will better enable us to come to grips with the meaning, value, and significance of Ian Curtis’ and Joy Division’s music (and even with the life and death of both Curtis and his band) than concentrating solely on studying unique peculiarities of British, especially English, and in particular Greater Manchester, culture and politics from 1956 through 1980.  We won’t ignore those latter kinds of contexts, yet we won’t limit ourselves to working only with them, and we certainly won’t uncritically privilege them over other possibilities.  

    In line with the last point, we do not need limit ourselves to accepting interpretations and perspectives offered by surviving contemporaries of Curtis, including his fellow Joy Division bandmates; their interpretations and perspectives are hardly necessarily automatically ‘truer’ or ‘more accurate’ than ours, when we can argue compellingly in support of different takes.  Often, in fact, those closest to an individual or a group of people can be too close, thereby missing what makes the creative work the former do matter the most to those who never had and never will have any personal connection with that individual or group.  Besides, creating music, like creating any kind of art, is not identical with interpreting what it means–and, certainly, the meaning of any musical composition, like any achieved work of art, is by no means necessarily identical with what its ‘author intended’.  We, as listeners, recreate the work of art, in making sense of what it means, by situating it in contexts that may well not be the same as those its ‘authors’ had in mind, or knew about.  To recast this last point in other (more theoretical) terms, the initial ‘writer’ (such as a musician) of a ‘cultural text’ (such as a piece of music) ‘encodes’ it so as to invite and encourage particular kinds of ‘decodings’–i.e., particular kinds of readings–by its ‘readers’ (in the case of music, these readers are, of course, listeners), yet these readers may well ‘decode’ the text differently: ignoring, refusing, or contesting the direction the writer suggests readers should follow in reading the text that this writer has written.  Furthermore, the writer of a cultural text is often not fully conscious of what kinds or what varieties of ‘encodings’ the writer is giving the text that the writer writes; readers may well be in better positions to recognize these encodings for what they are.  

    In addition, given that we will work with ‘Ian Curtis and Joy Division’ as a point of departure, and as a point of return, we will explore larger critical and theoretical, as well as cultural and historical, issues that will, periodically, take us a considerable distance from specific details of Curtis’ and Joy Division’s life and times.  We will make use of Ian Curtis’ and Joy Division’s music as a lens, or a framework, to explore critical and theoretical positions, concepts, and arguments, as well as cultural and historical events, relations, tendencies, and trends–in addition to doing the reverse, i.e.,  using theory and criticism, and historical and cultural texts, as lenses, or frameworks, to make sense of Ian Curtis and Joy Division.  And, in considering ‘Ian Curtis and Joy Division in (Historical and Cultural) Context’, we will keep in mind that the contexts within which we can, and should, usefully situate ‘Ian Curtis and Joy Division’ include historical times before Curtis was born as well as before the band formed, along with historical times after Curtis’ death and after the band ended.  Likewise, we will keep in mind that the contexts within which we can, and should, usefully situate ‘Ian Curtis and Joy Division’ include cultures (along with subcultures and countercultures) outside of, and even far away from, those located in Greater Manchester, England, from 1956 through 1980.  


    We will begin our work together, after an initial period of introduction and orientation, with two weeks learning about–and practicing working with–concepts for listening to and analyzing (popular) music.  This will give us a common conceptual grounding and a common critical vocabulary, helping unite us a class, rather than just accepting disparities people already bring with them to our class concerning knowledge of or confidence about analyzing (popular) music.  In this kind of class, as in all music as cultural studies classes I teach, you don’t need ever to have studied music before, and you don’t need ever to have played music before, to do well; if you bring that kind of experience with you all well and good, but if you don’t it won’t hurt you.  You all bring with you other kinds of knowledge and experience that will prove equally relevant and useful.  

    After class number five, we will turn directly to focus on Ian Curtis and Joy Division.  First, we will spend one week screening and discussing the film Control (2007, Directed by Anton Corbijn) and then we will spend a second week screening and discussing the film Joy Division (2007, Directed by Grant Gee).  From that point we will proceed, over the course of the next three weeks, to read and discuss selections, first, from Mick Middles’ and Lindsay Reade’s Torn Apart: the Life of Ian Curtis and then, second, from Paul Morley’s Joy Division Piece by Piece Writing About Joy Division 1977-2007.  Next, again over the course of three weeks, we will draw connections between, on the one hand, ‘Ian Curtis and Joy Division’, and, on the other hand, select readings in social theory, from the classic tradition through modernism to post-modernism and beyond.  Then, finally, we will spend four weeks engaged with students’ individual final project presentations.  

    As you can undoubtedly well imagine, I am excited about this class, even as I find it daunting, at the same time, to recognize that this is likely the first time a university class focused on this topic has ever been taught, anywhere.  I aim to make use of my interest, my background, my knowledge, and my experience to make the class all the more interesting for you, even while declaring right here and now that I think of myself as one with a great deal yet to learn, including about the focus of our class and including from you.  This past summer I spent three weeks in Manchester and Greater Manchester, attending the 2011 Manchester International Festival (music, art, and culture) as well as doing research on ‘Ian Curtis and Joy Division in (Historical and Cultural) Context’.  I spent extended periods of time in Manchester and Greater Manchester twice before this summer as well (including attending the 2009 Manchester International Festival).  I aim to make use of what I have picked up as a result of these travels, and the experiences I gained in Manchester and Greater Manchester, to benefit this class.  And I am currently in early stages of planning a prospective future book, tentatively titled ‘Ian Curtis and Joy Division in (Theoretical and Critical) Context’.  We shall see what happens with that.   Working as a professor at UWEC does not leave much time or energy left over to work on writing and publishing a book, especially one as original and ambitious as this would need to be  What’s more, I already must satisfy a contract to write a book titled Directory of World Cinema: Scotland before focusing too much on any other book.  Yet, if you become interested in the focus of this class, and are able and willing to do so, I will welcome you working with me, in the future, on ‘Ian Curtis and Joy Division in (Theoretical and Critical) Context’ as a book project.  

    The following are required:

1.    Middles, Mick and Lindsay Reade.  Torn Apart: the Life of Ian Curtis.  Omnibus Press: 2006, 2007, 2009.  ISBN#: 978-1-84722-508-0.

2.    Morley, Paul.  Joy Division: Piece by Piece: Writing About Joy Division 1977-2007.  Plexus: 2008.  ISBN#: 978-0-85965-404-3.

3.    Joy Division.  Heart and Soul  4 CD Compilation with 80 Page Booklet Included, Box Set.  London Records, 1997.  Original ASIN#: 3894 29040-2.  Re-released in the US by Rhino/WEA, 2001.  ASIN#: B00005MKHQ.

4.    Machin, David.  Analysing Popular Music: Image, Sound, Text.  Sage, 2010.  ISBN#: 978-1-84860-023-2.

5.    Negus, Keith.  Popular Music in Theory: an Introduction.  Wesleyan, 1996.  ISBN#: 0-7456-1318-7.
6.    Farganis, James, ed.  Readings in Social Theory: The Classic Tradition to Post-Modernism.  6th Edition.  McGraw-Hill, 2010.  ISBN#: 978-0-07-811155-6.

    All of these are available for you to purchase at the UWEC Bookstore. You may purchase them elsewhere, as you wish, as long as you do acquire them in time to use for class; these days many students find many required texts for their classes through on-line booksellers.  In fact, you may well be able to obtain all of these required texts at lower prices, often considerably lower, from the latter kinds of sources.  All six are readily available through that means from multiple different vendors.  Used copies are OK, and in the case of Torn Apart, if you obtain a copy of the first or second instead of the third edition that will be all right, as the authors only made small additions with the second and then the third editions to what they put together for the first edition.  For Heart and Soul, please do buy this box set and not just make use of MP3 (or similar) versions of the songs on this album; we will be working with the booklet contained as part of this box set, and I also want you obtain a physical copy of Joy Division music, which I think is only appropriate given the intense concentration we will be dedicating toward analyzing it over the course of the semester.

     I will supply additional written texts, in the form of photocopied handouts, or on Desire2Learn and the W (the Student-Faculty Shared) Drive.  I will also supply copies of the visual and audio-visual texts–along with the additional audio texts–we will make use of from time to time as well.  


W 9/7: Introduction and Orientation.

M 9/12: Concepts for Listening to and Analyzing (Popular) Music, 1

    Read for Class, M 9/12: Selections, Daniel J. Levitin, This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, Chapters 1-2 (What is Music?  From Pitch to Timbre, and Foot Tapping: Discerning Rhythm, Loudness, and Harmony), 13-82 [Available on D2L and via the W, the Student-Faculty Shared, Drive].

W 9/14: Concepts for Listening to and Analyzing (Popular) Music, 2

    Read for Class, W 9/14: David Machin, Analysing Popular Music: Image, Sound, Text, Chapter 1, “Discourses of Popular Music,” 13-31, and Chapter 4, “Analysing Lyrics: Values, Participants, Agency,” 77-97.

    * Initial Short Analytical Paper Assigned, W 9/14 *

M 9/19: Concepts for Listening to and Analyzing (Popular) Music, 3

    Read for Class, M 9/19: Machin, Analysing Popular Music, Chapter 5, “Semiotic Resources in Sound: Pitch, Melody, and Phrasing” and Chapter 6, “Sound Qualities: Arrangement and Rhythm,” 98-132, as well as “Conclusion,” 211-214.

W 9/21: Concepts for Listening to and Analyzing (Popular) Music, 4

    Read for Class, W 9/21: Keith Negus, Popular Music in Theory: an Introduction: From Chapter 1, “Audiences,” 13-35; Chapter 3, “Mediations,” 66-98; and From Chapter 5, “Histories,” 136-153 and 160-163.

    * Initial Short Analytical Paper Due, F 9/23, by 4 pm, in my English Department mailbox, HHH 405 *

M 9/26: Screening, Control.  

W 9/28: Discussion of Control and Related Issues.

    Read for Class, W 9/28: Selected Reviews and Related Readings, To Be Announced.

    * W 9/28, Assignment: proposal of two possible issues/sets of issues you might like to focus on for your final project, in any two of the fourteen areas I identify as possible contexts to work with, for this final project (see syllabus subsection “Final Project” in syllabus section “Specific Requirements for the Course Grade”). *

M 10/3: Screening, Joy Division.

    * M 10/3, Due: proposal of two possible issues/sets of issues you might like to focus on for your final project, in any two of the fourteen areas I identify as possible contexts to work with, for this final project (see syllabus subsection “Final Project” in syllabus section “Specific Requirements for the Course Grade”).*

W 10/5: Discussion of Joy Division and Related Issues.

    Read for Class, W 10/5: From Heart and Soul Box Set Booklet: Paul Morley, “Listen to the Silence”; Jean-Pierre Turmel,”Ich und Blindheit”; and Jon Savage, “‘Good Evening, We’re Joy Division,” plus Possible Additional Readings, To Be Announced.

M 10/10: Discussion, Mick Middles and Lindsay Reade, Torn Apart: the Life of Ian Curtis, 1.

    Read for Class, M 10/10: Chapter 1, “Memories of a Child’s Past,” 1-12; Chapter 3, “I Remember When We Were Young,” 22-33; Chapter 4, “Here Are the Young Men,” 34-55; Chapter 5, “Leaders of Men,” 56-72; and Chapter 7, “This the Way, Step Inside,” 87-101.

W 10/12: Discussion, Torn Apart: the Life of Ian Curtis, 2.

    Read for Class, W 10/12: Chapter 8, “Isolation,” 102-111; Chapter 9, “Monochrome,” 112-123; Chapter 10, “Unknown Pleasures,” 124-35; Chapter 12, “Taking Different Roads,” 151-159; and Chapter 14, “Atmosphere,” 172-181.

    * First Reading/Listening/Viewing Interpretation and Reflection Paper Assigned, W 10/12 *

M 10/17: Discussion, Torn Apart: the Life of Ian Curtis, 3.

    Read for Class, M 10/17: Chapter 17, “Closer,” 208-217; Chapter 18, “The Present is Well Out of Hand,” 218-229; Chapter 20, “Watching the Reel As it Comes to a Close,” 243-257;  Chapter 21, “When All’s Said and Done,” 258-266; “Postscript: Ian Curtis Day, May 18, 2005," 267-270; and “Afterword 2009, The Icon Who is Larger than Life,” 271-282.

W 10/19: Discussion, Paul Morley, Joy Division Piece by Piece Writing About Joy Division 1977-2007, 1.

    Read for Class, W 10/19: II, 12-21; III, 22-34; XII, 74; XIII, 75-78; XXIV, 108-110; XXV, 111-112; and XXVI, 113-115.

M 10/24: Discussion, Joy Division Piece by Piece Writing About Joy Division 1977-2007, 2.

    Read for Class, M 10/24: XXIX, 122-144; XXXI, 150-158; XXXIV, 162-174; XLV, 228; XLVI, 229; and XLVII, 230.

W 10/26: Discussion, Joy Division Piece by Piece Writing About Joy Division 1977-2007, 3.

    Read for Class, W 10/26: LIII, 255-269; LIV, 270-273; LVII, 303-308; LIX, 309-310; LXIII, 336-344; LXIV, 345-359; and LXV, 360-367.

    * First Reading/Listening/Viewing Interpretation and Reflection Paper Due, F 10/28, by 4 pm, in my English Department mailbox, HHH 405 *
M 10/31: Discussion, James Farganis, ed., Readings in Social Theory: The Classic Tradition to Post-Modernism, 1.

    Read for Class, M 10/31: “Introduction: The Classic Tradition to Post-Modernism: an Overview,” 1-25; “Introduction: Émile Durkheim: Anomie and Social Integration,” 51-54; “From Émile Durkheim: Egoistic Suicide and Anomic Suicide,” 54-63; “Introduction: Georg Simmel: Dialectic of Individual and Society,” 111-113; and “From Georg Simmel: The Stranger,” 122-125.

W 11/2: Discussion, Readings in Social Theory: The Classic Tradition to Post-Modernism, 2.

    Read for Class, W 11/2: “Introduction: George Herbert Mead: The Emergent Self,” 127-128; “From George Herbert Mead: Mind, Self, and Society,” 128-37; “Introduction: Symbolic Interaction,” 297-299; and “From Herbert Blumer: Society as Symbolic Interaction,” 300-307.

M 11/7: Discussion, Readings in Social Theory: The Classic Tradition to Post-Modernism, 3.

    Read for Class, M 11/7: “From Arlie Hochschild: Exploring the Managed Heart,” 316-328;  “Introduction: Sex, Gender, Queer Theory, and Race,” 385-389; and “From Candace West and Don H. Zimmerman: Doing Gender,” 410-419.

W 11/9: Discussion, Readings in Social Theory: The Classic Tradition to Post-Modernism, 4.

    Read for Class, W 11/9: “Introduction: Phenomenological Sociology and Ethnomethodology,” 257-258; “From Peter Berger: the Sacred Canopy,” 275-287; “Introduction: Functionalism,” 157-159; and “From Robert K. Merton: Manifest and Latent Functions,” 176-192.

    * Second Reading/Listening/Viewing Interpretation and Reflection Paper Assigned, W 11/9 *

M 11/14: Discussion, Readings in Social Theory: The Classic Tradition to Post-Modernism, 5.

    Read for Class, M 11/14: “Introduction: Max Weber: The Iron Cage,” 73-77; “From Max Weber: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,” 77-81; “Introduction: Conflict Theory,” 193-195; “From C. Wright Mills: The Structure of Power in America,” 203-212; “Introduction: Post-Modernism,” 357-358; and “From Michel Foucault: the Carcereal,” 358-368.

W 11/16: Discussion, Readings in Social Theory: The Classic Tradition to Post-Modernism, 6.

    Read for Class, W 11/16: “Introduction: Karl Marx: Alienation, Class Struggle, and Class Consciousness,” 29-31; “From Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: The Manifesto of the Communist Party,” 31-43; “Introduction: Global Society: Two Perspectives,” 441-442; “From Ulrich Beck: The Terrorist Threat: World Risk Society Revisited,” 442-449; and “From Joseph E. Stiglitz: Globalism’s Discontents,” 450-455.

    * Second Reading/Listening/Viewing Interpretation and Reflection Paper Due, F 11/18, by 4 pm, in my English Department mailbox, HHH 405 *

M 11/21, W 11/23, M 11/28, W 11/30, M 12/5, W 12/7, M 12/12, and W 12/14: Presentations, Final Projects.

R 12/21: Final Project Due, by 12 noon, in my English Department Mailbox, HHH 405.




    As a 400 level seminar, we will engage with course material by way of collective discussion, following a variety of formats, including, prospectively, a number of creative activities.  And it is important, because this is a 400 level seminar, that we aim to hear from everyone on a regular basis, not just when working in small groups.  I do not plan to present, let alone lecture, all that often, at any considerable length, as that’s not what an advanced undergraduate level seminar is all about.  But I will direct the course of our discussion at all times.  In addition, our class meets for one hour and fifty minutes twice a week because we are focused on music, and we need the time to listen to music in class; we will listen to a significant amount of music in just about every class period we meet (as well as watch films, music videos, and assorted video clips, from time to time as well).  Over the last four weeks we meet, you will be each presenting excerpts of work in progress on your individual final projects and the rest of the class will offer you critiques to help you as you develop, revise, and refine your work on those same projects.


    The following is the official mission statement of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, a mission which includes us all, and which each 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 aims to help you, in particular, with goals number two and three:

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 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 music–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.”  The music of Joy Division, and the life and death of Ian Cutis, certainly raise multiple challenging, and indeed disturbing, issues; we will deal with these forthrightly, but in a thoughtful, sensitive, and compassionate manner.  You are capable of dealing with these kinds of issues in an intellectually serious, mature adult manner–and I will expect you to do so.


General Standards for Evaluation of Student Work

    In evaluating all work done for this class, I will take account of how carefully, seriously, intelligently, enthusiastically, and imaginatively students engage with the concepts, issues, positions, and arguments addressed in the class and represented by the texts we read, the music to which we listen, the films we screen, by me, and by each other.  I will also take account of how carefully, seriously, intelligently, enthusiastically, and imaginatively students engage with class activities, projects, and assignments.  


    This course cannot contribute effectively to students' learning if students do not attend class.  What happens in class is indispensable.  Therefore, the following attendance policy will apply:

1.)    Students may miss a maximum of three classes without needing to provide an official excuse, although students should always let me know, preferably beforehand, if and when you are not going to be able to attend a class, just as the same as you would for a shift at a paid job, because we will count on everyone in the work we will be doing together this semester.

2.)     If you need to miss more than three classes total over the course of the semester you should seek to arrange an officially authorized absence, through the Dean of Students’ OfficeOtherwise you will lose one full letter grade, off your final grade, starting with your fourth absence from class.  If you need to miss more than three classes, please contact me, as well as the Dean of Students’ Office, as soon as possible, so we can work together to make arrangements to help you make up what you miss.  

3.)    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.  You should avoid text-messaging, or web-searching, or facebooking, or playing games on your cell phone–just to mention a few common temptations–while we are working together in class.   If you repeatedly do any of these things you will suffer a loss of one to two full letter grades (depending on the severity of the issue) for learning and contribution during each period of the semester where this becomes a problem.  Since you are all mature, responsible adults, I respect, if you choose to ignore this warning, that you also choose to accept the consequences.  In other words, I won’t repeatedly warn you not to do any of these things; instead I will just note what you are doing, and adjust your grades accordingly.  I know that cell phones–and other electronic devices, especially providing access to the internet and the world wide web–present plenty of temptation, and most of us are used to being plugged in and connected all the time, but you can and will concentrate better, learn more, and contribute more and better if you set these devices aside and put them away while we are working together in class, unless you are using these devices as part of work on class activities or projects.  If I can do so, you can too.  

4.)      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.

Initial Short Analytical Paper

    To give you an early chance to work with concepts for listening to and analyzing (popular) music, you will analyze a single recording of a single performance of a single Joy Division song from Heart and Soul, describing as precisely as you can what you hear over the course of the song and offering an interpretation of what it might mean.  I will encourage you to situate the song in whatever contexts make sense to you in seeking to interpret it, while making use of concepts from readings by Daniel J. Levitin, David Machin, and Keith Negus.  I will also encourage you to seek creative ways to describe sounds, as well as sequences and combinations of sounds, you hear, drawing upon your strengths as English majors or minors, who may or may not otherwise know anything about music theory.  This early paper will, in addition, give me the chance to give you some initial feedback, including on how you are doing grade-wise.  I will give you a more precise explanation of what I would like you to do with the specific assignment itself, but you should note well that I will ask you to reflect on the music beyond the lyrics with this assignment, and to do so as you are best able.  This is not meant as a particularly difficult assignment, by any means, and I hope that you will find it enjoyable as well as otherwise rewarding to pursue. Your grade on this initial short paper will be worth 10% of the overall course grade.  And although I will not mandate a page or word target or limit, as a very rough guide you may think of this as an approximately 6-8 double-space page (or an approximately 1500 to 2000 word) average-length paper.

Reading/Listening/Viewing Interpretation and Reflection Papers

    Each of these two papers will offer you an opportunity to engage with ideas we have just been working with, from readings, from listening to music, and from viewing films and video clips.  Paper one will ask you to engage with ideas from the movies Control and Joy Division as well as from readings in Torn Apart and Joy Division Piece by Piece Writing About Joy Division 1977-2007 (among other sources).  Paper two will ask you to engage with ideas from Readings in Social Theory.  I will ask you questions that will require you to draw directly upon (including directly cite) and to directly grapple with positions, concepts, and arguments articulated in readings, listenings, and viewings.  The more precisely and effectively you are able to do so, the better you will do on these papers. 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 8 to 10 double-spaced typed pages (or approximately 2000 to 2500 words) in length for each reading/listening/viewing interpretation and reflection paper. The grade in response to these papers will be worth 12.5% of the overall course grade in each case, for a combined total worth 25% of the overall course grade.

Participation and Contribution

    As a discussion-intensive class, this one depends on your participation.  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, however, 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, is negative participation.  In other words, quality participation is key, although a certain quantity is definitely necessary in order to enable quality. Quality class participation does not, however, involve merely asking questions of me and responding to my questions; quality class participation requires you to work to advance a serious discussion with your peers about the texts we are addressing, and about the issues these texts raise for our consideration.  And please, as this is a 400 level senior seminar, even if you are shy about speaking in front of a whole class–and I can understand, sympathize, and respect reasons why this might be–try to do your best to talk, even as part of the whole class, now and then; start slowly and work your way up.  Keep in mind that what you have to say matters, and that everyone struggles to articulate ideas in conversation about serious and substantial topics as precisely as we might ideally like, but we all do in fact gain a great deal from taking a stab at it, and speaking forth even when we are confused and unclear.  We can help each other in all the more precisely formulating what we each aim to say; all you need to do is give us something, in discussion, to work with, to build upon, develop, and refine.  If you do so, that’s a highly positive contribution. You will receive two participation and contribution grades, each corresponding roughly to one-half of the semester, with each worth 12.5% of the overall course grade, for a combined total worth 25% of the overall course grade.

    In evaluating participation and contribution I will take into account the following factors: quality and consistency of engagement in class with the texts and topics we are focusing on; quality and consistency of constructive and respectful engagement with positions represented by the texts and topics we are addressing, by me, and by your fellow classmates; quality and consistency of preparation for class and for assignments, activities, and projects; quality and consistency of contribution toward your own learning and that of others (outside as well as inside of class); quality and consistency of class attendance, including avoiding becoming repeatedly distracted or distracting; and quality and consistency of your demonstration in your papers and in your final project that you are engaging seriously and thoughtfully with what we are doing together as a class.      

Final Project
    Each student will present her or his work researching and critically analyzing an important issue or set of issues raised in a specific (historical and cultural) context within which it makes ready sense to situate ‘Ian Curtis and Joy Division’.  In other words you will draw connections between ‘Ian Curtis and Joy Division’ and the issue, or issues, you choose to focus on, using the former to illuminate the latter and vice-versa.  The following are contexts in which students can focus their final projects: 1.) Ian Curtis’ interest in, as well as Joy Division’s lyrical and musical resonance with, dark romantic, (post)modernist, and avant-garde literature and art, especially dystopian, and especially with pronounced iconoclastic, miserablist, and/or shock elements; 2.) The turbulent economics and politics of 1970s England and Britain, including the resonance of this turbulence within English and British popular culture, and including the wide array of specific social conflicts connected with and feeding into this turbulence; 3.) Transformations in the English and British workplace economy (and of the English and British working class) from the mid-1960s through the advent of Thatcherism at the end of the 1970s and into the early 1980s, including a decline of traditional industries, traditional union strength, and the post-WWII social democratic consensus combined with a rise of the service sector, neo-liberalism, and a new emphasis on individualism and entrepreneurialism, 4.) Key developments, and key evolutionary trends, in English, and British, popular, youth, and consumer cultures, since the late 1950s through the early 1980s; 5.) From pre-punk to punk to post-punk (music and culture) in England and Britain, especially in Greater Manchester; 6.) The challenges of becoming part of a popular rock band, and the pressures, temptations, excesses, and disorientations entailed, including dealing with media, publicity, and critical as well as popular attention and acclaim–at the time Joy Division was a band (1977-1980) and both before and since; 7.) Manchester and Greater Manchester history and culture; 8.)  Epilepsy, depression, and other, related forms of mental and physical illness; 9.) Ian Curtis’ pronounced interest in death, oblivion, destruction, isolation, loneliness, emptiness, nothingness, suicide, and so on; 10.)  Changing and complicated kinds of gender and sexual identities and relations, especially for working class and lower middle class males from Northern England, growing up in the 1960s and the 1970s; 11.)  Changing conceptions of English, and of British, national identity, proliferation of contesting forms of ‘being’ English and British, and post-imperial relations between race and nation in England and Britain; 12.) From Joy Division to New Order; 13.) Ian Curtis’ and Joy Division’s influence and impact upon subsequent musicians and subsequent musical scenes and styles; 14.) The legacy of–as well as the developing and enduring mystique surrounding–Joy Division, and Ian Curtis in particular; 15.)  Resonances of Ian Curtis’ and Joy Division’s music with matters of economic, political, social, or cultural import today–and tomorrow.

    No more than three students may work on a final project in any one of the preceding fifteen contexts I have just identified, but these are all sufficiently broadly articulated so that each one allows you plenty of room to explore many possible kinds of narrowly specific interests.  Of course, for your final project, you will not attempt to ‘cover’ any one of these broad contexts; not by any means (that would be absolutely impossible in the time we have together).  You need instead to find a narrowly specific issue, or set of closely related, narrowly specific issues, which fit within one of these fifteen contexts, and work on that as the focus of your final project.  I will help you narrow to reach an appropriate focus.  Students will determine the focus of their final projects in consultation with me; you will need to gain my approval for your focus.  And we will start on this process–of finding a provisional, working focus, for everyone–early in the semester.

    Students will present work on final projects, in process, through a series of stages in the last four weeks of classes, allowing for useful feedback and constructive criticism from me and the rest of the class.  In short, we will all work together to help each other make these the best they can be.  You are welcome to incorporate audio, visual, audio-visual, and/or performative components into this work as you are able and interested–and as you think would help make it all the more effective and compelling–although, no matter what you do, each final project should include a significant, formal, written component.

    I will expect, as you develop your final project, that you will make use of readings for class and discussions in class, as well as films screened in class and music listened to in and for class. What you ultimately focus on may well, in fact, be prompted by these readings, discussions, screenings, and listenings.  

    You certainly can change your focus multiple times over the course of working on your final project; in fact I expect you will do so.  Don’t worry about that; welcome it as a useful stage in the process.  I will be happy to work with you throughout the process of working on this project, outside as well as inside of class, and in fact I encourage you to seek my assistance as you proceed, including multiple times.  

    I will provide further information, instructions, suggestions, and recommendations concerning the final project as the semester proceeds.  Your grade on the final project will be worth 40% of the overall course grade.  Yet once more, although I will not mandate a page or word target or limit, as a very rough guide you may think of this as an approximately 15-18 page double-space (or 3750 to 4500 word) average-length paper.  You will turn in the final version of your final project during final exams week.  

    I will take into account not only the quality of what you achieve with this final version but also how well you have worked on your project, including to develop and improve it, especially in response to feedback, suggestions, recommendations, and constructive criticism from me and your classmates, in determining your grade for your final project.  

General Formatting Requirement: 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 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.

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.

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, 9/26/11).


    I encourage you to meet with me in conference during office hours or at another mutually convenient time to discuss any issue of interest or concern related to what we are doing in this course.  Learning that takes place in conferences can 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, readings, listenings, and screenings, as well as to help you in your writing for and participation in this class.  I want to make sure that I do all that I can to help you succeed in this class 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, so please do not worry about “disturbing” me in coming to talk with me; these are times I have set aside to work with students; that is their purpose.  I am only designating a total of two regular hours for this purpose this semester because I don’t want to waste a lot of time holding regular office hours if students are not taking advantage of these specific hours.  At the same time, however, not scheduling that many regular office hours means I can be more flexible in arranging to meet with you at other times–which I will gladly do.  But you need to let me know that you would like to meet with me, and not assume that this is a big deal of any kind; I think it’s great when students want to meet, talk, and work on matters related to a class I am teaching.  I am pleased whenever you do so.   

    I will request that each student meet with me in conference to discuss and plan work toward her or his final project–at least once, although I strongly recommend meeting with me multiple times.  In the past, students have found it most helpful, and reassuring, doing so for 400 level seminar final projects in classes I’ve taught focused on topics in music and culture.  I want you all to succeed, and I want to work with you to make this happen.

* 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 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!