University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

Professor Bob Nowlan



    Section 401: T, 7 to 10:30 p.m., Screenings,
    and W 1:30-4 p.m., Discussions, HHH 321

    Four Credits
    First-Year Experience Program Class

    Fall 2002, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

    Office: HHH 425, (715) 836-4369
    Office Hours: M 12-1 and 3-5 p.m., T 10:30-11:30 p.m., W 10:30-11:30 p.m.,
    and By Appointment.

    Senior Student Mentors   

Contact Information and Office Hours
 JOHN KAISER: (715) 271-4751;; T 12:30-1:45, Willow Lounge, Davies Center,
and W 5-6, Racy's Coffee Shop
SHANE O'GORMAN: (715) 852-0309;; M 12-1 and F 11-1, The Cabin, Davies Center


    English 190: Introduction to Film, Video, and Moving-Image Culture  is an introduction to the critical study of film.  As the course title indicates, our critical inquiry extends, moreover, toward examination of film in video format, video as alternative to film, and both film and video as productions that take shape and exert impact as principal constituents of an even larger, more widely-encompassing moving-image culture.  (However, for the sake of simplicity of expression, I will refer from this point forward in much of the rest of this course explanation statement to ‘films’ when I am actually describing films, videos, and other kinds of moving-image cultural productions.)

    This course is designed neither to teach you how to make your own films, nor to provide you with an opportunity simply to enjoy watching films.  We will examine the ways in which films provide pleasure for their audiences.  Yet our goal will not be simply to (re)experience these pleasures ourselves, describe what they feel like, and then offer merely impressionistic and purely opinionated reactions on top of these descriptions that recount how far we can or cannot personally identify with and relate to what the films depict and what they attempt to make us feel.  Instead, our objective will be to seek to understand how and why films produce these pleasures in the ways that they do –and also to understand what else always happens, simultaneous with the provision of pleasure, as a result of the kinds of pleasures and the ways of providing pleasures films characteristically offer.  

    We will in fact give considerable attention to the many other effects–other than providing pleasure–that films can and do achieve, whether deliberately so or not.  In particular, we will inquire into films as providing us valuable knowledge about the real historical societies and cultures out of which they emerge and into which they exert their impact–even where offering this kind of insight does not constitute a conscious aim of the film makers themselves, and even when we must sharply critique the film’s representations in order to produce this knowledge.  

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

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

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


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

Many films, as well as many cinemas, aspire to meet two or three of these goals, often employing one as means toward the achievement of at least one of the other two (e.g., artistic expression as a vehicle of social critique).  Yet it is still useful, in beginning to come to terms with the aims of different kinds of film and cinema, to recognize these as primarily oriented toward serving one of these three ends.  (‘Cinema’ here refers to a particular institutional form governing the production, distribution, exhibition, and reception of a series of films, especially a series of films sharing common subjects, styles, social vantage points, and cultural backgrounds.)

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

    Rarely does Hollywood inspire us to believe we can and should act as critical citizens.  Critical citizens work both within their local communities and beyond the confines of local, regional, and even national boundaries by collaborating with others who share the same commitments.  These commitments involve combating injustice, inequity, discrimination, prejudice, and the other socially systemic and institutionally entrenched forms of violent abuse  which so many of our fellow human beings suffer every day of their lives–as well as striving to foster ecologically sustainable relations with the rest of the natural world that we as a species have so miserably failed to “steward.”   

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

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

    Contemporary Hollywood films often tend, moreover, to discourage us not only from questioning, challenging, and critiquing the social status quo but also from thinking for ourselves as we come to terms with what they represent to us in the course of our experience watching (and listening to) them.  These films frequently tell tales that represent “the way things are” as simply “the way they have to be”–or, even more insidious, as “the only way they can and should be.”  They manufacture worlds that comfort us with infantilizing illusions that we are invited to accept, without question, at least for the duration of a film, as the simple equivalent of “reality” itself.  They insert us into positions within the illusory worlds they construct such that we experience no incentive to reflect either upon the process of construction or the meaning of illusion, where we are reassuringly protected from having to confront any genuinely unsettling thoughts or feelings–i.e., thoughts or feelings that linger to trouble us long after the film has ended.  These films, moreover, flatter us by providing us with a false sense of our omniscience–false because these films not only do our seeing and hearing for us but also because they attempt to take charge as well of our thinking, feeling, reacting, and responding in relation to virtually everything we encounter from the beginning to the end of the film’s running time.  

    In this course we will reflect critically upon the processes of manipulation I have just recounted as well as examine a number of alternative models of film production and reception that challenge this interpellation of the film spectator-auditor (viewer-listener) into the position of uncritical, passive consumer.  We will also consider the contradictions involved in processes of film production, distribution, exhibition, and reception that spark usefully critical engagements with even the most  “conservative,” “mind-numbing,” “desensitizing,” and “trivializing” forms of mainstream Hollywood “blockbuster” film.

    It is important that we subject film to critical study because, over the course of the past 110 years, audio-visual texts, especially audio-visual texts organized around the moving image, have come to exert an extremely powerful impact upon the shape and substance of individuals' lived experience of their relationship to the conditions of their own existence.  This impact is today prospectively as powerful, if not indeed often considerably more powerful, than that exerted by traditional print media.  In fact, film, television, video, and “cyberspace” have become principal sites within our contemporary Western societies for the production and dissemination, as well as the reproduction and reinforcement, of meanings, values, ideas, ideologies, and social modes of thinking, understanding, feeling, believing, acting, and interacting, even when presented to us as "sheer entertainment."

    This course will begin, first, with a brief introduction to the problematics of representation and reality in film as well to the rudiments of critical media literacy.  From that point, we will turn, second , to learn about film makers’ use (to express and communicate meaning) of techniques of a.) mise-en-scène, b.) cinematography, c.) editing, and d.) sound.  We will here concentrate on particularly influential and innovative uses of these techniques, including representation from “independent” film makers working outside of Hollywood–and beyond the United States (as well as examples from historically significant Hollywood films).  After this, we will, third, inquire into principles of film narrative as well as alternatives to the live-action fictional feature, in the latter case exploring documentary, experimental, and animation film making.  Next, fourth, we will examine different ways film makers, working within different types of cinema, construct and convey meaning, as well as how audiences respond to and make sense of film meaning, investigating, in particular, relations between film and culture, and film and ideology.  In this section of the course we will engage in an in-depth introduction to significant issues of art and aesthetics, economics and politics, and history, theory, and criticism as these play out in moving-image culture studies.  Finally, fifth, we will explore alternate directions for the future of the moving-image, along with that of moving-image cultural production and reception.  In particular, we will here consider interrelations among film, video, television, and digital varieties of technology and media, especially as the last increasingly replaces analogue forms of the recording, storage, processing, and distribution of audio-visual information.

    The films I have selected to screen in this course represent a critically acclaimed and historically influential variety.   As I see it, one of my principal responsibilities in teaching this course, as an expert in cinema studies, is to introduce you to titles of films, and kinds of film making–as well as ways of interpreting and evaluating films–that you have not encountered before.  Most students in the many English 190 classes I have now taught to date express considerable gratitude for me providing them with such an “eye-opening” experience.  Therefore, to return to where I started (just in case I have not yet made this point quite evident), no, this is not a class where we simply watch a lot of popular, contemporary “movies” and then chat casually about them afterwards, focusing on what we “like” or not about them, or about how “cool” or not we find them.  If you are interested in learning something new, serious, and substantial about film, this is the right place for you; if not, it isn’t.


A.    The following three required texts are available at the UWEC Bookstore:

1.        Phillips, William H.   Film: an Introduction.  2nd Edition.  Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2002.   RENTAL.
2.        Kolker, Robert.  Film, Form, and Culture: the Cinema Studies CD-Rom. Version 1.03.   McGraw-Hill, 2001.  PURCHASE.

3.            Schroeppel, Tom.  The Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video.  2nd Edition.  Tampa, FL: Tom Schroeppel, 1982-2002.  PURCHASE.

B.    The following optional text is also available at the UWEC Bookstore:

            Benedetti, Robert.  From Concept to Screen: an Overview of Film and Television Production .  Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2002.  PURCHASE
C.    In addition, I will supply you with the following texts:

1.        Full credits listings and plot summaries as well as several sample reviews, critiques, references to official and unofficial websites, and interviews with film makers or brief essays on film subjects.  I will do this for each title we will screen in this course.  These texts will all be available either on the World Wide Web or, occasionally, in the form of photocopied handouts from print sources.  

2.        A number of supplementary essay and chapter excerpts on matters of history, theory, and criticism.  These will be available to you by means of Electronic Reserve (which I will explain early in the semester), and, occasionally, in the form of photocopied handouts.  

3.        Guides that I have prepared to help you grasp key concepts and methods for the critical study of film, video, and moving-image culture.   I will make these available on my UWEC faculty curricular website, on a Blackboard electronic classroom website I will create for our class, and, perhaps, on the UWEC Faculty-Student Shared Drive.   I will thoroughly explain how to access and make use of all of these resources well in advance of the time that you will first need to make use of them.

4.        Finally, I will supply copies of all films, videos, and electronic texts screened for study in this class.  We will screen these (primarily) in DVD and VHS formats with large-screen projection and high-fidelity stereo sound reproduction.   Most of the films I screen in the courses I teach at UWEC are my own personal copies, as this university at present maintains no regular source of funding to pay for films, videos, or DVDs used in classes.  Therefore, if you miss a class where we watch a film not readily available at a local library or video store, you will need either a.) to rent a copy from a local video store or library collection, or b.) arrange with me to schedule a make-up screening session on campus.  In short, I prefer not to loan out my own personal copies of titles screened in class for you to take home.  


F 8/30.    Introduction and Orientation.

T 9/3.        Screening, The Man Who Wasn’t There and Mulholland Drive.

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: 1.) Kasdan, Saxon, and Tavernetti, “Media Literacy” (Electronic Reserve); 2.) Kolker, CD-Rom, “Introduction”; and Hinrichs, 3.) “Becoming a Critical Viewer: Tips for Viewing Films” (Electronic Reserve) and 4.) “Analyzing Films: Theories, Themes, & Styles” (Electronic Reserve).

W 9/4.        Discussion: 1.) Representation and Reality: Introduction to Critical Media Literacy; 2.) The Man Who Wasn’t There and Mulholland Drive.

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting:  On The Man Who Wasn’t There and Mulholland Drive, To Be Announced.

T 9/10.    Screening, Gosford Park and Clerks .

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: 1.) Phillips, Chapter 1, 9-54;  Kolker, CD-Rom, 2.) “Mise-en-Scène” and 3.) “The Long Take”; and 4.) Schroeppel, 23-42.

W 9/11.    Discussion: 1.) Mise-en-Scène; 2.) Gosford Park and Clerks.

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: On Gosford Park and Clerks, To Be Announced.

T 9/17.    Screening, Citizen Kane and Seconds .

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: 1.) Phillips, Chapter 2, 55-98; Kolker, CD-Rom, 2.) “Lighting,” and 3.) “Camera”; and Schroeppel, 4.) 12-20 and 5.) 67-79.

W 9/18.    Discussion: 1.) Cinematography, Part One; 2.) Citizen Kane and Seconds.

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: On Citizen Kane and Seconds, To Be Announced.

T 9/24.    Screening, The Celebration and The Sweet Hereafter.

W 9/25.    Discussion: 1.)  Cinematography, Part Two; 2.) The Celebration and The Sweet Hereafter.

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting:  On The Celebration and The Sweet Hereafter, To Be Announced.

    Learning and Contribution Paper #1 Assigned.

T 10/1.    Screening, Natural Born Killers and Urbania.

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: 1.) Phillips, Chapter 3, 99-140; Kolker, CD-Rom, 2.) “Continuity Editing,” 3.) “Montage,” and 4.) “Point of View”; and 5.) Schroeppel, 43-66.

W 10/2.    Discussion: 1.)  Editing, Part One; 2. Natural Born Killers and Urbania.

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: On  Natural Born Killers and Urbania , To Be Announced.

T 10/8.    Screening, The Matrix and Run Lola Run .

W 10/9.    Discussion: 2.) Editing, Part Two; 2.) The Matrix and Run Lola Run.

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: On The Matrix and Run Lola Run, To Be Announced.

    Learning and Contribution Paper #1 Due.

T 10/15.    Screening, The Battle of Algiers and The Thin Blue Line.

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: 1.) Phillips, Chapter 4, 141-182; 2.) Kolker, CD-Rom, “Sound and Music.”  

W 10/16.    Discussion: 1.) Sound; 2.) The Battle of Algiers and The Thin Blue Line.

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: On The Battle of Algiers and The Thin Blue Line, To Be Announced.

T 10/22.    Screening, Following and Night on Earth .

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: 1.) Phillips, Chapter 8, 261-298; 2.) Kasdan, Saxton, and Tavernetti, “Elements of Meaning” (Electronic Reserve).

W 10/23.    Discussion: 1.)  Narrative; 2.) Following and Night on Earth.

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: On Following and Night on Earth, To Be Announced.

T 10/29.    Screening, American Movie and Roger and Me.

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: Phillips, Chapter 9, 299-317.

W 10/30.    Discussion: 1.) Alternatives to Live-Action Fictional Feature Films, Part One; 2.) American Movie and Roger and Me .

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: On American Movie and Roger and Me, To Be Announced.

    Learning and Contribution Paper #2 Assigned.

T 11/5.    Screening, La Jetee, Sans Soleil , and Princess Mononoke.

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: Phillips, 317-352.  

W 11/6.    Discussion: 1.)  Alternatives to Live-Action Fictional Feature Films, Part Two;  2.) La Jetee, Sans Soleil , and Princess Mononoke.

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: On La Jetee, Sans Soleil, and Princess Mononoke, To Be Announced.

T 11/12.    Screening, Last Year at Marienbad and Persona.

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: 1.) Shklovsky, “Art as Technique” and 2.) Althusser, “A Letter on Art to André Daspre” (Electronic Reserve).

W 11/13.    Discussion: 1.)  Film in Context, Part One: Art and Aesthetics, History and Society, Economics and Politics, and Theory and Criticism; 2.) Last Year at Marienbad and Persona.

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: On Last Year at Marienbad and Persona , To Be Announced.

    Learning and Contribution Paper #2 Due.

T 11/19.    Screening, Blade Runner and Wings of Desire.

    Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: Brecht, 1.) “Alienation Effects and Chinese Acting” and 2.) “The Popular and the Realistic” (Electronic Reserve); and 3.) Polan, “A Brechtian Cinema? Towards a Politics of Self-Reflexive Film” (Electronic Reserve).

W 11/20.    Discussion: 1.)  Film in Context, Part Two: Art and Aesthetics, History and Society, Economics and Politics, and Theory and Criticism, Part Two; 2.) Blade Runner and Wings of Desire.

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: On Blade Runner and Wings of Desire, To Be Announced.

T 11/26.    Screening, Man With a Movie Camera, Stranger with a Camera, and Out: the Making of a Revolutionary .

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: 1.) Solanas and Gettino, “Towards a Third Cinema” (Electronic Reserve); 2.) Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (Electronic Reserve).

W 11/27.    Discussion: 1.)  Film in Context, Part Two: Art and Aesthetics, History and Society, Economics and Politics, and Theory and Criticism, Part Three; 2.) Man With a Movie Camera, Stranger with a Camera, and Out: the Making of a Revolutionary.

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: On Man With a Movie Camera, Stranger with a Camera, and Out: the Making of a Revolutionary, To Be Announced.

T 12/3.    Screening, The Ploughman’s Lunch and The Truman Show.

    Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: 1.) Hill, “Film and Television” (Electronic Reserve); 2.)  Kellner, “Hollywood Film and Society” (Electronic Reserve); 3.) Miller, “Hollywood and the World” (Electronic Reserve); 4.) Kipnis, “Film and Changing Technologies” (Electronic Reserve); and 5.) Kolker, “Other Screens: th Future of the Image” (Electronic Reserve).

W 12/4.    Discussion: 1.) Other Screens: The Future of the Image/Media and Multimedia, Part One; 2.) The Ploughman’s Lunch and The Truman Show.

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: On The Ploughman’s Lunch and The Truman Show, To Be Announced.

    Learning and Contribution Paper #3 Assigned.

T 12/10.    Screening, Showdown in Seattle, Life and Debt, and The Miniature Earth.

W 12/11.    Discussion: 1.) Other Screens: The Future of the Image/Media and Multimedia, Part Two; 2.) Showdown in Seattle, Life and Debt, and The Miniature Earth.

        Required Reading by time of Class Meeting: On Showdown in Seattle, Life and Debt, and The Miniature Earth, To Be Announced.

    Learning and Contribution Paper #3 Due: W 12/18 by 1 p.m.
    in my English Department mailbox, HHH 405.

* It will prove necessary to complete readings due by the time of screening sessions in order to recognize important concepts to emphasize and issues to consider, as well as what in particular to look and listen for, as you attend to the screening of these titles.  We will discuss issues raised in these readings during our subsequent Wednesday discussion session, but you will likely not adequately understand and appreciate the preceding Tuesday night screenings unless you have completed these readings before coming to class Tuesday night.  Also, you will not have time to do all of these readings, plus the specific readings associated with each of the titles screened during the Tuesday night screening session, unless you keep up with this assigned reading as I assign it.  I will only announce the readings associated with each film screened in this course on the day of its screening . *

** Readings associated with specific titles screened in this course will be announced on our Blackboard electronic classroom website the day these titles will be screened in the case of  readings available on the World Wide Web.  I will from time to time distribute other short readings directly related to specific screenings in the form of photocopied handouts at the Tuesday evening screening session itself.  I will expect you to complete these readings between the end of each Tuesday night’s screening session and the beginning of our discussion session the following Wednesday afternoon.

*** I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to do all required readings, and to complete these on time .  Not only will you do much better, but also you will gain much more out of the course experience.  In the event that students’ lack of preparation for class discussion on Wednesday, due to failure to complete the required reading, becomes a problem, I will add weekly reading quizzes to the list of requirements for the course grade.  



    On Tuesday evenings we will screen films.  We will take a brief break of 5 to 10 minutes between each screening.  Students are welcome to bring pillows, blankets, and folding lounge chairs to use if you find these more comfortable than the classroom chairs.  You may also bring snacks as long as you take care to eat and drink quietly as well as not to spill anything on the classroom carpet.   

    On Wednesday afternoons we will spend the first part of class discussing a topic in film, video, and moving-image culture study based upon the assigned readings for the week.  We will then take a ten-minute break.  In the second half of class we will discuss the films screened the previous night.  Frequently, I will show clips from the films screened the previous night as well as DVD extras to initiate and stimulate discussion.  In the first half of our discussion classes I will also show clips from other videos, DVDs, websites, CD-Roms, and DVD-Roms to help explain and illustrate key concepts.  

    I will direct our discussions, and, as useful, combine discussion with some extended comments and short, informal presentations of my own.  However, I will always ask you to help out as I introduce and explain positions, concepts, methods, and practices.  In other words, I do not plan formally to lecture at any point in this class; I instead plan to combine largely brief and informal presentations with extensive questioning of and discussion with students, following a changing variety of formats.


    I expect students in this course to seek to engage as critical students of film, and not as mere movie “fans”–nor as would-be Hollywood film technicians.  Although I expect that students enrolled in this course do appreciate and enjoy watching films (as I most certainly do), and although I also suspect that a number of you may have already had some experience in film production or may wish to pursue this work in the future, as participants within this course students should be sincerely interested in learning about the critical study of film.  In short, unless you are interested in going beyond merely  (uncritically) appreciating and enjoying films, you should not be taking this course.  I expect students in this course to be consistently intellectually serious as well as academically diligent.  I expect students to strive to bring actively and extensively to bear–in your writing for class essays and your contributions to class discussion–insights you gain through your engagement with the films we screen, the required readings, and the topics these films and readings raise for our consideration.  Finally, I expect students to let me know right away when and if you have any questions or problems in relation to any aspect of how you are doing with the course, so that I can do everything I possibly can to help answer these questions and solve these problems.  


    The English Department would like to call your attention right away to one key difference between high school and college.  In short, at this institutional level we will consistently address and treat you as adults, not children.  Our aim as such is to provide you with an intellectually challenging education.  This means we will often include texts and introduce topics in our courses that may well run sharply counter to your preconceived understanding, based upon high school experience, of what is and is not “appropriate” for direct engagement in class.  We will, in short, candidly explore adult texts and topics, including ones that offer representations that may, on occasion, prove unsettling, disturbing, and even offensive to some of you.  

    The higher educational academy is not a “safe space” separate from the rest of the “real world” where you can expect to be sheltered from encountering anything you might find disagreeable or objectionable.  On the contrary, we expect you to take up the challenge to confront these kinds of texts and topics in a mature, responsible way, and that means bringing directly to bear your negative reactions-including your reactions of shock, dismay, and discontent-in class discussions and in your writings and presentations for class .  If you find a position or practice represented by a text or topic included in the assigned readings or screenings for class to be objectionable, it is therefore of crucial importance that you raise your objections openly and honestly, not simply claim personal exemption from having to see, hear, or talk, read, and write about these kinds of matters.  After all, disturbing positions and practices exist extensively outside of the classroom as well as in what we read, see, hear, and otherwise confront in and for class; what we do confront in class exists in this institutional space as symptomatic of positions and practices that operate beyond the confines of the classroom, the course, and the university.  If and when you find any  text or topic genuinely appalling,  you maintain the ethical responsibility, as a mature adult and as a responsible citizen, not simply to try to hide from these positions and practices but rather to work to critique and change them.  

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



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


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

∙    Students should  not exceed a maximum of three unexcused absences.

∙    Students should  provide me with written confirmation of a serious, individual or family emergency for any further absences beyond the maximum of three unexcused absences.

∙    Students who miss more than six classes total, for whatever reason , should expect that they are unlikely to pass the course, and therefore should withdraw from the course and enroll again in a subsequent semester.

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

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

    Learning and Contribution

    What is This and Why is it Important

    My foremost aim in teaching this course is to help you to learn something of significance and value; I will judge you to a significant degree on what you learn, how–and how hard–you strive to learn, and on how–as well as how well–you contribute to the learning for the rest of the class.  

    You cannot learn or help others learn if you do not contribute.  If you don’t contribute to the work of this class not only will you fail to derive as much gain from it as would be the case if you did contribute, but also you will deprive everyone else of the benefit of your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, knowledge, and experience.  In fact, to remain passively silent in class exploits the work of others who actively engage.  

    Class Participation

    Class participation represents an important opportunity to learn, not just a place in which to demonstrate what you have learned.  By raising questions, testing and trying out ideas, taking risks and making mistakes you learn a great deal–and help others learn a great deal as well.  You learn through talking, not just talk to show what you have learned.  Don’t hesitate to speak forth in class if you have anything at all to throw into the mix.   

     At the same time, just talking a great deal does not necessarily mean that you are making a quality contribution to the class by aiding the learning that we aim to accomplish.  Quality of participation is much more important than quantity, although a sufficient quantity is indispensable to insure quality.  

    Quality class participation does not, moreover, involve merely asking questions of me and responding to my questions; quality class participation requires you to work as assiduously as you can to advance a serious and substantial discussion with your peers as well as with me about the texts and topics subject to discussion.  Students should, therefore, be prepared to engage with and respond to each other in class discussion, and I will take particular note of how well you do so.

    Alternative Forms of Contribution

    Contribution to the class 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.  If you believe that you can make significant contributions to the success of our class in ways other than by speaking in our class meetings, please arrange to talk with me about this in a conference as early in the semester as possible.  I will be glad to support these efforts if they seem potentially productive to me, but I need to know about them and to discuss with you what I think about them in order to endorse them.  I certainly understand some people enter college better prepared and more confident speaking in class than others, but I would like to engage with what each one of you is thinking and feeling as we proceed through the semester, so if you tend to be somewhat shy in class, make up for this by coming to talk with me outside of class and by sending me questions and comments over e-mail.

    Also, on the Blackboard electronic classroom website I will set-up for this course, you will be able to “conference” (in other words, “chat”) with each other and share questions and concerns with me and our student mentors on topics related to course readings, screenings, and discussions; I will encourage students to use this “conference” space to share ideas and to discuss–and debate–issues of interest with each other; if you find it easier to “talk” in this way that in class itself, I strongly urge you to take advantage of it.   This way you can help each other as you grapple with the readings and screenings, and the class mentors and I can supplement what we are able to do to help you in class and during office hours.

        Learning and Contribution Reflection Papers

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

    I will give you specific instructions on what I would like you to address with each paper assignment, yet in each case I will ask that you: a.) explain key concepts in your own words, b.) apply these to the analysis of films screened in the course, c.) refer to and engage with the required reading, and d.) summarize and evaluate what you have learned as well as what, how, and how well you have contributed.  You may here include thoughts in reaction to issues raised in class discussion that you did not have the opportunity or did not feel comfortable enough to share in class; these additional reflections will help me get a better sense of what you have been thinking about and how you have been responding to class discussions, as well as to the readings and screenings.  

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

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

    You should aim for an approximate minimum average target length of approximately 1500 words per reflection paper (roughly the equivalent of six double-spaced, typed pages).  Each learning and contribution reflection paper will contribute significantly to your learning and contribution grade for the period of the semester the paper covers.   The first earning and contribution grade will be worth 15%, the second 20%, and the third 25% of the overall course grade, for a combined total of 60% of the overall course grade.  

    Group Projects and Class Conference

    Early in the semester (by the end of the third or fourth week of classes), students will sign-up to participate in a project group; each group will involve no more than four students.  Each group will work together from that point to prepare a group presentation in relation to two films: one selected by the group (subject to my approval) and one selected by the instructor.  Each student group must select a film for which they can confidently argue on behalf of its artistic, historical, social, and/or political significance.  (You may not select a film that we will screen in class as part of this course.)  I will make suggestions of films to investigate and critique as well as help students obtain access to video and/or dvd copies.

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

    After students have signed-up for a group you should meet in your groups to select the film upon which you yourselves wish to focus.  You should do this as quickly as possible so that you can let me know which film you have chosen and so that I can then select the other film which I will ask you to address together with the film you have selected.  My aim is for each group to know its two films by fall break–at the very latest.  

    After your group knows the two films with which it will be working, you should arrange to meet with me as a group in a mandatory pre-presentation conference to discuss directions and ideas for your work on this project, and so that I can offer helpful suggestions and recommendations.  Individual students and student groups may feel free to consult with me and with John Kaiser and Shane O’Gorman, your senior student mentors in this class, more than once in conference if, and as, this seems likely to prove helpful as you work on your group project.  Further details and helpful advice on the group project will be announced and explained in class.  The group project will be worth 20% of the overall course grade.

    Final Examination

     The final examination will be held  in HHH 321 during final exam week on a day and time to be announced.   For this exam, I will screen short clips related to films, videos, and other moving-image culture texts screened during the last section of class and then ask you to write a series of short responses to questions related to these clips.  This will be an “open-book” examination, meaning you may use any texts, notes, guides, outlines, et. al. you want as you write your essays.  Further information concerning the final examination will be explained in class.  The final examination will be worth 20% of the overall course grade.

    Additional Requirements

    You are expected to participate in first-year experience program workshops and outings as part of this class to the fullest extent you possibly can.  You will be given credit for so doing.   (See my discussion of the first-year experience program and its relation to this class below.)   Also, as mentioned earlier (at the end of the schedule section of this syllabus), if it proves necessary and/or useful I may introduce regular weekly quizzes on required readings.


    This section of English 190: Introduction to Film, Video, and Moving-Image Culture is one of a large number of first-year experience program courses taught across the University of  Wisconsin-Eau Claire.  The goals of these courses are as follows:

∙    (a.) To introduce students to liberal education and to awaken intellectual curiosity.

∙    (b.) To enhance skills needed for academic success: reading, writing, speaking, listening, thinking, inquiry, analysis, use of information technology, library skills, and time management.

∙    (c.) To strengthen students’ connection to the University.

∙    (d.) To engage students in meaningful academic and non-academic out-of-class activities.

∙    (e.) To enhance students’ accountability for their education.

    In order to assist us in meeting these goals, first-year experience program courses are limited in enrollment to a relatively much lower maximum number of students than you will encounter in most, if not all, of the other courses in which you will enroll over the course of your first year at this university.  This relatively smaller class size will enable more extensive and inclusive discussion in class as well as greater opportunity for me to work with you individually and in small groups outside of class.  

    At the same time as maximum enrollment is limited to a relatively low number of students, all first-year experience program courses also have senior student mentors who work with course instructors to help you make a successful transition to the life of a student at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.  In this section of English 190, your senior student mentors are John Kaiser and Shane O’Gorman.  They will work together with me to help you on diverse matters of curricular and extracurricular interest and concern, and they will be responsible, in consultation with me, for organizing a series of extracurricular class outings and workshops for us to participate in as a class.  Further details concerning these activities will be forthcoming as the semester proceeds.  John and Shane will also each hold regular weekly office hours at  times and places where it will prove convenient to meet with you; these will be determined after surveying your schedules early this semester.  You are required to attend as many of these extracurricular activities and events as possible.  You will be given credit for doing so.


    Finally, another purpose of FYE courses here at UWEC is to introduce you to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire portfolio project.  Details will be explained in class, yet at this point you should know that the university administration asks you to keep a portfolio of select papers and/or projects you complete while at UWEC.  You will turn these in before you graduate to the University’s portfolio assessment committee who will review students’ portfolios to assess how well we are doing in providing you with a liberal arts education.  

    This university is, as many of you know, a liberal arts institution; education in the liberal arts (and sciences) represents the historic and central commitment of what we do together on this UW campus– not vocational training and pre-professional development.  The university administration and faculty support this commitment so strongly that they have asked that all syllabi elaborate the official goals of the baccalaureate, as well as identify which ones the course in question will help you achieve.   According to the UWEC administration, the baccalaureate degree shall work to develop the following for UWEC students:

1.    an understanding of a liberal education.

2.    an appreciation of the University as a learning community.

3.    an ability to inquire, think, analyze.

4.    an ability to write, read, speak, listen.

5.    an understanding of numerical data.

6.    a historical consciousness.

7.    international and intercultural experience.

8.    an understanding of science and scientific methods.

9.    an appreciation of the arts.

10.    an understanding of values.

11.    an understanding of human behavior and human institutions.

    UWEC strives to help you meet these objectives in the course of the higher education you pursue here.  Please note that in making these our foremost aims, we at UWEC clearly distinguish ourselves from technical colleges as well as from all other UW schools, especially places like Stout, River Falls, and Stevens Point.  This section of English 190 will help contribute to you meeting goals 1-4, 6, and 9-11.


    I encourage you to meet with me in conference during office hours or at another mutually convenient time to discuss any issue of interest or concern related to what we are doing in this course.  Learning that takes place in conferences can at times be equally as important, and in fact occasionally even more important, than what takes place in class.  Please do not hesitate to meet with me during office hours or to ask for an appointment at any time you think this might be helpful; I regard making myself available for conferences with you outside of class to be an indispensable part of my responsibility as your teacher.   Moreover, I always sincerely do welcome getting to know and work with my students outside as well as inside of class.   I am ready to do whatever I can to help you in your understanding of issues addressed in discussions, readings, and screenings, as well as to help you in your writing for and participation in this course.  I want to make sure that I do all that I can to help you succeed in this course and I want to help you, as far as I can, to gain as much out of it as possible through your participation in and work for it.   You may also feel free to write me via e-mail, and to call me–or leave a message for me on the answering machine–at my office.  I enjoy meeting and working with students outside as well as inside of class; I really do.  I would rather talk with you during my office hours than do anything else, so please do not worry about “disturbing” me in coming to talk with me; my office hours are time that I have set aside to meet, talk, and work with you .  PLEASE DO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS OPPORTUNITY!  And, remember, once again, taking the time to meet and talk with me periodically in conference is a great way to contribute to the class.   Likewise, please keep in mind that John Kaiser and Shane O’Gorman are joining this class as senior student mentors to help you; seek them out and take advantage of their assistance.


    I strive to be as responsible and as accountable to my students as possible.  I believe it is crucial that students become aware of the ideas and the values which shape and direct their education, and I believe students should expect that all of their teachers will be prepared to explain why they teach as they do.  Please, therefore, take the time, as early as you can this semester, to read through and think carefully about my “Statement of Teaching Philosophy” that I have posted on my UWEC faculty website:

This statement explains WHY I teach as I do.  I think It is extremely important that you know and understand where your teachers are coming from in teaching you as they do.  You will find me one who trusts you sufficiently always to be frank and honest about this with you.  

Return to Bob Nowlan's Home Page

UW-Eau Claire Home

This material is copyrighted (©)

Professor Bob Nowlan

Last Update:  September 8, 2002