University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

    English 181: Introduction to Film, Video,
    and Moving-Image Culture

    Fall 2005, UWEC

    Professor Bob Nowlan
                    Office: HHH 425  
    Office Phone Number: (715) 836-4369
    Office Hours: MWF 12-1 p.m., M 11 p.m. to 12 midnight, T 5-7 p.m.,
    W 10-11 p.m, and By Appointment


    Section 001: M 3-6:30 pm (Screenings)
    and W 3:45-6:15 pm (Discussions), HHH 323

    James Boland (
    and Sean Fogarty (,
    Senior Student Mentors


    Section 002: M 7-10:30 pm (Screenings)
    and W 7:30-10 pm (Discussions), HHH 323

    Eddy Kaiser (
    and Juli Pitzer (,
    Senior Student Mentors


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

    Culture includes everything that we, as human beings, have created in the course of our entire history, in distinction from what nature itself has given us.  Specific cultures (as well as specific subcultures) comprise the sum total of the particular knowledges, capacities, fields of work (and fields of play), customs and habits, traditions, values and attitudes, social roles and identities, and shared ways of thinking, feeling, acting, interacting, and behaving that characterize and, more importantly than merely characterize, that internally unify and externally differentiate particular regions, classes, and other social groups.  

    Film and video constitute principal constituents of 1.) moving-image culture (i.e., culture produced, distributed, exchanged, and consumed in the form of constellations of moving-images), 2.) human culture at large, and 3.) myriad specific national, regional, local, racial, ethnic, class, gender, sexual, generational, political, religious, artistic, philosophical, recreational, and avocational cultures (and subcultures).  (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.)

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

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

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


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

Many films, as well as many cinemas, aspire to meet two or three of these goals, often employing one as means toward the achievement of at least one of the other two (e.g., artistic expression as a vehicle of social critique).  Yet it is still useful, in beginning to come to terms with the aims of different kinds of film and cinema, to recognize these as primarily oriented toward serving one of these three ends.  (“Cinema” here refers to a particular institutional form governing the production, distribution, exhibition, and reception of a series of films, especially a series of films sharing common subjects, styles, social vantage points, and cultural backgrounds: e.g., “German Expressionist Cinema,” “Classical Narrative Realist Hollywood Cinema,” “Italian Neo-Realist Cinema,” “French New Wave Cinema,” “Dogme 95 Cinema,” “1960s American Underground Cinema,” “British Free Cinema,” and “The New Queer Cinema.”)

    The kinds of pleasures film can provide us in fact come in many forms, at times quite complicated and sophisticated, including those that usefully subvert culturally dominant ways of making sense.  Yet Hollywood (along with other, allied sectors of the 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.

    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 than that, 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.  In fact, the films we screen in class will primarily represent this–latter–kind of cinema.  Yet we will also carefully consider the contradictions involved in processes of film production, distribution, exhibition, and reception that spark usefully critical engagements with even the most "conservative," "mind-numbing," "desensitizing," and "trivializing" forms of mainstream Hollywood "blockbuster" film.  In other words, we will seek at all times to inquire critically into how and why films, of all kinds, appeal as they do, to whom, when, where, and in response to what needs and desires, rather than simply judging them as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, as ‘likeable’ or ‘unlikeable’, and as offering us occasions where we can readily ‘identity’ versus occasions where we cannot do so.  

    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 an introduction to the rudiments of “critical media literacy” and the “elements of meaning” involved in “reading film.”  From that point, we will turn, second, to learn about film makers' use (to express and communicate meaning) of techniques of a.)”cinematography,” b.)   “mise-en-scène, “ c.) “editing,” and d.)  “sound.”   We will here concentrate on influential and innovative uses of these techniques, including representation from "independent" film makers working outside of Hollywood and beyond the United States as well as examples from historically significant Hollywood films.  After this, we will, third, inquire into the art and politics of representation in (especially) American (primarily Hollywood) film.  In this third section of the course, we will begin with an introduction to and overview of the study of representation and ideology in film and related media, turn from there to discuss the structure and history of Hollywood and allied as well as alternative kinds of media institutions and industries, proceeding from there to examine representations of issues of race and ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality in (especially American) film.  Over the course of the semester we will also study issues of narrative, genre, globalization, technological development and innovation, and ‘realism’ and ‘anti-realism’ in film and related media, as well as learn introductory models for beginning to write critically about these kinds of ‘texts’.  

    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.   Like past students in the many English 190 classes I have previously taught, I hope you too will come to appreciate the opportunity this course provides for an "eye-opening" experience.


    The following four required texts are available for purchase at the UWEC Bookstore:

1.)    Kasdan, Margo, Christine Saxon, and Susan Tavernetti.  The Critical Eye: an Introduction to Looking at Movies.  3rd Edition, Revised Printing.  Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt, 2002.

2.)     Benshoff, Harry and Sean Griffin.  America on Film: Representing Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality at the Movies.  Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004.

3.)    Corrigan, Timothy.  A Short Guide to Writing About Film.  Fifth Edition.  Pearson/Longman, 2004.

4).    Branston, Gill and Roy Stafford.  The Media Student's Book.  Third Edition. Routledge, 2003.  

    You may feel free to purchase these from any other bookstore or book outlet, including by means of on-line ordering outlets (such as, as you wish, as long as you acquire them in time to use in and for class.

    I will supply copies of other required texts used in the course in the form of photocopied handouts, weblinks, documents posted on our Desire2Learn electronic classroom (which I will explain in class before you first need to use it), and in other diverse forms.  



        CE=The Critical Eye    SG=A Sort Guide to Writing About Film

        MS=The Media Student’s Book    AF=America on Film


W 9/7            Introduction and Orientation.

M 9/12         Screening, Mulholland Drive.

W 9/14        Discussion, Introduction to (Critical) Media Literacy and Mulholland Drive.

    Read–Completely–Before Class on W 9/14 at the Very Latest: CE, “Chapter 1: Media Literacy,” 1-11; SG, “Chapter 1: Writing About Movies” and “Chapter Two: Beginning to Think, Preparing to Watch, and Starting to Write,” 1-34.

M 9/19         Screening, The Devil’s Backbone and The Return.

W 9/21        Discussion, Elements of Meaning, The Devil’s Backbone, and The Return.

    Read–Completely–Before Class on W 9/21 at the Very Latest: CE, “Chapter 2, “Elements of Meaning,” 13-32; SG, From “Chapter 3–Film Terms and Topics for Film Analysis and Writing,” 35-46 (“Themes” and “Film and the Other Arts”); MS, “Chapter 1: Meanings and Media,” 1-23.

M 9/26         Screening, Fallen Angels and City of God.

W 9/28        Discussion, Cinematography, Fallen Angels, and City of God.  

    Read–Completely–Before Class on W 9/28 at the Very Latest: CE, “Chapter 3: The Camera Eye,” 33-60; SG, From  “Chapter 3–Film Terms and Topics for Film Analysis and Writing,” 56-62 (“The Shot”); MS, From “Chapter 11: Production Techniques,” 313-320 (“Technical Codes in Video Production”).   

M 10/3         Screening, Dogville.

W 10/5        Discussion, Mise-en-Scène and Dogville.

    Read–Completely–Before Class on W 10/5 at the Very Latest: CE, “Chapter 4: “Mise-en-Scène,” 61-90; SG,  From  “Chapter 3–Film Terms and Topics for Film Analysis and Writing,” 49-55 (“Elements of   Mise-en-Scène”); MS, From “Chapter 2: Narrative,” 32-42 (“General Theories of Narrative,” “Narration, Story and Plot,” and “Narratives in Different Media”).

    *** First Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Assigned.  Before writing this paper, read SG, “Chapter 5: Style and Structure in Writing,” 106-123, and Chapter 7, “Manuscript Form,” 154-170.  Follow the guidelines for style, structure, and manuscript form addressed in these chapters. ***

M 10/10        Screening, The Battle of Algiers and Bloody Sunday.

W 10/12        Discussion, Editing, The Battle of Algiers, and Bloody Sunday.

    Read–Completely–Before Class on W 10/12 at the Very Latest: CE, “Editing,” 91-108; SG,   From  “Chapter 3–Film Terms and Topics for Film Analysis and Writing,”46-49 (“Realism”) and 62-69 (“The Edited Image”); MS, From “Chapter 11: Production Techniques,” 320-326 (“‘Narrative Codes’ in Video Production”), and all of “Chapter 17: Realisms,” 446-472.
M 10/17        Screening,  Apocalypse Now Redux.

W 10/19        Discussion, Sound and Apocalypse Now Redux.

    Read–Completely–Before Class on W 10/19 at the Very Latest: CE, “Chapter 6: Sound,” 109-126; SG,  From  “Chapter 3–Film Terms and Topics for Film Analysis and Writing,” 70-78 (“Sound” and “Sample Essay”); MS, “Chapter 16: Technologies,” 422-445.
    *** F 10/21 by 5 pm: First Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Due in My English Department Office Mailbox, HHH 405 ***

M 10/24         Screening, High Noon and Lone Star.

W 10/26        Discussion, Representation and Ideology, High Noon, and Lone Star.

    Read–Completely–Before Class on W 10/26 at the Very Latest: AF, “Chapter 1: Introduction to the Study of Film Form and Representation,” 1-22; MS, From “Chapter 4: Questions of Representation,” 90-103 (“Case Study: Stereotyping,” “Representations and Gender,” “Representations and the Real,” and “Questions of Changing Representations”); MS, From “Chapter 5: Ideologies and Power,” 117-125 (“Origins of the Term: Marxist Approaches” and “Post-Marxism and Critical Pluralism”); and MS, From “Chapter 6: Audiences,” 157-163 (“Semiotics and Audiences” and “Contexts of Reception and ‘Cultural Competencies’”).

M 10/31         Screening, Sunset Boulevard and The Player.

W 11/2        Discussion, Institutions and Industries, Sunset Boulevard, and The Player.

    Read–Completely–Before Class on W 11/2 at the Very Latest: AF, “Chapter 2: The Structure and History of Hollywood Filmmaking,” 23-46; CE, “Chapter 8: The American Industry,” 151-174; MS, From “Chapter 3: ‘Genres’ and Other Classifications,” 59-60 (“Television and Cinema: Economics and Classification) and 73-80 (“The Real and ‘Verisimilitude’,” “Case Study: Relating ‘September 11' to Action-Entertainment Escapism,’ and ‘Repertoires of Elements”); MS, From “Chapter 7: Institutions,” 182-190 (“Defining ‘Institution’ and “An Institutional Analysis of Photography”); and MS, “Chapter 8: Industries,” 218-253.

M 11/7         Screening, American History X and Slam.

W 11/9        Discussion, Race and Ethnicity, American History X, and Slam.

    Read–Completely–Before Class on W 11/9 at the Very Latest: AF, “Introduction to Part II: What is Race?,” “The Concept of Whiteness and American Film,” and “African Americans and American Film,” 49-95.

M 11/14         Screening, The Corporation and The Take.

W 11/16        Discussion, Class, The Corporation, and The Take.

    Read–Completely–Before Class on W 11/16 at the Very Latest: AF, “Introduction to Part III: What is Class?,” “Classical Hollywood Cinema and Class,” and “Cinematic Class Struggle After the Depression,” 157-199; MS, “Chapter 15: Globalisation,” 404-421; MS, “Case Study: The Music Industry, Technology and Synergy,” 254-262.

*** Second Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Assigned.  Before writing this paper, read SG, “Chapter 4: Six Approaches to Writing About Film,” 79-105, and Chapter 6, “Researching the Movies,” 124-153.  Follow the guidelines for approaches to writing about film as well as for research addressed in these two chapters as you develop and put together your paper.  ***

M 11/21         Screening, Gilda and Dead Reckoning.   

M 11/28        Screening, Antonia’s Line and All About My Mother.

W 11/30        Discussion, Gender, Gilda, Dead Reckoning, Antonia’s Line, and All About My Mother.

    Read–Completely–Before Class on W 11/30 at the Very Latest: AF, “Part IV: Gender and American Film,” 201-290 ( “Introduction to Part IV: What is Gender?,” “Chapter 10: Women in Classical Hollywood Filmmaking,” “Chapter 11: Exploring the Visual Parameters of Women in Film,”  “Chapter 12: Masculinity in Classical Hollywood Filmmaking,” and “Chapter 13: Gender in American Film Since the 1960s”).

*** F 12/2 by 5 pm: Second Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Due by 5 pm in My English Department Mailbox, HHH 405. ***

M 12/5         Screening, Kinsey and Priest.
W 12/7        Discussion, Sexuality Part I, Kinsey, and Priest.

  Read–Completely–Before Class on W 12/7 at the Very Latest: AF, “Part V: Sexuality and American Film,” 291-338 (“Introduction to Part V: What is Sexuality?,” “Chapter 14: Heterosexuality, Homosexuality, and Classical Hollywood,” and “Chapter 15: Sexualities on Film Since the Sexual Revolution”); Nowlan, “Introduction to Critical Theory of Sexuality” (To Be Made Available).

M 12/12        Screening, Y Tu Mamá También, Yossi and Jagger, and I Exist.   

W 12/14        Discussion, Sexuality Part II, Y Tu Mamá También, Yossi and Jagger, and I Exist.   

    *** Final Examination Schedule for Section 001: M 12/19, 3-4:50 pm and W 12/21, 5-6:50 pm ***

    *** Final Examination Schedule for Section 002:  M 12/19, 7-8:50 pm and W 12/21, 7-8:50 pm ***




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

    On Wednesdays we will discuss topics in film, video, and moving-image culture study based upon the assigned readings for the week as well as the films screened the previous Monday.  From time to time, I will show clips from the films screened the previous Monday as well as, occasionally, DVD extras to initiate and stimulate discussion. I will also, sometimes, show clips from other videos, DVDs, websites, CD-Roms, and DVD-Roms to help explain and illustrate key concepts.  The student mentors and I likely will occasionally make use of other kinds of equipment and associated materials to demonstrate techniques, concepts, and practices as well.

    I will direct our discussions, assisted by student mentors James Boland, Sean Fogarty, Eddy Kaiser, and Juli Pitzer, and, often, I will combine discussion with some extended opening comments and relatively short, informal initial presentations of my own.  However, I will always ask you to help out as I introduce and explain positions, concepts, methods, and practices.  Wednesday classes will involve extensive questioning of and discussion with students, following a variety of formats.  I always prefer to teach by way of discussion as opposed to lecture; students learn better through active engagement and dialogue with each other as well as with me.  Students will frequently spend portions of class time on Wednesday afternoon working in small groups; students will also from time to time prepare short written reflections either prior to or during our Wednesday meetings to share with the rest of the class.


    Although I expect that students enrolled in this course do greatly 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.  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, Juli, Eddy, Sean, or James know right away when and if you have any questions or problems in relation to any aspect of how you are doing with the course, so that we can do everything we possibly can to help answer these questions and solve these problems.


    The English Department aims to provide you with an intellectually challenging education.  This means we will often include texts and introduce topics in our courses that candidly explore adult issues, including ones that offer representations that may, on occasion, prove unsettling, disturbing, and even offensive to some of you.

    The higher educational academy is not a "safe space" separate from the rest of the "real world" where you can expect to be sheltered from encountering anything you might find disagreeable or objectionable.  On the contrary, we expect you to take up the challenge to confront these kinds of texts and topics in a mature, responsible way, and that means bringing directly to bear your negative reactions-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 in 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 position.



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

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

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

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

3.) Students who miss more than seven 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.

4.) Attendance at all classes in which films will be screened is required as well, even if and when the films we screen are readily available on video for you to watch and listen to elsewhere and at another time.  Also, I will note well any students who leave class after the break during these screening sessions; not attending the entire screening session (unless you have made arrangements with me ahead of time to leave early) will count as an absence from class that day.

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

    * 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 the focus of what we are about in this course (e.g., text-messaging). *

    Learning and Contribution

        What This is and Why it is 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-along with 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.  Still, I want to emphasize here that I perceive talking for talking’s sake–especially talking which pulls us off on far-fetched tangents, which remains disconnected from and disengaged with the reading and the rest of the class, or which effectively silences others–to be negative participation.

    Quality class participation does not, moreover, involve merely asking questions of me and responding to my questions; quality class participation requires you to work as assiduously as you can to advance a serious and substantial discussion with your peers 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.

    I would like you to come to class with strong opinions on the topics of discussion, to be ready to share your opinions with the class, and to be open-minded enough to debate your own and others’ thoughts and to push them as far as they will go.

    In evaluating class participation, I find the following modification of a system designed by my colleague, Professor Mary Ellen Alea, useful:  A = Nearly daily response, and with consistently useful, insightful comments and questions; B= Daily response, with regular, relevant comments and questions; C = Less frequent, occasional questions and comments; D = Almost always entirely quiet; F= Engaging in behavior that disrupts the learning processes of you and your fellow students, such as talking while others are speaking, not paying attention in class, or doing other work or attending to other interests during the time class is meeting.

        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.   Excellent  writings for and in response to class (on Desire2Learn, see below) and as part of your learning and contribution reflection papers (see below as well) can help make up for limitations as far as participation in class goes.  At the same time, listening carefully, respectfully, and thoughtfully in class discussions is yet another important means of contribution–as is taking time to meet and talk with me and with class mentors Sean Fogarty, Juli Pitzer, Eddy Kaiser, and James Boland outside of class.

        Learning and Contribution Reflection Papers/Learning and Contribution Reflection Grades

    Learning and contribution will constitute a major proportion of your overall course grade.   As part of this grade, you will write two learning and contribution reflection papers.   For these papers I will ask you questions that will require you to address what you have been learning as a student enrolled in this course, and to assess how, along with how well, you have been contributing to your own learning, and to that of others in the class.

    As I see it, these papers provide you a useful opportunity to communicate with me how you believe you are doing with the course, as well as why so, and to demonstrate your critical self-reflexivity, the hallmark of a liberal arts education.  As you are assessing your own learning and contribution, you may include thoughts in reaction to issues raised in class discussion that you did not have the opportunity or did not feel comfortable enough to share in class; these additional reflections 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.  I will take into account what you write in determining your learning and contribution grade for the preceding semester period; performance on these papers represents a vital component of your learning and contribution grade.

    I  will provide you specific directions in the assignments I give you for each of these papers; please note well that the questions you address will change from the first to the second to the third reflection paper.  These papers should be typed, double-space, on single sides of standard white letter-sized  (8" X 11") typewriter, computer printer, or photographic paper.  All pages should be numbered, and you should place your name at the top of each page.  You may use any standard font you wish, yet you should keep your point size between 10 and 12 points.  Papers must be stapled, and you are responsible for doing so, not me.  You should follow rules and conventions of Standard Written English and a consistent, accurate format for citation and documentation of sources.  

    Learning and contribution grades (including learning and contribution reflection papers) will be worth the following percentages of the overall course grade: #1, 20%,  and #2, 35%.

Final Examination

    The final exam will take place in two parts.  Part one of this exam will involve the screening of a film focusing on issues related to the readings, screenings, and discussions of the last seven classes of the semester.  Part two will begin with the screening of clips from or related to the film screened in part one, followed by students taking time to address a multi-part essay question in relation to this film and the issues it addresses.  You may use any textbooks, photocopied handouts, notes, guides, outlines, et. al. you want as you on writing your final examination essay.  The final examination grade will be worth 20% of the overall course grade.  This grade will take into account your demonstrated learning and contribution over the course of the past three and one-half weeks (seven class periods) of the semester as well as the quality of your response to the final examination essay assignment.   

Desire2Learn Postings

    I have created a Desire2Learn electronic classroom website for this class. Beyond me posting material here for you to retrieve, I am also asking you periodically to post short reflections, comments, and critiques on this site that engage with readings and screenings in dialogue with your fellow classmates and with student mentors Juli Pitzer, James Boland, Eddy Kaiser, and Sean Fogarty.  I will give you information on how to access this site at the beginning of the semester.

    Here's how this assignment will work.  After each Wednesday discussion class meeting you will have the opportunity to post a  reflection, comment, and/or critique on issues directly related to the films and readings discussed in class that day.  Then, once your fellow students have posted their thoughts, you will have the opportunity to write several posts responding to what your classmates has just posted.

    Your postings may be quite informal, yet you should nevertheless try to write as clearly and cogently as possible.  I will also expect your postings to demonstrate you are taking each assignment seriously.

    I will ask Eddy, Sean, James, and Juli to offer evaluations of how you have done with this work, and take into account their recommendations in grading your Desire2Learn postings.  This will be a space where you can engage in discussion primarily with your peers and with the mentors.

    You need not post on Desire2Learn every week; I expect you to write a minimum of nine posts (initial and response) during the first half of the semester (through the middle of the semester).  I will then expect you to write a minimum of nine additional posts (initial and response) during the second half of the semester.  The amount of time you will have to work with each assignment will vary, but in general you should have approximately two weeks’ time.

     Overall, I expect the opportunity to engage in this kind of supplementary, informal dialogue will help you in your learning and contribution, as well as make the course more interesting and meaningful for you.  It will also give you the chance to test out and receive potentially helpful feedback on ideas you might want to pursue in subsequent class discussions, and in learning and contribution reflection papers as well as the final examination.  In addition, this will give you a chance to share ideas that you thought of after class discussion, or that you needed more time to think out and formulate effectively in your own mind before sharing these, and Desire2Learn postings should help students who are shy about speaking forth extensively in class discussion.  I know everyone in class has much of value to offer, including those who do not feel as readily inclined or as comfortable to voice this in class discussion as some others.

    I will grade you twice on your Desire2Learn papers: 12.5% for the first half of the semester, and 12.5% for the second half of the semester.  Again, I will take into account the mentors’ recommendations in determining these grades, but this will in every case be my decision.


    I am giving students in this class two different opportunities to earn a substantial amount of extra credit this semester.  

    The first opportunity requires you to attend one or more of the following screenings of the fall 2005 UWEC campus film series:

Osama, September 8-11, 6 & 8:30 pm, Davies Theatre

Vera Drake, September 22-25, 6 & 8:30 pm, Davies Theatre

Maria Full of Grace, October 6-9, 6 & 8:30 pm, Davies Theatre

Mondays in the Sun, October 13-16, 6 & 8:30 pm, Davies Theatre

Hotel Rwanda, November 3-6, 6 & 8:30 pm, Davies Theatre

The Red Violin, November 10-13, 6 & 8:30 pm, Davies Theatre

Bus 174, November 17-20, 6 & 8:30 pm, Davies Theatre

Kitchen Stories, December 1-4, 6 & 8:30 pm, Davies Theatre

After you attend a screening, you should write an approximately one page paper, offering your reflections and comments in making sense of and responding to the film to share in a serious discussion of the film, roughly one-half hour in length, with James, Sean, Eddy, or Juli.  You may do this for one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, or all eight of these films.  You will receive 1.5% extra credit each time you do so, for a potential total of 12% extra credit.  

    The second extra credit opportunity requires you to participate in a class field trip to Minneapolis–tentatively scheduled for Saturday October 22.  During this film trip we will attend screening(s) of films of serious critical interest otherwise unavailable in this area, as well as, perhaps, another film-related activity.  I will pay for the bus; you will only need to pay the cost of tickets for the film(s) you attend–and for any refreshments you wish to purchase that day while in Minneapolis.  Beside the opportunity to attend screenings of highly interesting films, we will seek to have a good time together on this class outing.   On past class field trips my classes and I have taken to the Twin Cities, students have had a great time.  You are welcome to bring friends from outside of our class to come along with you as you wish.  You may earn 5% extra credit simply for coming along on the field trip, as well as an additional 5% extra credit if you, again, subsequently write up a short (one page) reflection and comment paper on at least one film you attend while participating in this field trip and then take the time to discuss this with me, or with Juli, with Eddy, with Sean, or with James in a conference of approximately one-half hour’s time.

    As an aside, we will likely have some kind of class party at the end of the semester, and possibly an early semester get-together as well; I will most likely offer extra credit for attending and participating in either one or both of these two events.  


    This university is, as many of you well 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.  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 and River Falls.  This section of English 190 will help contribute to you meeting goals 1-4, 6, and 9-11.

    These goals cannot be met passively by the student: each requires your striving toward it to be met.  Striving means learning actively, completing assignments in a thorough and timely fashion, participating in class discussion, and making connections (above and beyond those emphasized by us in the classroom) between what we do while meeting in class and what you do when engaged outside of the classroom.      


    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.

    Also, James Boland, Sean Fogarty, Eddy Kaiser, and Juli Pitzer and  have signed on as student mentors class because they want to work with and help you.  Please feel free to contact and meet with them outside of class about any matter of interest or concern; they too will hold regular office hours and be readily accessible to assist you.  Juli, James, Eddy, and Sean can be of great help do you; take advantage of the opportunity to work with them.

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


    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 that 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.

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Last Updated: September 5, 2005