University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire  


    Section 003: T, 7 to 9:45 p.m., HHH 321

    Fall 2004, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire


    Office: HHH 425, (715) 836-4369

    Office Hours: M 6:50-7:30 p.m., T 9:50-10:30 p.m., W 6:20-7 p.m.,  
    MWF 12 noon to 1 p.m., and By Appointment.



    Let us begin with provisional working definitions of some key terms.

    Theory aims to provide a conceptual explanation of what forms and constitutes an object (and I mean “object” in a broad sense here: “objects” of theoretical interest and concern include, for example, “questions,” “issues,” “problems,” “processes,” and “relations”).  This means that a theory of an object seeks to explain what, in essence, distinguishes this object, how and for what this object functions, and what gives rise to and follows from the object’s interdeterminate interconnections with other objects.  

    Criticism applies theory to support and sustain an evaluation of an object.  In other words, criticism judges an object, assessing its significance, value, usefulness, and/or effectivity while simultaneously justifying its judgement by drawing upon the support of theory to do so.  

    Critique is a particular mode of criticism.  Critique refers to the mobilization of theory to support an effort at intervention in relation to an object.  In other words, critique deploys theory to affect either 1.) a change in an object or 2.) a change in the ways people find it conceivable, desirable, and possible to value and use this object.  Theory always develops through critique of preexisting theory as well as by means of intellectual processes that include analysis and synthesis, deduction and induction, abstraction and concretization, and testing and modeling.


    Let’s turn next to some basic questions: 1.) Why study theory and criticism?  2.) What does it mean to do so at an “introductory” level?  3.) And what does this study have to do with English?

    I will address the first two of these questions together, in this section (2.) and then turn, subsequently, to address the third in the next two sections (3.) and (4.).

    Here goes.

    Throughout the everyday lives of each and every one of us, our ability to make sense of the world around us–and to orient ourselves to engage in relation to it on the basis of how we make sense–means that we are continually working with "theories" of one kind or another.  At the same time, because our everyday lives also demand that we make numerous judgements according to various standards and criteria and that we then proceed according to the judgements we have made, we are also continually thinking and acting in ways which are at least rudimentarily "critical" as well. Nevertheless, in our everyday lives most of us do not all that often reflect upon precisely what theories are guiding and sustaining us, how so, and why so, nor do we frequently examine how and why we think and act critically in the ways that we do.  Moreover, if asked to produce a rigorous intellectual explanation, precisely accounting for and meticulously justifying the theoretical and critical influences upon and determinants of our everyday ways of thinking, understanding, feeling, believing, interacting, communicating, acting, and behaving, most of us would have a very difficult time.
    Because the theories that guide and sustain us and the ways in which we think and act critically in our everyday lives are rarely simply the result of our own uniquely individual creation and rarely a matter simply of our own autonomously free choice–especially when we either are not conscious of their effects upon us or are unable to explain, account for, and justify these in a sustained and rigorous fashion–we are always working according to the influence and the determination of theoretical and critical approaches which are much larger than the space "inside" of our own "heads" or "minds": we are always working according to theoretical and critical approaches which occupy particular places within particular societies and cultures and which are formed as particular products of particular histories and politics.

    A course of "introduction to theory and criticism” presents an opportunity not only, therefore, to learn about the theoretical and critical approaches of what might often at least initially seem like an elite caste of distant and specialized others–specific, and frequently famous, named "theorists" and "critics"–but also, and more importantly, to reflect upon how and why all of us work with the kinds of theoretical and critical approaches we do; where these come from and what gives rise to them; where they lead and what follows from them; which such approaches predominate in what areas of everyday life today, in what places within what societies and cultures, with what uses and effects, toward the advancement of what ends and toward the service of what interests; and what alternative approaches are possible, what alternatives are desirable, what alternatives are necessary, and how do we get from here to there.      

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

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


    English 285: Introduction to Theory and Criticism is not a literature course, a linguistics course, a creative writing course, an English education course, or a scientific and technical communication course.  This is, instead, a meta-textual course: the principal objects of our collective inquiry are cross-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary, and especially trans-disciplinary theories and modes of critical practice.  

    In short, this is a course in critical theory.  What, precisely, does this mean?   Again, ready?  Here goes.

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

    Critical theory begins by inquiring into what prevents the realization of this Enlightenment ideal.  In doing so, critical theory questions and challenges the seeming obviousness, naturalness, immediacy, and simplicity of the world around us, and, in particular, of what we are able to perceive through our senses and understand through the application of our powers of reason.  

    Critical theory is therefore concerned with discovering and uncovering, and with describing and explaining "mediations"–environmental, ecological, physical, physiological, psychological, intellectual, emotional, historical, social, cultural, economic, political, ideological, linguistic, semiotic, aesthetic, religious, ethical, etc.– between "object" and "subject," "event" and "impression," "impression" and "perception," "perception" and "cognition," "cognition" and "reflection," "reflection" and "response," "response" and "reaction," "reaction" and "action," and "action" and "practice."  

    At the same time, "critical theory" also always involves questioning and challenging the passive acceptance that "the way things are"–or "the way things seem"–simply "is" the "natural" way they necessarily "should" or "must" be.  In other words,  critical theory questions and challenges the conviction that what is, or what is in the process of becoming, or what appears to be, or what is most commonly understood to be, or what is dominantly conveyed to be, is also at the same time right and true, good and just, and necessary and inevitable: critical theory does not, at least not automatically, accept any of this.

    Critical theory is always particularly concerned with inquiring into the problems and limitations, the blindnesses and mistakes, the contradictions and incoherences, and the injustices and inequities in how we as human beings, operating within particular kinds of structures and hierarchies of relations with each other, facilitated and regulated by particular kinds of institutions, engaged in particular kinds of processes and practices, have formed, reformed, and transformed ourselves, each other, and the communities, cultures, societies, and worlds in which we live.

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

    Yet the questions that we ask of the texts we read and write and of the discourses we produce and disseminate, in English Studies, are always already sedimented with the weight of extensive historical exchange–and interchange–with critical theory, and the answers we seek to these questions eventually require us to engage with and draw upon critical theories far more directly than simply to acknowledge this sedimentation.  These questions include, at their most fundamental, why should we, or anyone for that matter, read and write these texts, the texts we privilege, and why should we, or anyone else, be interested in producing and disseminating these discourses, the discourses that are of the greatest importance to us, and why so here and now?  What is the value of these texts and discourses?  What is their relevance?  What is their usefulness?  How and why are they different, including different in their kind or degree of value and use, from other kinds of texts and discourses in circulation within contemporary society and culture at large?  It is for this reason that this department includes this course, a quintessential liberal arts course, as a required component of its undergraduate core curriculum.  In situating this course within this location our aim is to cultivate rigorous self-reflexivity in your own intellectual work and practice, as well as to offer you stimulus and provocation that can effectively assist you in producing both more compelling and sophisticated articulations in your engagement with the intellectual work and practice of others.


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

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

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

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

     What is most important, as I see it, is how, and for what, is work to be conducted within contemporary English studies, the field of text and cultural studies encompassing yet extending beyond the traditional combination of literary studies plus rhetoric and composition studies plus linguistic studies plus studies in creative writing plus English educational studies.  How are the diverse kinds of texts and discourses studied within “English” today approached, made sense of, interpreted, evaluated, and, yes, put to use–and why so?  If English Studies is to concern itself with understanding the rhetorical, aesthetic, political, and ideological constituents of relations among texts and discourses of diverse kinds throughout culture and across cultures, without translating this understanding into a reductive homogeneity or a constrictive orthodoxy, it needs to bring to bear the insights of an inter- and indeed a trans- disciplinary constellation of cooperating and contesting modes of understanding that has the power to address the breadth of these concerns, and to do so with philosophical rigor–and that constellation is critical theory.      


    In order to concentrate our collective inquiry we will focus this semester, after three weeks of introduction to some major concepts from Enlightenment philosophy, politics, and culture, upon substantial texts from a limited number of major figures in the history of critical theory: Soren Kierkegaard; Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, and Vladimir Lenin; Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno; Audre Lorde; and Tariq Ali.  Even though we only work with six books, this selection embraces, beyond Enlightenment theory and criticism, religious faith-based, and, in particular, Christian existentialist, critical theory; Marxist critical theory; Frankfurt School, neo- and post- Marxist critical theory; critical theory of modern, postmodern, mass, and popular cultures; and feminist, African-American, queer, multiculturalist, postcolonial, and comparative internationalist varieties of critical theory.

    Why this focus?  For the following reasons:

    First, each of our texts not only represents a major (influential) current within the history of critical theory but also does so in a simultaneously both relatively accessible and relatively comprehensive fashion for an advanced introductory inquiry.  

    Second, in contrast with a packed survey that rapidly moves across an immense, mind-numbing variety of different figures and approaches, studying a limited number of critical theoretical texts in depth will provide us a much better opportunity to work on the primary aim of this course (offered at this–advanced introductory–level): i.e., to help you develop and enhance your own self-reflective theoretical and critical abilities.  

    Third, each of these eight texts exemplifies the combined philosophical- ideological and social-political concerns and commitments of critical theory that I delineated above–in section 3 of this course explanation statement.  


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

    First, we can only engage with a small number of significant contributions to the immense critical theoretical discussion engaging the issues we will take up, and we can only begin to explore what makes these contributions significant.  This is an introductory course, the opening to a potential lifetime’s pursuit; don’t expect that what we read and study this semester represents the ‘ultimate truth’ or the final answer to what constitutes the most important work in ‘theory and criticism’.   Feel free to explore writers and writings we do engage further than our assigned textbooks allow and feel free as well to bring other theories and modes of critical practice, represented by other figures and groups, to bear as we proceed in discussion.

    Second, the reading you will do for this course should challenge you; you should find it often difficult, at least initially so; and you should not expect that what you read will make intuitive sense or provide immediate satisfaction.  Of course, I hope that eventually you will experience the excitement, even the joy, of working with these levels and kinds of knowledge-practices, but I do not want you to imagine you necessarily should be able to do this right away, with ease.  For most of you, this is your first course in critical theory, whereas, in most cases, you had already taken many courses, and read many texts, in the area of “literature” well before you began your university studies.  Imagine what it might be like to take a course of introduction to literature having never previously taken such a course, studied or read any of the material, or maintaining even much, if any, familiarity with what literature involves and what it might mean to make sense and respond to it.  Expect, therefore, in this class, that you will grow in understanding, facility, and confidence; don’t be needlessly hard on yourself–accept that you will learn through trial and error, through taking risks and trying out ideas, and by making mistakes.  You don’t need “the right answer” or “the right way to say it” to talk; by no means–learn through talking, and through becoming highly comfortable recognizing and accepting what you don’t already clearly understand and what you can’t already clearly articulate.

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

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

    Fifth, and following closely upon the last point, since many of you enrolled in this course are advanced students, taking this course late in your undergraduate career, I do expect you to demonstrate the intellectual maturity you have acquired through the duration of this previous work; you will need it.  Although designed as an upper 200 level course, I know people enrolled in 285 at present have in many cases taken many English as well as other courses for a considerable number of years now; all of this, including the meaning, value, significance, relevance, and effectiveness of what you have studied and learned, as well as have not, should become ‘grist for the mill’ in our discussions together this semester.  We will frequently reflect on the following questions: a.) Why are we doing what we are doing as women and men working in English studies today, and why not something else, perhaps more meaningful, valuable, significant, effective, relevant, and urgent?  b.) What difference does it make (for whom and for what) that we read, write, teach, study, talk about, and otherwise engage with the kinds of texts we do in the forms and setting that we do, working within this field in this department at this university at this place and time?

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

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


    Students are required to purchase the following books (available at the UWEC Bookstore in Davies Center):

1.   Kramnick, Isaac, ed.  The Portable Enlightenment Reader.   New York: Penguin, 1995.

2.   Kierkegaard, Soren.  Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard.   Charles E. Moore, comp. and ed.   Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002.

3.   Marx, Karl, Frederick Engels, and Vladimir Lenin.  Reader in Marxist Philosophy.  Howard Selsam and Harry Martel, eds.  New York: International Publishers, 1963.

4.   Horkheimer, Max and Theodor Adorno.  Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments.  Gunzelin Schmid Noerr, ed.  Edmund Jephcott, trans.   Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002.

5.   Lorde, Audre.  Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde.  Berkeley: The Crossing Press, 1984.

6.  Ali, Tariq.  The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity.  London: Verso, 2002.

    We will also work periodically with supplementary texts both in theory and criticism as well as providing us sites to practice testing out and applying ideas garnered from reading, study, and discussion of critical theory.  This will include six films from the fall UWEC campus film series as well as a number of other mostly short texts (especially from literary, musical, and other popular cultural sources) that I will make available for you, and I will do the same for various guides, outlines, lecture notes, comments on class discussions, and other learning tools that I will prepare for you to help you in your work as part of this class.

    In addition, your own writing, in the form of Desire2Learn postings, as well as in other forms, to be determined, will serve as significant texts in this course, and you yourselves will also, especially as part of group projects over the course of the last five weeks of the semester, be invited to refer us to supplementary texts of your choice for purposes of practice in testing and application.


T 9/7: Introduction and Orientation.

T 9/14: The European Enlightenment, Part One: An Overview of the Enlightenment Spirit, Reason and Natue, Reason and God, The Mind and Ideas, and Progress and History.

    Read for Class: The Portable Enlightenment Reader: 1-7 (Kant), 26-38 (Condorcet), 39-42 (Bacon), 81-90 (Locke), 115-133 (Voltaire), 174-180 (Paine), 181-185 (Descartes), and 387-395 (Condorcet).   

    Also, for Class, Supplemental: Elephant (Screening R 9/9 through Sn 9/12, 6 and 8:30 p.m.  each night in Davies Theater, $1 for students with I.D.; available as well for rent on DVD and VHS at local stores and libraries).  And possible additional text(s) to be announced.

T 9/21: The European Enlightenment, Part Two: Manners and Morals, The Economy and Markets, Crime and Punishment, and War and Peace.

    Read for Class: The Portable Enlightenment Reader: 242-254 (Mandeville), 257-264 (Cleland), 275-280 (Hutcheson), 297-314 (Kant, Bentham), 483-490 (Franklin), 505-515 (Smith), 525-532 (Beccaria), and 552-559 (Voltaire).  

    Also, for Class, Supplemental: In America (Screening R 9/16 through Sn 9/19, 6 and 8:30 p.m.  each night in Davies Theater, $1 for students with I.D.; available as well for rent on DVD and VHS at local stores and libraries).  And possible additional text(s) to be announced.   

T 9/28: The European Enlightenment, Part Three: Politics and the State, and Gender and Race.

    Read for Class: The Portable Enlightenment Reader: 395-415 (Locke, Montesquieu), 442-452 (Paine, The American Declaration of Independence), 459-466 (Madison), 469-472 (Paine), 560-568 (Astell), 586-590 (Paine), 601-628 (Constantia, de Gouges, Wollstonecraft), 640-644 (Diderot), and 645-649 (Paine).  

    Also, for Class, Supplemental: The Triplets of Belleville (Screening R 9/23 through Sn 9/26, 6 and 8:30 p.m.  each night in Davies Theater, $1 for students with I.D.; available as well for rent on DVD and VHS at local stores and libraries).  And possible additional text(s) to be announced.

T 10/5: Kierkegaard, Part One.

    Read for Class: From Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard, Specific Sections and Pages to be Announced.

    Also, for Class, Supplemental: Selections, Literature and Music, to be Announced.

    * First Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Assigned *

T 10/12: Kierkegaard, Part Two.

    Read for Class: From Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard, Specific Sections and Pages to be Announced.

    Also, for Class, Supplemental: Whale Rider (Screening R 10/7 through Sn 10/10, 6 and 8:30 p.m.  each night in Davies Theater, $1 for students with I.D.; available as well for rent on DVD and VHS at local stores and libraries).  And possible additional text(s) to be announced.

    * First Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Due by 5 p.m., F 10/15, My English Department Mailbox, HHH 405 *
T 10/19: Marx, Engels, and Lenin, Part One.

    Read for Class: From Reader in Marxist Philosophy, Specific Sections and Pages to be Announced.

    Also, for Class, Supplemental: The Magdalene Sisters (Screening R 10/14 through Sn 10/17, 6 and 8:30 p.m.  each night in Davies Theater, $1 for students with I.D.; available as well for rent on DVD and VHS at local stores and libraries).  And possible additional text(s) to be announced.
T 10/26: Marx, Engels, and Lenin, Part Two.

    Read for Class: From Reader in Marxist Philosophy, Specific Sections and Pages to be Announced.

    Also, for Class, Supplemental: One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest (Screening R 10/14 through Sn 10/17, 6 and 8:30 p.m.  each night in Davies Theater, $1 for students with I.D.; available as well for rent on DVD and VHS at local stores and libraries).  And possible additional text(s) to be announced.

    * Mid-Term Paper Assigned *

T 11/2: Marx, Engels, and Lenin, Part Three.

    Read for Class: From Reader in Marxist Philosophy, Specific Sections and Pages to be Announced.

    Also, for Class, Supplemental: Selections, Literature and Music, to be Announced.

T 11/9: Horkheimer and Adorno.  Student Group Project Presentation #1.

    Read for Class: From Dialectic of Enlightenment, Specific Sections and Pages to be Announced.   

    Supplemental: to be Announced.

    * Second Learning and Contribution Paper Assigned *

    * Mid-Term Paper Due by 5 p.m., F 11/12,  My English Department Mailbox, HHH 405 *

T 11/16: Lorde, Part One.  Student Group Project Presentation #2.
    Read for Class: From Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde, Specific Sections and Pages to be Announced.

    Supplemental: to be Announced.

    * Second Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Due  by 5 p.m., F 11/19, My English Department Mailbox, HHH 405 *

T 11/23: Lorde, Part Two.  Student Group Project Presentation #3.

    Read for Class: From Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde, Specific Sections and Pages to be Announced.  

    Supplemental: to be Announced.

T 11/30: Ali, Part One.  Student Group Project Presentation #4.

    Read for Class: From The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads, and Modernity, Specific Sections and Pages to be Announced.

    Supplemental: to be Announced.

    * Third Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Assigned *

T 12/7: Ali, Part Two.  Student Group Project Presentation #5.

    Read for Class: From The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads, and Modernity, Specific Sections and Pages to be Announced.

    Supplemental: to be Announced.


    T 12/14: Third Learning and Contribution Paper, and  Final Group Project Paper or Response to Group Project Paper Due, 5 p.m., My English Department Mailbox, HHH 405



    I expect students in this course to strive to become sincerely interested in learning about the subject matter of this course, and to be consistently intellectually serious as well as academically diligent in their pursuit of this learning.  I expect students to strive to bring actively and extensively to bear-in their essays and contributions to class discussion-insights they gain through their engagement with the texts and topics addressed as part of this course, and I expect students to strive at the same time to relate these texts and topics as closely and as fully as possible to subjects of genuine interest and concern in their own lives.  Finally, I expect students to let me know right away when and if they have any questions or problems about any aspect of how they are doing in and with the course, so that I can do whatever 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 offering 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 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 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.


    This university is, as most 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.  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.  English 285, Introduction to Theory and Criticism aims to help contribute to you meeting goals 1-4 and 10-11.   

    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.


    General Criteria: Evaluation of Student Performance

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


    Attendance is required.  Students are allowed one unexcused absence, maximum.  Other than that, except for an emergency, your grade will suffer if you miss class.  We only meet fourteen times over the course of the semester, and, as noted above, this class emphasizes discussion; thus, it is imperative that students (prepare for and) attend classes.  Your presence is also necessary for the large amount of group work we will do.  For every unexcused absence after the first, I reserve the right to lower your overall course grade by a third of a letter.  If you experience troubles of one kind or another that mean you will have to miss a significant number of classes, you should withdraw and re-take the course another semester where you will be in a better position to do so.

    Learning and Contribution/Learning and Contribution Reflection Papers

        What This is and Why it is Important

    My foremost aim in teaching this course is to help you 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 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 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.

    I would like you to come to class with strong opinions on the topic of discussion, to be ready to share your opinions with the class, and to be open-minded enough to debate your thoughts and to push them as far as they will go.  This last aspect will involve what some may think is overanalyzing things, or pushing the envelope to the point where meaning may break down, but this process is absolutely necessary to understanding a topic fully.

    As for evaluating class participation, I find the system designed by my colleague, Professor Mary Ellen Alea useful:  A = Nearly daily response, but always with consistently useful, insightful comments and questions; B= Daily response, with regular comments and questions; C = Less frequent, occasional questions and comments; F = Usually quiet, or, alternatively, engaging in behavior that disrupts the learning processes of you and your fellow students, such as talking while others are speaking.

        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) and as part of your learning and contribution reflection as well as group project critique papers 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 an important contribution to class as well.  

        Learning and Contribution Reflection Papers/ Learning and Contribution Reflection Grades

    Learning and contribution will constitute a substantial proportion of your overall course grade.  A significant component of this will involve you writing three learning and contribution reflection papers.  The assignments for these papers will ask you questions that will require you to assess how, and how well, you have been contributing to your own learning, and 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 I ask you to address will change from reflection paper to reflection paper.

    I recommend an approximate target range of between 1250 (minimum) and 1750 (maximum) words (roughly 5-7 double-spaced typed pages).   

    Each learning and contribution grade (including each learning and contribution reflection paper) will be worth 10% of the overall course grade.

    Desire2Learn Postings (Reflections, Comments, Critiques)

    Students will prepare and submit two kinds of postings to our Desire2Learn electronic classroom on regular intervals throughout the course of the semester.   This will be a space where you can engage in discussion primarily with your peers, largely free from having to worry about directly addressing me with anything that you here write.


    Each week I will post a short writing assignment for you to address on our Desire2Learn electronic classroom.  Students should post their papers in response to this assignment by midnight the Sunday two days before the Tuesday evening our class meets.   Late postings will inconvenience the rest of us, and, as a result, will lose credit.  

    These writing assignments will ask you briefly to address questions related to the readings (and, possibly also, the supplemental texts) assigned for the upcoming Tuesday class.   In so doing, you will already begin to stake out a tentative, preliminary position in relation to these texts, and some of the issues they raise for our consideration; we will be able to draw upon and refer to what you post here in our class discussion, as proves of interest and use.    

    I expect all students to look over your classmates’ Desire2Learn postings prior to class and to come to class prepared to speak to these as well as to the course readings (and other supplemental texts).  

    In writing these reflections, comments, and/or critiques you should aim an approximate target average of 500 to 1000 words.  These are “semi-formal,” which means that you should try to write as clearly and cogently as possible, but that I will not be a stickler for minute kinds of fine points of style in evaluating what you write.  

    You should address a minimum of three of these assignments in the first seven weeks of the semester and and a minimum of three more in the second half of the semester.


    After the week’s classes have met, you will then be invited to respond to your own previous posting and/or those of your fellow students.  These responses should indicate what you have gained as a result of class discussion and the chance to think further about what you and/or your classmates initially wrote.

    You should aim, in these responses, to cover approximately the same length as your initial postings.

    You should offer a minimum of nine responses related to the first seven posting assignments and a minimum of nine more related to the second seven posting assignments.  

    You may respond for up to nineteen days after class meets for assignments 1-5, up to twelve days for assignment 6, up to five days for assignment 7, up to nineteen days for assignments 8-12, up to twelve days for assignment 13, and up to five days for assignment 14.   Aim to keep up with this task on a regular basis so that you are not cramming responses in at the last moment, and so that what you post does contribute to (your own and fellow students’) significant learning, reflection, discussion, and debate–the more your posts do so, the better your grade will turn out to be.   Feel free to argue with and critique each other (focusing, of course, on positions represented by and practices supported by your peers, not on denigrating persons).  


    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 later to pursue in class discussions, and in papers.  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.

    The Desire2Learn postings will be graded twice, once half-way through the semester and once at the end of the semester.  Here, my evaluation will be quite succinct, focused, and holistic.   The grade for your Desire2Learn postings will contribute the following percentages of the overall course grade: 15% for the first half of the semester, and 15% for the second half of the semester.

Mid-Term Paper

    For this paper I will ask you questions that will require you to engage in extended written form with positions, concepts, arguments, theories, and modes of critical practice we have been studying from the European Enlightenment, Kierkegaard, Marx, Engels, and Lenin, as well to demonstrate what you are learning from working with these ideas.  Specific details will be explained with the assignment.  Your paper should aim for an approximate target length of between 2000 and 2500 words (roughly eight to ten double-spaced, typed pages).   This paper will be worth 15% of the overall course grade.  

Group Project/Group Project Paper

    Each student will participate in one group project.  Group project presentations will run one per week over the last five weeks of the semester.  Your group will be responsible for leading discussion and directing our education in making sense and use of the writings in theory and criticism assigned for that week.  You will also be responsible for selecting the supplemental texts we should “read” (or otherwise attend to) in preparation for this class discussion.  Each project group will meet with me in a extended conference at least one week ahead of your presentation in class to plan and prepare together.  I will help you as far as I possibly can.   I want this to be a productive presentation and discussion for all of us, for you and the rest of the class–an experience of genuine educational value.   We will leave time in each of these five class meetings for me also to lead discussion of additional points of importance, interest, and concern.

    After your class presentation and discussion facilitation, you will write a paper reflecting on, analyzing, and evaluating–i.e., critiquing–your preparation and performance, as well as that of your groupmates, along with how and what you contributed to your fellow students’ learning.  Specific instructions for this paper will be explained with the assignment to be distributed in class.   You should aim for an approximate target range of 1000 to 1250 words (roughly four to five double-spaced, typed pages) with this paper.  This paper will be due one week after the class in which you present and lead discussion.

    In preparing for your report, and in presenting and leading discussion in class, you must work together, yet you should most definitely feel free to disagree with, even to argue strongly with and to sharply critique, your groupmates as often and as far as you find yourself inclined; doing so may in fact make your contribution to our collective learning all-the-more provocative, stimulating, incisive, and compelling.  Don’t hesitate to do this–and don’t hesitate to meet with me more than once, individually as well as collectively, in working on this project.

    Your grade for what you do in and with class on this project will be worth 7.5% of the overall course grade; your grade for what you do in and with your subsequent paper will be worth 7.5% of the overall course grade.  You will receive individual grades for both.

Papers in Response to Other Groups’ Projects

    Each student will write a short paper in response to every other group’s presentation and direction of discussion, as part of its group project, besides its own.  This paper will reflect on, analyze, and evaluate–i.e., critique–the group’s preparation, presentation, and performance in leading and directing discussion, as well as the group’s contribution to our collective learning.  Specific details of this paper will be explained with the assignment when this is given out in class.  You should aim for an approximate average target range of 1000 to 1250 words per response paper (roughly the equivalent of four to five double-spaced, typed pages).  Each of these response papers will be worth 2.5% of the overall course grade for a total of 10% of the overall course grade.

    General Guidelines for Writing Learning and Contribution Reflection Papers,  Mid-Term Paper,
Group Project Paper, and Papers in Response to Other Groups’ Projects

    All of 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 all rules and conventions of Standard Written English and  MLA format for citation and documentation of sources.  


    Late papers will receive a reduction of 1/3 of a letter grade per day late unless you have made previous arrangements to turn your paper in to me due to a serious problem or emergency.  


    Do not use anyone else's words without giving the author credit.  If I find out that you've plagiarized even part of a paper, you will have to re-write it, and you may be dismissed from UWEC.  If you echo any thoughts mentioned in class discussion add the letters CD in parenthetical citation after the sentence, viz: (Nowlan CD 2/2/04).


    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 that you develop as a student in this course and as a member of this class.  I recognize the value of learning that takes place in conferences; I know this can at times be equally as important, and in fact occasionally even more important, than what takes place in class.  It also provide you an opportunity to contribute beyond what you say in class and write for class.  So please do not hesitate to meet with me at any time you think this might be helpful to you.  I want to help you in your understanding of issues addressed in texts and discussions, as well as in your writing and participation.  And you may certainly also feel free to contact me by e-mail or by (my campus office) phone as well.   

    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.


    I strive to be 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 about this with you.

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Last Updated:  September 1, 2004