Section 002, HHH 222, MW 5-7:15 pm, Fall 2011, UWEC


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


    English 210: Introduction to Texts, the principal foundational core course for all UWEC English major and minor emphasis areas, focuses on basic concepts and practices useful for interpreting a wide variety of texts by situating these in relevant and useful cultural contexts.   

    Introduction to Texts is a course in Cultural Studies.  Cultural Studies is a cross-disciplinary field of intellectual work that emerged in the 1980s, with particular emphasis in the arts and humanities.  Cultural studies engages the "writing" and "reading" of all "texts" of culture (and not just conventional "literary"–or print or verbal–varieties of 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 focuses on making sense of the meaning of human products and practices–as well as of the meaning of the social relationships humans form in the course of interacting with each other.  Cultural studies further inquires into the ways meaning often, in fact, changes over time, from one period to another, and varies across space, from one location to another.  Likewise, cultural studies further inquires into the ways meaning, even at one place and in one time, is often multiple, complex, and contradictory.  Cultural studies attempts to explain what accounts for meaning–and especially what accounts for the ways that it emerges, develops, and changes, as well as for the ways that it is complex and contradictory, in particular as site, and stake, of conflict and struggle among social groups representing different social positions, maintaining different social interests, and striving toward different social ends.  

    From the vantage point of Cultural Studies, literary texts are not the only kinds of texts that English engages, not by far, yet “literature,” taking a cue from literary and cultural studies theorist Terry Eagleton, here refers to whatever a particular culture (or subculture) happens to regard as especially "highly valued writing."  This flexible definition recognizes that what is defined as “literature” and what is not–and especially “good” or “great” literature–varies considerably across time and space, and remains a continual focus of popular debate and critical contestation.  But it also recognizes that literary studies maintains a crucial place within a larger field of cultural studies: inquiry into what makes for different conceptions of highly valued writing within and across different historical cultures (and subcultures), as well as interpretation and appreciation of those texts that do maintain the status of “literature.”

    Within Cultural Studies, however, and also throughout the history of the existence of this particular course, English 210: Introduction to Texts, practitioners tend to emphasize texts that are not conventionally conceived as great works of art–or the mainstays of ‘high’ or ‘fine’ culture–instead focusing on the vast array of cultural processes and productions we find in the broad, diverse arena commonly referred to as “popular culture.”  In doing so, work in Cultural Studies shows how it is possible–and useful–to bring to bear concepts and practices for interpretation of cultural texts of all levels and kinds.  At the same time, cultural studies takes ‘great works of art’–and, more broadly, texts of ‘high’ or ‘fine’ culture–seriously too, focusing on showing how these are related to texts of popular culture, including, often, as deliberate critiques of, rejections of, departures from, escapes from, and ways of, even if only partially and temporarily, transcending the qualitative problems and limitations of popular culture.  

    English 210 aims to help you to engage critically with all of these different texts of culture, thereby far less easily subject to manipulation, indoctrination, dogmatism, demagoguery, or any other tendencies to end up as mere mindless consumers, shallow conformists, or passive victims versus the power exercised by dominant social–and political–groups.  Ultimately, English 210 aims to help you engage as producers (and not merely consumers) of your culture, and of your cultural experience.   

    In the first half of this course we will focus on learning and initially applying key concepts and practices for interpretation of cultural texts, particularly from the field of semiotics (or semiology, as it is also known).  Semiotics inquires into the nature and operations of all forms of meaningful expression, representation, and communication in human culture.  We will concentrate in this half of the course on working with ways of reading–and writing about–cultural texts.  And we will concentrate in this part of the semester on working with texts from popular culture.  In the second half of this course we will transition from working with ways of reading–and writing about–cultural texts to focus as well on learning and initially practicing writing–that is creating–cultural texts.  Here we will begin by reading, discussing, and interpreting a series of three recent plays that offer overtly challenging, frequently ‘dark’ (including ‘darkly humorous’), often disturbing, and deliberately provocative interpretations of a broad range of complex, serious, and persistently topical issues: Edward Albee, The American Dream; Harold Pinter, The Hothouse; and Jo Clifford, Every One.  These plays will present stimulating challenges to your own interpretive abilities, especially in drawing out implications from what each represents that will enable you to make illuminating connections with diverse other cultural texts–and contexts.  All three playwrights have achieved the stature of major writers of our times, while scholars, critics, and general audiences have lauded all three plays, even as each play deals with sensitive issues through often bold and unsettling means.  What you will be doing, after we take the time initially to read, discuss, and interpret these plays, is to divide into three groups where each group will be working together to compose, produce, and ultimately perform–for the rest of the class–a short play of your own.  These plays you write will be related to and inspired by one of the plays we earlier read and discussed from Albee, Pinter, and Clifford, while set in the here and now as well as otherwise significantly adapted and transformed.  So, in sum, in the second half of class you will gain the opportunity to bring to bear the key concepts and practices you have learned in the first half of class toward the creative writing of a cultural text of your own.  And you will gain the benefit of working closely with drama, which tends to be taught and studied considerably less often in other English literature and creative writing courses, at many US colleges and universities, than is the case with poetry, fiction, and, even creative non-fiction.

    The following books are required:

1.    Brummet, Barry S.  Rhetoric and Popular Culture.  3rd Edition.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2010.  ISBN#: 978-1412975681.

2.    Berger, Arthur Asa.  Signs in Contemporary Culture: an Introduction to Semiotics.  2nd Edition.  Salem, WI: Sheffield Publishing Company, 1999.  ISBN#: 1-897215-37-3.

3.    Albee, Edward.  The American Dream and The Zoo Story.  1960-1961.  New York: Plume/Penguin, 1997.  ISBN#: 978-0-452-27889-9.
4.    Pinter, Harold.  The Hothouse.  New York: Grove Press, 1980.  ISBN#: 0-8021-3643-5.

5.    Clifford, Jo.  Every One.  London: Nick Hern Books, 2010.

    All of these books are available for you to purchase at the UWEC Bookstore. You may purchase them elsewhere, as you wish, as long as you do acquire them in time to use for class; these days many students find many required texts for their classes through on-line booksellers.  All are readily available through that means from multiple different vendors.  I will supply additional written texts, as need be, in the form of photocopied handouts, or on Desire2Learn and the W (the Student-Faculty Shared) Drive.  I will also supply copies of the visual, audio, and audio-visual texts that we may make use of from time to time as well.  Please note well that I originally also ordered Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman and Caryl Churchill’s Cloud Nine for this class, but we don’t have time to work with that many plays, so you don’t need to purchase those books.


Part One

W 9/7: Introduction and Orientation.

M 9/12: The Rhetoric of Everyday Life, The Building Blocks of Culture: Signs, Definition–Signs and Semiotics, and How Signs Work.

    Read for Class, M 9/12: Rhetoric and Popular Culture, Selections From Chapter 1, pp. 4-13 (“The Rhetoric of Everyday Life” and “The Building Blocks of Culture: Signs”–Including “Indexical Meaning,” “Iconic Meaning,” “Symbolic Meaning,” and “Complexity of the Three Kinds of Meaning”); Signs in Contemporary Culture, Chapter 1 (“Definition” and “Honor in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I”) and Chapter 2 (“How Signs Work” and “Sherlock Holmes”), pp. 1-21.

W 9/14: The Building Blocks of Culture: Artifacts; Language and Speaking; Forms of Signs; and Who Uses Signs?

    Read for Class, W 9/11: Rhetoric and Popular Culture, Selection From Chapter 1, pp. 13-19 (“The Building Blocks of Culture: Artifacts”–Including “An Action, Event or Object Perceived as a Unified Whole”); Signs in Contemporary Culture, Chapter 6, pp. 39-45 (“Language and Speaking” and “Fashion”), Chapter 8, pp. 53-61 (“Forms of Signs” and “Eight Hypotheses on Digital Watches”), and Chapter 16, pp. 121-126 (“Who Uses Signs?” and “Poetry as Signs”).

M 9/19: Definitions of Culture; Characteristics of Cultures; and Signs and Identity.

    Read for Class, M 9/19: Rhetoric and Popular Culture, Selections From Chapter 1, pp. 19-32 (“Definitions of Culture”–Including “Elitist Meanings of Culture” and “Popular Meanings of Culture”–and “Characteristics of Cultures”–Including “Cultures Are Highly Complex and Overlapping,” “Cultures Entail Consciousness, or Ideologies,” and “Cultures Are Experienced Through Texts”); Signs in Contemporary Culture, Chapter 17, pp. 127-139 (“Signs and Identity,” “Teeth as Signs,” “Logos and Corporate Identity,” “The Un-Cola Country,” and “The Onion of Culture Metaphor”).

W 9/21: Codes.

    Read for Class, W 9/21: Signs in Contemporary Culture, Chapters 25-26, pp. 195-216 (“Codes,” “Baseball,” “Characteristics of Codes,” and “Foods as Signs”).

M 9/26: Writing About Cultural Texts.

    Read for Class, M 9/26: To Be Announced.

    * M 9/26: Short Paper #1 (Beginning to Work with Key Concepts and Practices in Reading and Writing About Cultural Texts) Assigned. *

W 9/28: Texts as Sites of Struggle, Characteristics of Critical Studies, and Finding a Text.

    Read for Class, W 9/28: Rhetoric in Popular Culture, Selections From Chapter 3, pp. 77-93 (“Texts as Sites of Struggle”–Including “Texts Influence Through Meanings” and “Texts Are Sites of Struggle over Meaning”; “Three Characteristics of Critical Studies”–Including “The Critical Character,” “Concern Over Power,” and “Critical Interventionism”; and “Finding a Text”–Including “The First Continuum: Type of Text” and “The Second Continuum: Sources of Meaning”).

M 10/3: Defining a Context, “Inside” the Text, and The Text in Context: Metonymy, Judgment, and Power.

    Read for Class, M 10/3: Rhetoric in Popular Culture, Selections From Chapter 3, pp. 93-116 (“Defining a Context”–Including “The Third Continuum: Choice of Context” and “The Fourth Continuum: Text-Context Relationship”; “‘Inside’ The Text”–Including “The Fifth Continuum: From Surface to Deep Reading”; and “The Text in Context: Metonymy, Power, Judgment”–Including “Metonymies,” “Empowerment/Disempowerment,” and “Judgment”).

W 10/5: Metaphor and Metonymy, Denotation and Connotation, Imaginary Signs and Signs that Lie, and Manifest and Latent Meaning in Signs.

    Read for Class, W 10/5: Signs in Contemporary Culture, Chapters 4-5, pp. 29-38 (“Metaphor: Communicating by Analogy,” “Love Is a Game,” “Metonymy: Communicating by Using Associations,” and “Political Cartoons”), Chapters 11-13, pp. 77-105 (“Denotation and Connotation,” “Comics and Ideology,” “Imaginary Signs,” “Freud on Dreams,” “Signs that Lie,” and “On Parody”), and Chapter 23, pp. 177-185 (“Manifest and Latent Meanings in Signs” and “Robinson Crusoe”).

    * F 10/7: Short Paper #1 Due by 4 pm in my English Department Mailbox, HHH 405 *

M 10/10: Visual Aspects of Signs, Signifiers and Life-Style, Coherence in Signs, Signs and Images, Sign Modifiers, and Analyzing Signs and Sign Systems.

    Read for Class, M 10/10: Signs in Contemporary Culture, Chapter 9, pp. 63-70 (“Visual Aspects of Signs” and “Postmodern Design”), Chapters 14-15, pp. 107-120 (“Men’s Looks: Signifiers and Life-Style,” “Denimization,” “Coherence in Signs,” and “Formulas in the Public Arts”); Chapter 19, pp. 149-158 (“Signs and Images” and “Photography”), Chapter 22, pp. 171-176 (“Sign Modifiers” and “Cartooning”), and Chapter 24, pp. 187-193 (“Analyzing Signs and Sign Systems” and “‘Reach Out and Touch Someone’”).

W 10/12: Screening, Groundhog Day.

    * W 10/12: Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #1 Assigned *

M 10/17: Discussion of Groundhog Day, including of Simulational Selves and Simulational Culture in Groundhog Day.  

    Read for Class, M 10/17: Rhetoric and Popular Culture, Chapter 8, “Simulational Selves, Simulational Culture in Groundhog Day,” 247-258.
W 10/19: Screening, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

    * W 10/19: Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #1 Due in Class. *

M 10/24: Discussion of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in Comparison and Contrast with Groundhog Day, as well as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind vis-a-vis the idea of Simulational Selves and Simulational Cultures.

    * M 10/24: Short Paper #2 (Beginning to Work with Key Concepts and Practices in Reading and Writing About Cultural Texts) Assigned. *

Part Two

W 10/26 and M 10/31: Discussion, The American Dream.

    Read for Class, W 10/26: The American Dream.

W 11/2 and M 11/7:  Discussion, The Hothouse.

    Read for Class, W 11/2: The Hothouse, Act I.  Read for Class, M 11/7: The Hothouse, Act II.

    * F 11/4: Short Paper #2 Due by 4 pm in my English Department Mailbox, HHH 405 *

W 11/9 and M 11/14: Discussion, Every One.

    Read for Class, W 11/9: Every One, Act One.  Read for Class, M 11/14: Every One, Act Two.

W 11/16, M 11/21, W 11/23, M 11/28, W 11/30, M 12/5, W 12/7, and M 12/12: Work in Groups on Writing, Producing, and Practicing Performing Short Plays.

    * W 11/23: Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #2 Assigned. *

W 12/14: Performances of Short Plays.

M 12/17: Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #2 Due by 4 pm in my English Department Mailbox, HHH 405.




    We will work continuously throughout the 135 minutes we have each period.  (If you need to take a short restroom break, you should feel free to go ahead and take it–but try to keep it short.)  Class will follow a variety of formats, but throughout you will be consistently actively involved.  In other words, while I will devise the structures for what we do, and direct all of our work together, this will be a discussion-emphasis as opposed to a lecture-emphasis class.  From time to time I will make short presentations, but that’s it, as it will be up to you to help us work our way toward a consensual understanding of key concepts and practices–what they mean, how and for what they are useful, and what their significance happens to be.  You will need to work with me in order to enable your learning and that of your peers; I find that students learn better, in this kind of class, through active participation and extensive collaboration (including often as part of smaller groups and teams) rather than by remaining largely quiet and merely taking notes during the course of long lectures.  Plus, we will be making use of your prior, and other, knowledge, skill, talent, and experience as a crucial point of connection with everything “new” you encounter in this class.  And since we will be focusing a great deal on contemporary American popular culture, each of you has a lot to offer. We collectively maintain “expertise” in many of the vast array of different areas in which people in the US today interact–in all of the diverse rituals, conventions, routines, customs, traditions, habits, and myriad other forms of meaningful activity that give shape and substance to our everyday lives.  “Popular culture” includes all of that, as well as all of the ways we commonly make sense of this participation (i.e., what we think, feel, and believe about it).  While working, toward the end of the semester, on your short plays you will be working in three separate classrooms.  I will give you directions, including targets, for what you should aim to accomplish each day.  I will also ask you to account in precise detail for what you do as part of these teams throughout the process, as well as precisely to evaluate your teammates’ contributions toward your collective work.  


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

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

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

    The following, in addition, are the five most important, official goals all UWEC undergraduate courses are designed to help you meet, and this class aims to help you, in particular, with goal number two:

1.) Knowledge of Human Culture and the Natural World

2.) Creative and Critical Thinking
3.) Effective Communication

4.) Individual and Social Responsibility

5.) Respect for Diversity Among People

These goals require your striving to meet them.  Striving means learning actively and deliberately, completing assignments in a thorough and timely fashion, participating in class discussion, and making connections between what we do while meeting in class and what you do when engaged outside of the classroom.


    I expect students in this course to strive to become sincerely interested in learning about the subject matter of this course, and to be consistently intellectually serious as well as academically diligent in your pursuit of this learning.  I expect students to strive to bring actively and extensively to bear–in your essays and contributions to class discussion–insights you gain through your engagement with the texts and topics addressed as part of this course, and I expect you to strive at the same time to relate these texts and topics as closely and as fully as possible to subjects of genuine interest and concern in your own lives, past and present.  And I expect you to let me know right away when and if you have any questions or problems about any aspect of how you are doing in and with the course, so that I can do whatever I possibly can to help answer these questions and solve these problems.  In addition, you need to be ready to engage seriously, thoughtfully, and respectfully–at all times–with positions that you don’t necessarily agree with, and even with ones that you may find troubling.  After all, great works of art–including many great works of literature–are often created with the deliberate aim of disturbing, even shocking many people who will encounter these.  Often the intent is to provoke strong response, as well as thought–and action–that goes beyond what has become familiar, conventional, commonsensical, and, especially, merely “safe.”  You are capable of dealing with these kinds of challenges in an intellectually serious, mature adult manner–and I will expect you to do so.

General Standards for Evaluation of Student Work

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


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

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

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

3.)    Students are expected to arrive for class on time and to stay through the very end of class.  If you don’t do so, you won’t be counted as attending class.  In addition, you need to be awake, alert, and attentive while in class; this means you can’t expect to sleep or rest in class.  Again, if you do so, this will count as an absence from class.  And the same is true of doing other school work in class or attending to other–personal–matters irrelevant to what we are focusing on at that point in time in class.  You should avoid text-messaging, or web-searching, or facebooking, or playing games on your cell phone–just to mention a few common temptations–while we are working together in class.   If you repeatedly do any of these things you will suffer a loss of one to two full letter grades (depending on the severity of the issue) for learning and contribution during each period of the semester where this becomes a problem.  Since you are all mature, responsible adults, I respect, if you choose to ignore this warning, that you also choose to accept the consequences.  In other words, I won’t repeatedly warn you not to do any of these things; instead I will just note what you are doing, and adjust your grades accordingly.  I know that cell phones–and other electronic devices, especially providing access to the internet and the world wide web–present plenty of temptation, and most of us are used to being plugged in and connected all the time, but you can and will concentrate better, learn more, and contribute more and better if you set these devices aside and put them away while we are working together in class, unless you are using these devices as part of work on class activities or projects.  If I can do so, you can too.  

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

Short Papers–Beginning to Work with Key Concepts for Reading and Writing about Cultural Texts

    These papers will provide you an opportunity to test out your developing grasp of exactly that: key concepts and practices for reading and writing about cultural texts.  They will involve the opportunity to apply what you have learned to specific texts of your own choosing.   I will provide a thorough explanation at the time that I distribute each of these paper assignments to you, including specifications for length (although I will mention here that I tend to be quite flexible in working with different lengths depending upon what works for different students).  Please seek out my help as you are working on these papers; I will be glad to give it.  Each of these papers will be worth 15% of the overall course grade, for a combined total worth 30% of the course grade.

Learning and Contribution/Learning and Contribution Reflection Papers

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

    Class participation represents an important opportunity to learn, not just a place in which to demonstrate what you have learned.  By raising questions, testing and trying out ideas, taking risks and making mistakes, you learn a great deal–and help others learn a great deal as well. You learn through talking, not just talk to show what you have learned.  At the same time, quality of participation is much more important than quantity, although a sufficient quantity is indispensable to insure quality.  Still, I want to emphasize here that I perceive talking for talking’s sake–especially talking which pulls us off on far-fetched tangents, which remains disconnected from and disengaged with the reading and the rest of the class, or which effectively silences others–to be negative participation.  Quality class participation does not, moreover, involve merely asking questions of me and responding to my questions; quality class participation requires you to work to advance a thoughtful discussion with your peers about the texts and topics subject to discussion.

     Contribution to the class certainly can extend far beyond mere speaking in class: it may include a variety of ways in which you can bring to bear your insights to help yourself as well as the rest of us gain from the experience of this class.  Excellent writing for class is also a valuable way to contribute to class.   At the same time, listening carefully, respectfully, and thoughtfully in class discussions is yet another important means of contribution–as is taking time to meet and talk with me outside of class.  In fact, meeting and talking with me outside of class can be an excellent way to contribute–as well as to show me how seriously interested in and engaged with the course material you are.

    Learning and contribution will constitute a significant proportion of your overall course grade.  As part of this grade, you will write two short learning and contribution reflection papers.  For these papers I will ask you, simply, to assess how, along with how well, you have been learning and contributing in the class over the course of the preceding approximately one-half of the semester.  As I see it, these short 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 can 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 half-semester; 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.  Each learning and contribution grade (including each learning and contribution reflection paper) will be worth 15% of the overall course grade, making for a combined total worth 30% of the overall course grade.

Small Group Project: Leadership of a Section of a Play

    As part of a group of students you will be responsible for leading our discussion for approximately one-half period of a significant section from one of the following three plays–The American Dream, The Hothouse, and Every One.  Your aims here will be: to help your fellow students better understand and appreciate (the meaning, value, and significance of) the section of the play for which you are responsible, and to do the same for the play as a whole, as well as to help stimulate an interesting discussion of the play, including by drawing connections (comparisons and contrasts) with other cultural texts and contexts.  If you can come up with some good ideas to help the students who will subsequently be working with this play as source material for composing, producing, and performing their own short play that will be great.  Each group will meet with me in a conference prior to the day in which you will be responsible for half of class; I will help you prepare.  Your performance on this assignment will be worth 10% of the overall course grade.

Large Group Project: Composition, Production, and Performance of a Short Play

    Here you will be working together with a group of your peers from class to compose, produce, and ultimately perform–in class, for the rest of us–a short play directly inspired by one the three plays we will be reading and discussing in class: The American Dream, The Hothouse, and Every One.  You will be updating and translating the play so that it is focused on the here and now.  At the same time, you will be maintaining significant elements of plot, character, style, mood, tone, and even setting from your original source-play.  And you will be working to find ways to make use of the key concepts for reading and writing about texts that we discussed in the first half of the semester; you will be bringing these to bear in how you compose, produce, and perform your play, demonstrating how your “writing” here of a cultural text reflects your critical “reading” of (and is in fact another way of “writing about”) a series of other cultural texts.  In other words, your play will offer a critical as well as creative take on some significant aspects of contemporary American culture, linked with and inspired by Albee’s, Pinter’s, or Clifford’s creative and critical takes on significant aspects of American and British culture (from 1960 through 2010).  I will provide more details when I give you the specific assignment for this project.  I will also give you instructions as well as suggestions and recommendations throughout the time you will be working on this assignment.  And you should note well that even as this is the kind of assignment that students overwhelmingly tend to enjoy working on, and that includes students initially skeptical or worried about it, you will need to take it seriously, and make productive use of your time.  Plus you almost certainly will need to work on it outside of as well as inside of class, even though you will have eight 135 minutes long class periods to work in your teams on composing, producing, and rehearsing your short plays.  Please feel free to consult with me outside as well as inside of class as you are working on this project; I will be glad to help in any and every way I can.  I will be doing everything I can to help you in class throughout that period of time.  Finally, I will be giving each member of each team an evaluation sheet to fill out and turn in after your play has been performed in class, where you will evaluate your own and each other member of your team’s contribution to the collective project you have worked on; I will take what teams write on these evaluation forms, about yourselves and your teammates, significantly into account in determining your individual grades for this project.  Please also feel free to let me know right away, at any point in the process, if any members of your team are not contributing constructively to your collective project.  The grade for your work as part of a team of peers involved in composing, producing, and performing a short play will be worth 30% of the overall course grade.

Extra Credit Opportunity

    You may, if you wish, write a sustained critical analysis of the dramatic work of Edward Albee, Harold Pinter, or Jo Clifford in which you incorporate research into the life, times, and outlook of the playwright as well as key shaping influences on the playwright and his or her playwriting; the history of his or her plays’ production, performance, and reception; scholarly interpretation of his or her plays; and the relation between the play we read in class and at least one other play that he or she also wrote.  Let me know as early as possible if you are interested in this extra credit opportunity, so that I can help you on it.  This extra credit paper will be worth 10% of the overall course grade.

General Formatting Requirements: Papers

    All papers should be typed, double-space, on standard white letter-sized (8" X 11") typewriter, computer printer, or photographic paper.  You may use any standard font you wish but your print size must remain between 10 and 12 points.  Pages should be numbered, and your name should be at the top of the first page.  The pages of your paper must be stapled together and you are responsible for doing so; I do not bring staplers to class.  You are also responsible for proofreading your paper before you turn it in; if you catch any typographical errors, you should neatly cross these out and write your corrections on top of these with a pen.  I will expect you, furthermore, to observe the rules and conventions of Standard Written English to the best of your ability in writing these papers, including MLA format for citation and documentation of sources outside of those read for–and discussed in–class.

Late Papers

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

Plagiarism and Academic Honesty

    Plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty are serious offenses.  They not only undermine the goal of learning but also are exploitative of the work of others.  Deliberate dishonesty in written work as part of this course will result in a failing grade.  In addition, plagiarism may result in further disciplinary action on the part of the University administration, ultimately including expulsion from the University.  Also, if you directly echo someone else’s thoughts as articulated in the course of class discussion you should add the last name, followed by the letters CD (for class discussion), followed by the date, in a parenthetical citation right after the end of the sentence, viz: (Nowlan, CD, 9/26/11).


    I encourage you to meet with me in conference during office hours or at another mutually convenient time to discuss any issue of interest or concern related to what we are doing in this course.  Learning that takes place in conferences can be equally as important, and at times even more important, than what takes place in class.  Please do not hesitate to meet with me during office hours or to ask for an appointment at any time you think this might be helpful; making myself available for conferences with you outside of class is part of my responsibility as your teacher.  Moreover, I always sincerely do welcome getting to know and work with my students outside as well as inside of class.  I am ready to do whatever I can to help you in your understanding of issues addressed in discussions and readings, as well as to help you in your writing for and participation in this class.  I want to make sure that I do all that I can to help you succeed in this class and I want to help you, as far as I can, to gain as much out of it as possible through your participation in and work for it. You may also feel free to write me via e-mail, and to call me–or leave a message for me on the answering machine–at my office.  Keep in mind “my office hours” are for you, so please do not worry about “disturbing” me in coming to talk with me; these are times I have set aside to work with students; that is their purpose.  I am only designating a total of two regular hours for this purpose this semester because I don’t want to waste a lot of time holding regular office hours if students are not taking advantage of these specific hours.  At the same time, however, not scheduling that many regular office hours means I can be more flexible in arranging to meet with you at other times–which I will gladly do.  But you need to let me know that you would like to meet with me, and not assume that this is a big deal of any kind; I think it’s great when students want to meet, talk, and work on matters related to a class I am teaching.  I am pleased whenever you do so.   

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


    In the interest of accountability–me to you–I am here providing you a weblink to: 1) my autobiographical profile: http://people.uwec.edu/ranowlan/PROFILE. You are also welcome to look me up 2.) on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1755562371 [If you are interested in becoming facebook friends, feel free to contact me about that].  I encourage you to check these sites out; it is useful for you to know who your teacher is, what he’s about, and where he’s coming from–and I like to be open, honest, and forthright with you about all of that.  I look forward to a great semester working together with you!