University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire


Section 001: MW, 10 to 11:50 a.m.,

and F, 10 to 10:50 a.m., HHH 321

Five Credits

Spring 2003, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire


Office: HHH 425, (715) 836-4369

Office Hours:  MW 3:20-4:30 p.m., T 9:40-11 p.m., F 11 a.m. to 12 noon,

and By Appointment.


    Any discrete entity that someone can and does interpret as meaningful is a text, not just something that makes use of ordinary (written and spoken) language. Reading occurs whenever anyone interprets a text, of any kind, as possessing or bearing meaning. Writingoccurs whenever anyone creates or constructs a text that anyone else can interpret as possessing or bearing meaning.

   People write and read all of the following, and many more kind of texts, and they do so continuously, every day, all the time: films, television shows, music and video productions and performances, paintings and drawings, sculpture and architecture, sports, trends in clothing and fashion, commercial advertisements, individual dreams and plans, buildings and rooms, kinds of food and drink, roads and vehicles, ceremonies and rituals, personalities and personal relationships.

    English today inquires into all of the vast multitude of processes involved in making meaning and engaging with meaning in all of its possible forms and varieties, in all places and at all times that "meaningfulness" occurs within cultures and subcultures where English is a dominant-or just a significant-form of written and spoken language.

    This does not mean that literature no longer maintains a special place in contemporary English Studies. On the contrary, "literature" refers to writing that a particular culture, or subculture, considers to be especially "highly valuable." Yet standards for judging what is "highly valuable" change with time and vary from culture to culture as well as from subculture to subculture. What constitutes "literature," and especially "good" or "great" literature, becomes itself a site of significant contestation. New kinds of highly valued "writing," in new forms and from new media, supplant old ones, while classic texts take on new meanings and significances. Different people in different places interpret and evaluate these texts in often strikingly different as well as sharply opposing ways. Criteria for rating (literary) value become themselves objects of investigation, and focuses of debate.

    At the college level, students of English can today expect to learn about many different ways of expressing and communicating meaning in many different textual forms and varieties, and can expect to study how these texts are the products of particular cultures and subcultures as well as how these texts in turn impact and influence the cultures and subcultures out of which they emerge. Also, at the college level, students learn how to look at texts critically, not just appreciatively, and they learn how to account for their critiques (in other words, they learn how to argue for their interpretations and evaluations).

    The foundation course for the English major-and minor-at UWEC reflects and responds to what English today has become. This foundational course is the one in which you are here enrolled, English 210, "Introduction to Texts."

    In this course we begin, in unit one, by inquiring into what we mean when we talk or write about texts as "representing" something, particularly through means of narrative, especially to facilitate social processes of communication and contestation, and most powerfully to elicit effects of defamiliarization. We proceed, from there, in unit two, to consider further interconnections among "texts," "thoughts," and "things," concentrating in particular upon employment of metaphor and a considerable array of other forms of figurative language in circumstances both ordinary and extraordinary. Lastly, in unit three, we examine relations between texts and other texts-relations of "intertextuality"- as well as in relations between texts and contexts-considering the broad aesthetic, social, political, and ideological uses and effects of reading and writing.

    At the end of each unit we will engage with a book that complicates conventional understandings of relations between the verbal and the visual, the literary and the historical, the individual and the social, the political and the aesthetic, and the creative and the critical, as well as between form and content, and text and context: Wisconsin Death Trip, Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You, and Fever: the Art of David Wojnarowicz.

    Throughout the semester we will investigate a host of visual, audio, and audio-visual, as well as verbal texts. We will also inquire into the texts of your own life experiences, your own prior and other knowledge, and your own most deeply entrenched and firmly committed attitudes, outlooks, habits, beliefs, values, and modes of behavior.


The following required texts are available at the UWEC Bookstore:

1. Scholes, Robert, Nancy R. Comley, and Gregory L. Ulmer, eds., Text Book: Writing Through Literature. 3rd Edition. Bedford/S. Martin's, 2002. Purchase.

2. Lesey, Michael. Wisconsin Death Trip. University of New Mexico Press, 1973. Purchase.

3. Barbara Kruger, et. al. Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. Ann Goldstein, organizer. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles/M.I.T. Press, 1999. Rental.

4. Wojnarowicz, David, et. al. Fever: the Art of David Wojnarowicz. Scholder, Amy, ed. New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, 1999. Purchase.

* I will supply you with photocopied handouts of all supplementary readings and discussion guides used in the course. I will also periodically post study guides and other learning materials on my UWEC faculty website- - as well as make resources available to you-such as short writing assignments, recommendations for further reading and study, paper assignments, changes in our schedule, announcements of activities and events of potential interest, and extended comments following upon class discussions or in response to student questions via our class e-mail distribution list and/or a Blackboard electronic classroom website I am creating for this course. I will explain how to access this latter site before we begin to use it. We may also, in addition to or in lieu of using photocopied or Blackboard, rely in part upon electronic reserve and postings at the faculty-student shared drive. However, it is worth noting that it takes approximately 80,500 sheets of paper to exhaust one relatively small-sized lumber tree, and with the kind of recyclable paper we regularly use at UWEC, it takes closer to 402,500 sheets. *


Unit One

Week One

W 1/22 Introduction and Orientation.

F 1/24 Reading Visual Texts.

Week Two

M 1/27 Reading Audio Texts.

W 1/29 Screening, Princess Mononoke.

F 1/31 Reading Audio-Visual Texts; Discussion, Princess Mononoke.

Week Three

M 2/3 Texts as Representation: Story and Storyteller, The 'Literary Anecdote', and the Short Story. Text Book: xv-xvi and 1-29.

W 2/5 Texts as Representation: Character and Confrontation, One. Text Book: 29-57.

F 2/7 Texts as Representation: Character and Confrontation, Two.

Week Four

M 2/10 Texts as Representation: Character and Confrontation, Three.

W 2/12 Texts as Representation: Representation and its Complications - Defamiliarization, and Representation and Reality - One. Text Book: 57-61.

F 2/14 Texts as Representation: Representation and its Complications - Defamiliarization, and Representation and Reality - Two. Screening, The Dadshuttle.

Week Five

M 2/17 Wisconsin Death Trip: Foreword, Preface, and One.

W 2/19 Wisconsin Death Trip: Two.

F 2/21 Wisconsin Death Trip: Three.

Week 6

M 2/24 Screening, Film Version of Wisconsin Death Trip, and Playing, Recording of Interview with Director James Marsh.

W 2/26 Conclusion, Playing of Interview with Wisconsin Death Trip Director James Marsh; Discussion: Conclusion to Book, Film, and Interview.

* Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #1 Assigned. Unit #1 Paper Assigned. *

Unit Two

F 2/28 Texts, Thoughts, and Things: The Linguistic Basis of Metaphor, Metaphor as Basis for Thought, and Metaphorical Concepts. Text Book: 62-72 and 94-113.

Week 7

M 3/3 Texts, Thoughts, and Things: Metaphor and Dreams/Poetic Uses of Metaphor. Text Book: 72-81 and 87-94.

W 3/5 Texts, Thoughts, and Things: Arguing with Metaphor: Analogy and Ideology. Text Book: 113-128.

* Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #1 Due. *

F 3/7 No Class. Instructor attending Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference.

Week 8

M 3/10 Texts, Thoughts, and Things: Metaphor and Metonymy-Advertising. Text Book: 142-149.

W 3/12 Texts, Thoughts, and Things: Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You: 1-75.

* Unit #1 Paper Due. *

F 3/14 Texts, Thoughts, and Things: Screening and Discussion, Pictures and Words: the Art of Barbara Kruger.

Spring Break: Saturday 3/15-Sunday 3/23.

Week 9

M 3/24 Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You: 76-139

W 3/26 Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You: 140- 244.

* Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #2 Assigned. Unit #2 Paper Assigned. *

Unit Three

F 3/28 Texts and Other Texts: Intertextuality/Transforming Texts. Text Book: 151-161.

Week 10

M 3/31 Texts and Other Texts: Completing Texts - The Reader's Work. Text Book: 176-190 and 229-238.

W 4/2 Screening, Casblanca. Text Book: 190-198.

* Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #2 Due. *

F 4/4 Screening, Play it Again Sam. Text Book: 198-199.

Week 11

M 4/7 Conclusion: Screening, Play it Again Sam; Screening, Bambi. Text Book: 199-207.

W 4/9 Continuation of Screening, Bambi; Discussion of Casablanca, Play it Again, Sam, and Bambi, as well as Ideology, Identification, and (Inter)Textuality.

* Unit #2 Paper Due. *

F 4/12 Debate, 1: Transforming, Interpreting, and (Re)Reading/(Re)Writing Texts: "Sleeping Beauty." Text Book: 162-176 and 214-229 plus Hypertext: Robert Coover, Briar Rose, at

Week 12

M 4/14 Debate, 2: Transforming, Interpreting, and (Re)Reading/(Re)Writing Texts: "Sleeping Beauty."

W 4/16 Fever: the Art of David Wojnarowicz: Foreword and 1-68.

F 4/18 No Class: Easter Break.

Week 13

M 4/21 No Class: Easter Break.

W 4/23 Fever: the Art of David Wojnarowicz -Two: 69-97.

F 4/25 Fever: the Art of David Wojnarowicz -Three: 98-136.

* Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #3 Assigned. Unit #3 Paper Assigned. *

Week 14

M 4/28-F 5/2 No Classes: Festival Week (English Festival, Irish Film Festival, Prospective Campus Visit, Screening, and Talk - Independent Film maker Jon Shear).

Week 15

M 5/5 Screening and Discussion, Ballot Measure 9.

W 5/7 Screening and Discussion, Voices from the Front.

F 5/9 Conclusion.

Monday 5/12 by 7 p.m., in my mailbox, HHH 425: Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #3 and Unit #3 Paper Due.




    I will not formally lecture at any point in this course, although I will from time to time make relatively brief, informal presentations when and where I believe this will prove helpful to the class. I strongly believe in the value of teaching by way of discussion; I conceive of learning as a collective project in which you learn much better and far more through active co-production than through passive consumption. At the college level this is especially important, and especially at a college or university dedicated to liberal arts education, as UWEC is. You are adults, not children, and I will always treat you this way. At the same time, I expect you to assume the responsibility and meet the challenge of engaging in class as mature, responsible adults.

    Our class discussions will follow a variety of different formats. I will introduce and explain these as we proceed, but I do want to let you know right away that I will often ask that you to do some short, relatively informal writing outside of and in preparation for class to help facilitate our discussion in class. I also will expect all students to make a sincere effort to contribute-seriously and thoughtfully-to class discussion. I likewise encourage students to argue with and critique me, each other, and the texts we read and discuss, as far as you feel inclined to do so-at least as long as you do this in a relevant and constructive fashion.

    I think we all learn a great deal through intelligent argument and critical exchange. Please never hesitate to pursue this. Do not assume that pretending to agree with what seems to be an explicit or implicit consensus on the part of the majority of the class, even when you really don't agree, best serves the interest of learning; on the contrary, the opposite is, most definitely, almost always the case.



    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 exploreadult issues, including ones that offer representations that may, on occasion, prove unsettling, disturbing, and even offensive to some of you.

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

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


    I expect students in this course to be 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 everything I possibly can to help answer these questions and solve these problems.



    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.


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

Learning and Contribution

What This is and Why it is Important

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

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

Class Participation

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

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

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

Alternative Forms of Contribution

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

Learning and Contribution Reflection Papers/

Learning and Contribution Grades

    I will divide your learning and contribution grade into three parts: one to cover the period from W 1/22 through W 2/26, one to cover the period from F 2/28 through W 3/26 , and one to cover the period from F 3/28 through F 5/9. At the end of each of the three learning and contribution periods I will ask you to prepare a learning and contribution reflection paper, assessing your learning and contribution over the course of the preceding period of the semester. As I see it, this provides you an 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.

    You may here include thoughts in reaction to issues raised in class discussion that you did not have the opportunity or did not feel comfortable enough to share in class; these additional reflections will help me get a better sense of what you have been thinking about and how you have been responding to class discussions, as well as to the readings. I will take into account what you write in determining your learning and contribution grade for the preceding semester period.

    I will provide you specific directions in the assignment 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. These papers do not need be any specific length or follow any particular format but I expect you to answer my questions precisely and thoroughly. I expect you to take these assignments seriously and to write as clearly and carefully as possible; failure to do so will result in a significantly lower learning and contribution grade. The first and second learning and contribution grades will each be worth 12.5%, and the third 15%, for a combined total of 40% of the overall course grade.

Unit Papers

    At the end of each unit I will assign you a paper, asking you to work with the texts and concepts we discussed in the preceding unit. I will give you multiple options in each case. You should type these papers, double-space, on singles sides of standard white letter (8" X 11") paper. Your margins should be standard-length, and your name should be at the top of the first page. You should staple the separate pages of the paper together and proofread what you write before turning this in to me for a grade. You may use any standard font you prefer while your print size may range between 10 and 12 points. You must try to follow all the rules and conventions of Standard Written English as closely as possible, including MLA guidelines for citation and documentation of sources. Every English major and minor should own a handbook or a style book that explains how to do all of this; if you do not yet own such a book, please purchase one as soon as possible. Your grade on these papers will take into account matters of style as well as substance, and, especially, how well you unite the two. You should aim for an approximate minimum average target length of 1500 to 2000 words per unit paper (roughly the equivalent of six to eight double-spaced, typed pages). Each unit paper will be worth 20% of the overall course grade.


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

UWEC strives to help you meet these objectives in the course of the higher education you pursue here. Please note that in making these our foremost aims, we at UWEC clearly distinguish ourselves from technical colleges as well as from all other UW schools, especially places like Stout, River Falls, and Stevens Point. This section of English 210, Introduction to Texts will help contribute to you meeting goals 1-4, 6, and 9-11.


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


    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.

Return to Professor Bob Nowlan's Home Page

UW-Eau Claire Home

This material is copyrighted (©)

Professor Bob Nowlan

Last Update:  January 19, 2003