Professors Bob Nowlan and Joel Pace

    Section 002
    W 7-9:45 p.m., HHH 321
    Fall 2003, UWEC

    Office Hours: W 9:45-11 p.m., HHH 425 and By Appointment

                Contact: ranowlan@uwec.edu, HHH 425, (715) 836-4369; pacejf@uwec.edu,
                HHH 413, (715) 836-3998



    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.  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?

    We 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 we see it, the foremost aim of beginning to study and 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 study and 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, our 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, 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, we 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 we 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 upon engaging with the problematics of “modernism” and “postmodernism.”  

    Why so?  For the following reasons.

    Modernism encompasses a vast constellation of theories and modes of critical practice that have grappled with attempting to explain the nature of “the modern,” of “modernity,” and of “modernization,” as well as to direct how we should relate to living within this modern world.  Postmodernism encompasses a parallel constellation of theories and modes of critical practice that have grappled with attempting to explain the  nature of the “postmodern,” of “postmodernity,” and of “postmodernization,” as well as how we should relate to living within this “postmodern world.”  This is the one single broad arena of critical and theoretical  contestation–the (post)modern–that has proven the most influential in determining the shape and substance of the disciplines of English Studies over the course of their now nearly 150 year long history.   


        In order to appreciate this impact you will, however, need to keep several points in mind as we proceed:  

        First, we can only engage with a small number of significant contributions to this discussion, 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, we hope, we even expect, that eventually you will experience the excitement, even the joy, of working with these levels and kinds of knowledge-practices, but we do not want you to imagine you necessarily should be able to do this right away, with ease.

        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 we will provide some specific sites for testing and applying what we can extract from readings in theory and criticism, we 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 most of you enrolled in this course are advanced students, taking this course late in your undergraduate career, we 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, we 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: 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? 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 we 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 we welcome you always to disagree with anything we read whenever you find yourself so inclined, and even strongly encourage you to do so, we 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.   We expect you to work hard first to do justice to the positions you engage, and 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.  We expect you will do the same with positions we your teachers advance as well as those your classmates’ advance.  And we 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, and why so (including when they seem to be coming from very different places than you).


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

1.    Cahoone, Lawrence, ed.  From Modernism to Postmodernism: an Anthology.  2nd Edition.  Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003.

2.    Kolocotroni, Vassiliki, Jane Goldman, and Olga Taxidou, eds.  Modernism: an Anthology of Sources and Documents.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

    We will also work each week with several short supplementary texts providing space to practice testing out and applying ideas garnered from reading, study, and discussion of selections from the above anthologies.  From time to time we will, furthermore, require you to do additional readings in theory and criticism from sources not included in the above two required textbooks.  We will make copies available for you in both cases, and we will do the same for various guides, outlines, lecture notes, comments on class discussions, and other learning tools that we prepare for you to help you in your work as part of this class.

    In addition, your own writing, in the form of short Blackboard papers, as well as in other forms, to be determined, will serve as significant texts in this course, and you yourself, especially in the second half of the semester, will be asked to select supplementary texts for purposes of practice in testing and application.


    N.b.: All readings listed after a certain date are due on that day of class.  If the assignment is from one (or more) of the class' texts, it is expected that you will bring the book(s) to class that day.

Week 1: 9/3

Introduction and Orientation.

Week 2: 9/10

    Required Readings, From Modernism to Postmodernism (FMPM): Descartes, Hume, Rousseau, Kant, and Burke (19-37, 45-49, and 54-62); Supplementary Texts for Practice in Testing and Application To Be Announced on 9/3.

Week 3: 9/17

    Required Readings, (FMPM): Marx and Engels, Darwin, Peirce, Nietzsche, and Saussure (75-81, 88-95, 102-117, and 122-126); Modernism (M): Marx, Darwin, and Nietzsche (5-8, 10-12, and 17-22);  Additional (Photocopy) Packet on Introduction to Marx and Marxism; Supplementary Texts for Practice in Testing and Application To Be Announced on 9/10.

Week 4: 9/24

    Required Readings, (FMPM): Weber, Freud, Horkheimer and Adorno, Sartre, and Kuhn (127-131, 144-148, 159-173, and 200-208); (M): Freud (47-51, and 472-477); and Supplementary Texts for Practice in Testing and Application To Be Announced on 9/17.

    * Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #1 Assigned in Class. *

Week 5: 10/1

    Required Readings, (M): Nordau, Morris, Adams, Simmel, Bebel, DuBois, and  Bergson (22-31, 41-47, and 51-72); and Supplementary Texts for Practice in Testing and Application To Be Announced on 9/24.

Week 6: 10/8

    Required Readings, (M): Poe, Whitman, Arnold, Pater, Wilde, Conrad, and Shaw (93-97, 98-102, 112-115, 119-120, 131-134, and 160-163); Additional (Photocopy) Selection(s) from Oscar Wilde; and Supplementary Texts for Practice in Testing and Application To Be Announced on 10/1.

    * Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #1 Due in Class. *

Week 7: 10/15

    Required Readings, (M): Zola, Gilman, Delauny, Gramsci, Shklovsky, Lukács, Trotsky, Kollontai, Meyerhold, and Piscator (169-174, 185-189, 194-197, 214-221, 225-237, and 240-245); and Supplementary Texts for Practice in Testing and Application To Be Announced on10/8.

Week 8: 10/22

    Required Readings, (M): Futurism, Feminism, Cubism, Imagism, Expressionism, Dada, Vorticism, Eccentrism, Constructivism, Bauhaus, Lef, Surrealism, Transition, and Anarchism (249-316); and Supplementary Texts for Practice in Testing and Application To Be Announced on 10/15.

Week 9: 10/29

    Required Readings, (M): Marsden, Eliot, Pound, H.D., Doblin, Woolf, Locke, Hughes, Stein, Kracauer, Brecht, Artaud, and West (331-332, 366-388, 391-397, 411-425, 457-461, 465-472, 477-479, 493-496, and 610-617); and Supplementary Texts for Practice in Testing and Application To Be Announced on 10/22.

    * Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #2 Assigned in Class. *

Week 10: 11/5

    Required Readings, (M): Zhadanov, Read, Gill, Stead, Eisenstein, Hitler, Benjamin, Lukacs, Bloch, Breton/Trotsky/Rivera, Orwell, and Wright (524-536, 551-556, 560-576, 584-595, 597-601, 605-610, and 617-618); Supplementary Texts for Practice in Testing and Application To Be Announced on10/29.

Week 11: 11/12

    Required Readings, (FMPM): Derrida, Foucault, Irigiray, Lyotard, and Deleuze and Guattari (224-296); and Supplementary Texts for Practice in Testing and Application To Be Announced on 11/5.

    * Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #2 Due in Class. *

Week 12: 11/19

    Required Readings, (FMPM): West, Spivak, Harding, Young, and Butler (298-309, 319-353, 370-382, and 390-401); and Supplementary Texts for Practice in Testing and Application To Be Announced on 11/12.
Week 13: 12/3

    Required Readings, (FMPM): Hassan,  Baudrillard, Taylor, Rorty, and Griffin (410-456 and 482-495); and Supplementary Texts for Practice in Testing and Application To Be Announced on 11/19.

    * Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #3 Assigned in Class. *

Week 14: 12/10

    Required Readings, (FMPM): Hall, Levinas,  MacIntyre,  Jameson, and Putnam (512-519, 521-539, 550-574, and 592-600); and Supplementary Texts for Practice in Testing and Application To Be Announced on12/3.

    * W 12/17: Learning and Contribution Paper #3 Due by 7 p.m.  (Details to be Announced). *



    Class will proceed according to a variety of discussion formats.   We will, from time to time, make short, relatively informal presentations (and even perhaps somewhat longer and less informal ones on rare occasion, as need be).  Yet, for the overwhelmingly majority of class time, we plan directly to involve you in actively participating as part of our collective inquiry and in the work of educating both yourself and the rest of the class through what you have to say as well as share with us in written form.  

    We will maintain ultimate responsibility, authority, and control for the direction of our class discussions, yet we will do our best to make sure we hear extensively from everyone else.  We do recognize and respect that the students enrolled in this class represent differences in prior knowledge, experience, training, work, or other preparation vis-a-vis areas central to our collective focus of inquiry, and that some are more versus less inclined as well as more versus less comfortable speaking in class.  Yet we expect that these differences, along with differences in social, cultural, economic, political, and ideological ascriptions, affiliations, and commitments, all will be brought to the fore so that each member of the class can contribute to its success from both where she is at and toward where he aspires to be.

    Each week we will divide the class into two parts.   The first part of class will discuss the assigned readings in theory and criticism for the week, students’ Blackboard papers engaged with these readings, and various issues that both of these sets of texts raise for our discussion.  We will here focus on carefully scrutinizing convergent and divergent–complimentary and contestatory–positions, concepts, arguments, theories, and forms and directions of critical practice.  In the second part of class, we will discuss supplementary texts selected for practice in testing and applying theoretical and critical positions, concepts, and arguments–texts that allow us a direct site for some concentrated extrapolation.  These will include literary and non-literary written texts, musical texts, film texts, texts of visual art and commercial culture, and  texts of a number of other kinds as well; each week we aim to consider one text produced at the same historical moment in time as were the writings in theory and criticism you will read for that week, as well as one text produced from “our time.”   (When we include films as supplementary texts, we will include films screened the previous week either as part of the UWEC campus film series or at a local Eau Claire cinema; we will take several class “field trips” to see films together.)

    We will take a ten-minute break between the two parts of class.  The first part of class will meet for longer than the latter.   In short, an average class will run according to something like this schedule: 7-8:35 Part One; 8:35-8:45 Break; and 8:45-9:45 Part Two.  


    Our collaboration in co-teaching this course follows from years of extensive discussion of intellectual, pedagogical, social, cultural, and political issues as well as from our deep respect for each other and the strong friendship we share.  Over the course of working together we have come to recognize that we maintain many fundamental commitments in common, and we seek to take advantage of this opportunity, along with others, to work directly in contributing what we can together toward meeting these goals.  We are teaching this course together, and therefore you will be consistently interacting with both of us as your instructors this semester.  Co-teaching often proves considerably enabling, and stimulating, for students; we hope you will find this to be the case in working together with us this semester.


    We 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.  We 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 we 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, we expect students to let us 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 we 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.

    One of the means UWEC has of assessing how effective the students and faculty have been in meeting these goals is the Arts and Sciences Baccalaureate Portfolio.  We'd like you to make an extra copy of one (or more) of the papers you write for this class and place it in your Baccalaureate Portfolio.  Your papers for this class could potentially fulfill the requirements for one or more of Submission Papers (requested for the A&S Baccalaureate Portfolio, #1-12).  Read each description carefully.  Determine the number to which your paper most closely corresponds and enter a copy of the paper in the appropriate place.   Before graduation you will submit this folder of twelve papers or research projects to assessors, who will use them to see how effective the university has been in achieving the goals of the Baccalaureate.  Keep in mind that when the committee reads the papers, your name will be removed; your anonymity will be preserved throughout the evaluation process.  The university is measuring its own effectiveness, not yours.


    General Criteria: Evaluation of Student Performance

    In evaluating all work done for this course, we 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 us, and by each other.


     Attendance is required.  Students are allowed one unexcused absence, maximum.  Other than that, except for an extreme emergency, your grade will suffer significantly if you miss class.   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, we reserve the right to lower the grade by a half letter.  Because we meet only fourteen times this semester we cannot afford to be lenient here.  If you experience troubles of one kind or another that mean you will have to miss several 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

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

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

    Class Participation

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

    At the same time, just talking a great deal does not necessarily mean that you are making a quality contribution to the class by aiding the learning that we aim to accomplish. Quality of participation is much more important than quantity, although a sufficient quantity is indispensable to insure quality. Still, we want to emphasize here that we 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 us and responding to our 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 us 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 we will take particular note of how well you do so.

    We 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, we find the system designed by our 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 Blackboard) and as part of your learning and contribution reflection 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 the major 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 in turn each involve three parts.   

    First, we 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  for the immediately preceding portion of the semester, as well to demonstrate what you are learning from working with these ideas.  These questions will take different forms, and you will most likely always have multiple options from which to choose, with each option involving somewhat different kind of work on your part.  Especially with the last reflection paper, you should expect to do some independent research in answering these questions.

    Second, we 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.

    Third, we will ask you meta-textual questions that will require you to discuss how you put the reflection paper itself together, what you did as part of this process, and why so.  In this context, a meta-text is an explanation of your intentions in writing the piece, how far you succeeded in your goals, and specific areas on which you would like us to comment.  When you receive your graded assignments back from us, they will contain comments on how to improve your next paper.  When you write your next paper, you must tell us how you have implemented our suggestions from your last paper, or explain fully why you have not chosen to do so.  This dialogue between us will keep you from repeating the same mistakes and will allow for significant development with each paper you write.

    As we see it, these papers provide you a useful opportunity to communicate with us 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 us 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.  We 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.

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

    We recommend an approximate target range of between 2000 (minimum) and 3000 (maximum) words (roughly 8-12 pages).   

    Each learning and contribution grade (including learning and contribution reflection papers) will be worth 24% of the overall course gradeLate papers will lose 1/3 of a letter grade for each day they are turned in after the deadline, except in case of a seriously urgent situation where we have approved an extension; you need to communicate with us beforehand, if at all possible, to request such an extension.

Blackboard Papers

    Each week we will post a short paper assignment on a Blackboard electronic classroom we have created for this class.   Students should post their papers in response to this assignment within 48 hours of the time class meets, i.e., by 7 p.m. Monday eveningNo late postings will be accepted.  

    These papers will ask you to respond briefly to questions related to the readings assigned for the upcoming class discussion.   In so doing, you will already 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 write in our class discussions, as proves of interest and use.    

    We expect all students to look over your classmates’ Blackboard papers prior to class and to come to class prepared to speak to these papers as well as to textbook and other readings.  

    In writing your Blackboard papers you should aim for approximately 500 to 1000 words.  These are “semi-formal,” which means that you should try to write as clearly and cogently as possible, but that we will not be sticklers for the most minute kinds of fine points of style in evaluating what you write.  

    After class meets, you will then be required to revise your Blackboard paper in response to what you have gained as a result of class discussion and the chance to think further about what you initially wrote.  Alternatively, you may write a critique of your own, or of a classmate’s, or of aspects of several classmates’ Blackboard papers instead of revising your initial paper.   

    You should try to keep these revisions approximately the same length as your initial versions, although if you find it necessary you may extend what you write as far as 1500 to 2000 words maximum.  But we would definitely appreciate it if you try as hard as possible to be succinct.  

    The effectivity of your work on these Blackboard papers will also figure into our assessment of your learning and contribution grades.  Yet the Blackboard papers will also be graded as well, once half-way through the semester and once at the end of the semester.  Here, however, our evaluation will also be quite succinct, focused, and holistic.    

    Students need not post Blackboard papers every week.  We ask you to post a total of eight, and you must post at least three in the first half of the semester (weeks one through week seven) and three in the second half of the semester (weeks eight through fourteen).  

    Each initial Blackboard paper will be worth 1.75% of the overall course grade, and each revised Blackboard paper–or, following the alternative option, each Blackboard critique paper–will also be worth 1.75% of the overall course grade.


    Do not use anyone else's words without giving the author credit.  If we 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.  Please don't buy papers from the internet.  We know all the sites, and we will catch you.  If you echo any thoughts mentioned in class discussion add the letters CD in parenthetical citation after the sentence, viz: (CD).


    We encourage you to meet with us 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.  We do request, however, that you always try, as far as possible, to do so with both of us.  

    We both recognize the value of learning that takes place in conferences; we 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 us at any time you think this might be helpful to you.  We 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 us by e-mail or by (campus office) phone as well.