English 715-001, English 595-002, and English 395-002:

    Tuesday 6-8:45 pm, HHH 313, Spring 2013, UWEC

    Office: HHH 425,  Office Phone: (715) 836-4369
    Office Hours: MW 4:20-5 pm, T 8:50-9:30 pm, and By Appointment


    Critical Theory and English Studies is a graduate-level seminar, engaging significant issues and major figures in critical theory, from the European Enlightenment through the Present. We will consider a select range of issues and figures that have proven, and that are proving, powerfully influential within English literary and cultural studies, as well as within broadly connected fields of study in the humanities and the social sciences.  Each student will be responsible for:

* Actively contributing to class discussion in the interest of promoting collective learning.  

* Periodically initiating and leading discussion of particular writers and texts.  

* Maintaining a series of intellectually serious journal reflections on every book we will engage together.  

* Developing a substantial critical and/or creative project, over the course of the semester, in dialogue with the writers of theory and criticism we will read, as well as in dialogue with fellow members of the seminar.    


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

    Critical theory begins by inquiring into what prevents the realization of this Enlightenment ideal.  In doing so, critical theory questions and challenges the seeming obviousness, naturalness, immediacy, and simplicity of the world around us, and, in particular, of what we are able to perceive through our senses and understand through the application of our powers of reason.  Critical theory is therefore concerned with discovering and uncovering, and with describing and explaining "mediations"–environmental, ecological, physical, physiological, psychological, intellectual, emotional, historical, social, cultural, economic, political, ideological, linguistic, semiotic, aesthetic, religious, ethical, etc. –between "object" and "subject," "event" and "impression," "impression" and "perception," "perception" and "cognition," "cognition" and "reflection," "reflection" and "response," "response" and "reaction," "reaction" and "action," and "action" and "practice."  At the same time, "critical theory" also always involves questioning and challenging the passive acceptance that "the way things are"–or "the way things seem"–simply "is" the "natural" way they necessarily "should" or "must" be.  In other words, critical theory questions and challenges the conviction that what is, or what is in the process of becoming, or what appears to be, or what is most commonly understood to be, or what is dominantly conveyed to be, is also at the same time right and true, good and just, and necessary and inevitable: critical theory does not, at least not automatically, accept any of this.  Critical theory is always particularly concerned with inquiring into the problems and limitations, the blindnesses and mistakes, the contradictions and incoherences, and the injustices and inequities in how we as human beings, operating within particular kinds of structures and hierarchies of relations with each other, facilitated and regulated by particular kinds of institutions, and 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.

    Explicit focus on education in critical theory as part of English Studies reflects how much the disciplines of English and their constituent fields of intellectual inquiry have changed over the past approximately forty-five to fifty years.  Even as many English Departments continue to prioritize courses in what at first glance might seem like 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.

    Ultimately even more important, however, in distinguishing cultural studies from traditional literary studies, 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 well, according to this conception, include literary studies as a constituent component.  It has by now been over thirty 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 of all different kinds.  However, it really should be no surprise that we have not witnessed the "death of literature" implicit in this and many similar kinds of recommendation made around the same time.  After all, Eagleton does admit that literature can be defined as whatever a particular culture (or subculture) happens to regard as especially "highly valued writing."  Whereas Eagleton suggests that this means "literature" may no longer serve as a particularly useful category, I suggest that this reconception of what “literature” entails in fact opens up many new possibilities for work in literary studies conducted as part of work within a larger field of cultural studies: i.e., inquiring into what makes for different conceptions of highly valued writing within and across different historical cultures–and subcultures.         

    Critical theory crucially informs and enables all these developments and transformations in English Studies I have just described, yet the value of education in critical theory extends beyond its contribution to the core disciplines of any particular academic department, including English.  

    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.  A principal aim of studying and learning to think, read, write, and act theoretically is to develop the ability to recognize, understand, explain, and account for the theories that guide and sustain us throughout our everyday lives.  Likewise, a principal aim of studying and learning to think, read, write, and act critically is to develop the ability to recognize, understand, explain, and account for the kinds of judgements, the ways in which we make judgements, and the standards and criteria we use in making judgements throughout everyday life.

    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 in "critical theory" 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 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; and 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 this specific course, we will begin with readings in European Enlightenment theory and criticism.  We will then turn to readings representative of successive problematizations and complications of, as well as challenges and alternatives to Enlightenment thinking, ranging from Søren Kierkegaard to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels to Friedrich Nietzsche to Sigmund Freud to Virginia Woolf to Audre Lorde to Michel Foucault to Alain Badiou to Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o.  As we do so we will inquire into points of connection and disconnection, as these emerge for and interest us, in matters of ontology (concerned with the nature of reality, being, and existence), epistemology (concerned with the nature of knowledge, understanding, and truth), methodology (concerned with the methods, modes, procedures, and processes employed and pursued), axiology (concerned with the nature of value, ethics, and aesthetics), and praxiology (concerned with the nature of action, practice, and behavior).   


    Finally, I want to offer some helpful points to keep in mind, and to make use of, as you approach our work with critical theory this semester.  

    First, we can only engage with a small number of significant contributions to the immense amount of work that has been generated in critical theory over the course now of many hundreds (even thousands) of years.  Even at the graduate level, this is merely an introduction 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 ‘critical theory” (or ‘Critical Theory and English Studies’).  Feel free to explore writers and writings beyond those assigned, as you find this of interest and use.  

    Second, the reading you will do for this course should, from time to time, challenge you; you should at times find it difficult, at least initially so; and you should not expect that what you read will always make intuitive sense or provide immediate satisfaction.  Of course, I hope that eventually you will experience a sense of confidence, even excitement, in working with critical theory, but I do not want you to imagine you necessarily should be able to do this right away, with ease.  Not at all.  For a number of you, this may be one of your first courses in theory and criticism, whereas, in most cases, you have already taken many courses, and read many texts, in “literature” even well before you began undergraduate studies.  Imagine what it might be like to take a course of introduction to literature having never previously taken such a course, studied or read any of the material, or maintained much, if any, familiarity with what literature involves and what it might mean to make sense of and respond to it.  Expect, therefore, in this class, that you will grow in understanding, facility, and confidence; don’t be needlessly hard on yourself–accept that you will learn through trial and error, through taking risks and trying out ideas, and by making mistakes.  You don’t need “THE right answer” or “THE right way to say it” to talk (both of which, for that matter, critical theory by and large rejects as impossibly quixotic goals); learn through talking, and through becoming comfortable recognizing and accepting what you don’t already clearly understand and what you can’t already clearly articulate.

     Third, you will need, consistently and conscientiously, not only to work hard to remain patient, and to keep an open mind, but also not to rest content with the superficially apparent, the merely commonsensical, the seemingly self-evident, and 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 critical theoretical manner, you will need to follow this path as well.

even as I will periodically provide some specific sites for testing and applying what we can extract from our readings in critical theory, I will count on you to take the initiative to do this yourself as well.  You have to be an active participant in this course; you will gain little if you don’t bring to bear your own knowledge, experience, interests, and concerns.  You have to work to find ways to make what we read and study relevant to you.

    Fifth, and following closely upon the last point, since all of you enrolled in this course are advanced students, I expect you to demonstrate the intellectual maturity you have acquired as a result of this previous work.  I know people enrolled in Critical Theory and English Studies have, in most cases, taken many English as well as other courses for a considerable number of years now; you should feel free to draw upon this knowledge and experience (even when or where it doesn’t immediately seem obviously relevant).  It will help you–and us.

    Sixth, ask questions, offer comments, try not to be afraid to speak, and try to write what you think, no matter how tentative, uncertain, or confused you might find yourself (i.e., be prepared to take the risk that what you say, or write, might turn out to be–or, more likely, to appear or to seem–‘wrong’).  In fact, don’t look for hard and fast, simple right and wrong answers; critical theory is as much, if not much more, focused upon asking questions as it is about securing answers, and the process of theorization, and critique, is continuously ongoing.   All positions are limited, and those long engaged with critical theory accept this as a matter of course.

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

    Eighth, don’t look to me as one ‘who has all the answers’; I am an experienced guide, but I am continually learning as well.  We will engage with many complex issues in this class that I would absolutely never claim to have ‘mastered’–these are issues great minds have long struggled with and continue to struggle with.  I don’t consider myself ‘a great mind’; I consider myself one who is knowledgeable and experienced enough to be able to help you find your way as you begin working at a graduate level in ‘Critical Theory and English Studies’.  


    The following books are required:

1.    Kramnick, Isaac, ed.  The Portable Enlightenment Reader.  The Viking Portable Library Series.   Penguin, 1995.  ISBN#: 978-0140245660.

2.    Kierkegaard, Soren.  Works of Love.  Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2009.  ISBN#: 978-0061713279.

3.    Tucker, Robert C., ed., Karl Marx and Frederic Engels.  The Marx-Engels Reader.  2nd Edition.  Norton, 1978.  ISBN#: 978-0393090406.

4.    Nietzsche, Friedrich.  Thus Spoke Zarathustra.  Simon and Brown, 2012.  ISBN#: 978-1613823064.

5.    Freud, Sigmund.  Civilization and Its Discontents.  Norton, 2010.  ISBN#: ISBN 978-0-393-30451-0.  

6.    Woolf, Virginia.  A Room of One’s Own.  Mariner Books, Reprint Edition (Annotated), 2005.  ISBN#: 978-0156030410

7.    Lorde, Audre.  Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches.  Crossing Press, 2007.  ISBN#: 978-1580911863.

8.    Foucault, Michel.  The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: an Introduction.  Vintage, 1990.  ISBN#: 978-0679724698.

9.    Foucault, Michel.  The History of Sexuality, Vol. 2: the Use of Pleasure.  Vintage, 1990.  ISBN#: 978-0394751221.     

10.    Foucault, Michel.  The History of Sexuality, Vol. 3: the Care of the Self.  Vintage, 1988.  ISBN#: 978-0394741550.  

11.    Badiou, Alain.  Ethics: an Essay on the Understanding of Evil.  Verso, 2002.  ISBN#: 978-1859844359.

12.    Ngugi Wa Thiong’o.  Globalectics: Theory and the Politics of Knowing.  Wellek Library Lecture Series.  Columbia University Press, 2012.  ISBN#: 978-0-231-15950-0.  

These books are available for purchase at the UWEC Bookstore in Davies Center.  At the same time, however, please feel free to acquire copies from any other source that you prefer.  Used, second-hand, other formats, other editions, library copies, and shared copies are all fine with me.    

    I well realize that it can be quite expensive to obtain access to twelve books for a single class.  At the same time, however, I strongly believe it is important that I provide you the opportunity to pursue the same rigorous quality of graduate-level education that I myself had the benefit of pursuing when I was a Master’s, and, after that, a PhD, student.  In fact, at both the undergraduate and the graduate levels, most of the classes I enrolled in, at least within the humanities and the social sciences, each required 10 to 15 books.  I believe that our society should make access to the cost of higher education, including the cost of books for classes, free to all who are qualified and all who are interested, but that requires changing our society dramatically, radically shifting priorities in terms of where wealth is invested.  Although this is not likely to occur any time soon, I remain idealistic enough to believe that knowledge, including knowledge pursued at considerable cost, can contribute vitally toward progressive social change.  The books we will be working with in this class are major works of considerable relevance and substantial impact; they should prove valuable to you well beyond the time we spend working directly together this semester.  


T 1/22: Introduction and Orientation.

T 1/29: Discussion, Selections from The Portable Enlightenment Reader.

    Read for Class, T 1/29: Kant, “What is Enlightenment?,” 1-7; Condorcet, “The Future Progress of the Human Mind,” 26-38; Bacon, “The New Science,” 39-42; Condorcet, “The Utility of Science,” 64-69; Locke, “A Letter Concerning Toleration,” 81-90; Voltaire, “Reflections on Religion,” 113-133; D’Holbach, “‘No Need of Theology . . . Only of Reason’,” 141-150; Paine, “The Age of Reason,” 174-180; Descartes, “‘I Think, Therefore I Am . . .’,” 181-185; Locke, “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding,” 185-187; Leibnitz, “New Essays on Human Understanding,” 188-190; Hume, “A Treatise of Human Nature,” 195-202; Smith, “The Impartial Spectator,” 280-287; Kant, “Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals,” 297-306; and Bentham, “The Principle of Utility,” 306-314.

T 2/5: Discussion, Selections from The Portable Enlightenment Reader.

    Read for Class, T 2/5: Priestley, “‘How Glorious, Then, Is the Prospect . . .’,” 382-387; Condorcet, “The Perfectibility of Man,” 387-395; Locke, “The Second Treatise of Civil Government,” 395-404; Montesquieu, “The Spirit of the Laws,” 405-415; Rousseau, “The Social Contract,” 430-441; Paine, “Common Sense,” 442-448; Madison, “Federalist No. 10,” 459-466; Paine, “The Rights of Man,” 469-472; Franklin, “Industry and the Way to Wealth,” 483-490; Smith, “The Wealth of Nations,” 505-515; Beccaria, “An Essay on Crimes and Punishments,” 525-532; Bentham, “‘Cases Unmeet for Punishment . . .’,” 541-546; Astell, “Some Reflections on Marriage,” 560-568; Constantia, “On the Equality of the Sexes,” 601-609; De Gouges, “The Rights of Woman,” 609-618; and Wollstonecraft,”Vindication of the Rights of Woman,” 618-628.

T 2/12: Discussion, Selections from Works of Love.

    Read for Class, T 2/12: Part One, Section II, “You Shall Love,” 34-98; Part One, Section IV, “Our Duty to Love Those We See,” 153-170; Part One, Section V, “Our Duty to Be in the Debt of Love to Each Another,” 171-196; Part Two, Section III, “Love Hopes All Things and Yet is Never Put to Shame,” 231-246; Part Two, Section IV, “Love Seeks Not Its Own,” 247-260; Part Two, Section VII, “Mercifulness, a Work of Love, Even If It Can Give Nothing and Is Capable of Doing Nothing,” 292-305; and Part Two, Section IX, “The Work of Love in Remembering the Dead,” 317-329.

T 2/19: Discussion, Selections from The Marx-Engels Reader.

    Read for Class, T 2/19: "Marx on the History of His Opinions (Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy)," 3-6; “For a Ruthless Criticism of Everything Existing (Marx to Arnold Ruge),” 12-15; “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: Introduction,” 53-65; “Theses on Feuerbach,” 143-145; From The German Ideology: Part I, 147-175; “On Morality (From Anti-Dühring),” 725-727; and “Letters on Historical Materialism,” 760-768.

T 2/26: Discussion, Selections from The Marx-Engels Reader.

    Read for Class, T 2/26: “Wage Labour and Capital,” 203-217; From Capital, Volume I, 294-438; and From Capital, Volume III, 439-442.

T 3/5: Discussion, Selections from The Marx-Engels Reader.  First Student-Facilitated Discussion.

    Read for Class, T 3/5: Manifesto of the Communist Party, 469-500; “Critique of the Gotha Program,” 525-541; From Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, 683-717; “Versus the Anarchists (Engels to Theodor Cuno),” 728-729; and “On Authority,” 730-733.

T 3/12: Discussion, Civilization and Its Discontents.  Second Student-Facilitated Discussion.

    Read for Class, T 3/12: The entire book.

T 3/26: Discussion, Thus Spoke Zarathustra.  Third Student-Facilitated Discussion.

    Read for Class, T 3/26: The entire book.  Recommendation: start reading ahead of time.

    * Journal Entries 1-5 Due Friday 3/29, by 12 noon, in Bob Nowlan’s English Department Mailbox, HHH 405 *

T 4/2: Discussion, A Room of One’s Own.  Fourth Student-Facilitated Discuassion.

    Read for Class, T 4/2: The entire book.

T 4/9: Discussion, Sister Outsider.  Fifth Student-Facilitated Discussion.

    Read for Class, T 4/9: The entire book.

T 4/16: Discussion, Selections from The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: an Introduction and from The History of Sexuality, Volume 2: The Use of Pleasure.
    Read for Class, T 4/16: Selections to be announced.

T 4/23: Discussion, Selections from The History of Sexuality, Volume 2: The Use of Pleasure and The History of Sexuality, Volume 3: The Care of the Self.   Sixth Student-Facilitated Discussion.

    Read for Class, T 4/23: Selections to be announced.

T 4/30: Discussion, Ethics: an Essay on the Understanding of Evil.

    Read for Class, T 4/30: “Translator’s Introduction,” “Notes on the Translation,” and “Preface to the English Edition,” vii-xlviii, and “Introduction,” “Does Man Exist?,” “Does the Other Exist?,” “Ethics as a Figure of Nihilism,” “The Ethics of Truths,” “The Problem of Evil,” and “Conclusion,” 1-91.

T 5/7: Discussion, Globalectics.  Seventh Student-Facilitated Discussion.

    Read for Class, T 5/7: The entire book.

    * Journal Entries 6-12 Due Friday 5/10, by 12 noon, in Bob Nowlan’s English Department Mailbox, HHH 405 *

W 5/15 by 6 pm: Project Due (in Bob Nowlan’s English Department Mailbox, HHH 405, or by other means, per prior arrangement).



    This class will proceed as a seminar where we will engage in extensive collective discussion of assigned readings and of issues raised by these readings.  We will aim to hear regularly and extensively from everyone.  I will initiate and lead discussion for seven of the class periods during which we will meet, as well as during our introductory class meeting, while in the remaining seven class periods students will initiate and lead discussion, including by preparing and sharing ahead of time, on our Desire2Learn classroom website, short guides to key positions, concepts, and arguments; key questions for collective discussion; and select points of application.  In general, during the approximately first two hours of class we will discuss the readings for the week, and issues these readings raise, while in the remaining forty-five minutes we will discuss students’ work in progress on their projects (I will, as useful, during this latter period of time discuss work in progress on ‘my project[s]’ for the semester as well).  Since this will be a discussion-intensive class, come to class prepared to talk.  Come to class prepared to help the class as a whole work toward compelling understandings of significant issues raised by the readings for that week, compelling reflections on implications of these issues, and compelling connections with other cultural texts as well as with other areas where you maintain particular knowledge, experience, interest, and concern.  I do not plan to present anything like formal lectures in this class, and plan to keep presentations in class relatively short, unless it proves unexpectedly necessary or beneficial to proceed otherwise, although, I may, as useful, prepare and distribute extended “print lectures” or other comments, outside of the time we meet in class–to help with understanding and appreciation of difficult points and passages.  But I want us to work together, as much as possible, to make sense of the readings we will engage, and I look forward to learning from you about these, via connections you will make with them.  


    I expect students in this course to strive to become sincerely interested in learning about the subject matter of this course, and to be consistently intellectually serious as well as academically diligent in their pursuit of this learning.  I expect students to strive to bring actively and extensively to bear–in their essays and contributions to class discussion–insights they gain through their engagement with the texts and topics addressed as part of this course, and I expect students to strive at the same time to relate these texts and topics as closely and as fully as possible to subjects of genuine interest and concern in their own lives.  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.  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.  Work in critical theory often aims, quite deliberately, to defamiliarize, and often follows the famous declaration by postmodernist critical theorist Gilles Deleuze: “thinking begins in provocation.”  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.  



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


    Attendance is expected, every class of the semester.  This is a small class that meets only fifteen times during the semester, which we will conduct as a seminar.  We will count on everyone.  If you aren’t in class not only will you lose out, but also so will everyone else.  Of course, emergencies come up now and then which make it impossible to attend; I understand that.  But please restrict absences to emergencies, and please let me know as soon as possible if you cannot make a class, and why not—I appreciate this notice a great deal.


    As this will be a graduate-level seminar, routine and extensive participation in class discussion is expected as well.  Remember, you learn from talking, not simply demonstrate what you have already learned.  We will be working together to come to grips with positions, concepts, and arguments, and in doing so, often, of necessity, struggle in the process–all of us. This struggle is necessary, and valuable.  I will judge your participation on the seriousness, thoughtfulness, energy, enthusiasm, imagination, openness, conscientiousness, and sensitivity of your effort, and not according to some abstractly ideal standard for eloquent articulation.  Don't hesitate to speak forth in class if you have anything at all to throw into the mix.  And don’t wait until you feel like you have ‘THE right comment’ or ‘the PERFECT way of expressing what you have in mind’; those times never come, and striving for that is not only self-defeating but contrary to what critical theory is all about–which is a ceaselessly ongoing exploration of issues where there never is only one right answer, and never simply one best way to express anything.  Come to class prepared to try to help us all in interpreting and reflecting on implications of ideas you encounter in the readings you do for class–and likewise come to class prepared to talk about work in progress on your projects, to solicit helpful commentary on this work, and to offer it to fellow members of the seminar.  Come to each class meeting with ideas you want to talk about, questions you want to ask, comments you want to make, interpretations you want to raise, arguments and critiques you want to advance, connections and applications you want to draw, etc.–not just follow my lead in doing so.  And remember, participation can also come from talking with me outside as well as inside of class–and through talking with and helping other students outside of class as well.  Participation will be worth 30% of the overall course grade, 15% for the first half of the semester, and 15% for the second half of the semester.

Facilitating Class Discussion

    Each student will be responsible for helping facilitate two class discussions over the course of the semester.  In order to do so, you will prepare, and post on our Desire2Learn classroom website, a minimum of 48 hours ahead of time (i.e., by 6 pm Sunday evening), a written elaboration of the following: 1. An identification of a maximum of ten key positions, concepts, and arguments from the week’s readings (you will be responsible for determining what you think are the ten most significant); 2. An articulation of a maximum of five key questions you think we should discuss related to the week’s readings (you will be responsible for determining what you think are the five most significant); and 3. An explanation of a maximum of three sites at which you contend ideas from this week’s readings can, and should, be usefully applied (you will be responsible for determining what three you think work well in this connection).  Student-facilitated discussion will occur week 7 (3/5), week 8 (3/12), week 9 (3/26), week 10 (4/2), week 11 (4/9), week 13 (4/23), and week 15 (5/7).  Usually, at least two students will be responsible for facilitating discussion of each of these weeks; we will make use of the commonalities and differences in what you respectively prepare for us as a further helpful way of engaging with the corresponding readings.  Facilitation of discussion will be worth a total of 15% of the overall class grade, 7.5% for each of the two class periods for which you will be responsible.


    Students will keep a journal in which you will write one reflective entry on each book we will read this semester.  In this entry, you will discuss one thing, and only one thing, that you found highly interesting, valuable, or significant in your reading and our discussion of this book, as well as why you found it so.  This entry need be no more than a relatively short essay of several pages in length (although you may write longer, if you wish to do so).  Although this is a journal, and that allows for a certain degree of informality, write this carefully–i.e., clearly and precisely–with the aim of communicating to me in mind.  I recommend that you choose narrowly, with each entry, so that your writing is focused enough to prove useful to you, and compelling to me, but feel free to offer ultimately tentative and speculative comments.  Feel free as well to use this journal as a place to comment on connections you are drawing with work in progress on your project.  The journal will be worth 20% of the overall class grade, 10% for part one (The Portable Enlightenment Reader through Thus Spoke Zarathustra, entries 1-5), and 10% for part two (A Room of One’s Own through Globalectics, entries 6-12).   


    Over the course of the semester, students will work on a critical and/or creative project of your own choosing, which you will turn in, at the end of the semester.  You will develop this in dialogue with the readings we will do in critical theory, as well as through discussions with the class along with consultations with me outside of class.  This should be something you are already interested in pursuing, yet something which is open to considerable development, modification, and even, indeed, transformation.  It may take the form of a written term paper, in which you argue a thesis, or it may take another form, as appropriate (for example, a short story, a memoir, a screenplay, a musical composition, a short film, a theatrical performance or a performance art piece–just to name a few among multiple possibilities).  Your project should demonstrate the impact and influence of your work with critical theory, and as a participant in the seminar.  At the end of the semester, when you turn in your project to me, I will also ask that you attach a reflection paper, in which you reflect on the ways in which your work with critical theory, and your participation in the seminar, has influenced and impacted this project.  When you turn the project in at the end of the semester, it may be incomplete–it may, in other words, continue to be a work in progress, an initial start toward something greater, a contribution toward something that requires more time.  That is fine, as long as this is an intellectually serious and impressively promising work in progress.  Undergraduate students might consider this as a contribution toward a prospective capstone project, or a prospective undergraduate research project, or a prospective undergraduate conference presentation.  Graduate students might consider this as a contribution toward a master’s thesis, a prospective graduate research project, or a prospective graduate conference presentation.  Undergraduate and graduate students might consider this as a contribution toward a scholarly publication or a creative public performance.  I will be glad to help you in finding a project.  And neither need you have settled on one right away nor need you stay committed to the same project once you have initially chosen a direction–you can change if an initial choice is not working out or a better one comes to mind.  In evaluating your project I will consider your work on and toward it, as well as what you complete for me by the end of the semester.  The project will be worth 35% of the overall course grade.


Academic Honesty

    Please recognize and respect the intellectual, ethical, and professional requirement of academic honesty in all that you do–don’t plagiarize.

Late Work

    Aim not to turn in late any work that is required of you, if at all possible; doing so puts me, and others, at a significant disadvantage when you do so.  If this ever becomes necessary, please talk with me about it as soon as you can.  I can be empathetic.

General Guidelines: Formatting of Papers

    I will provide formatting guidelines for written work as this work comes due.  Be prepared to follow rules and conventions of Standard Written English, including MLA guidelines for citation and documentation of sources.


    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.  I welcome getting to know and work with my students outside as well as inside of class.  “My office hours” are for you, so do not worry about “disturbing” me; these are times I have set aside to work with students–that is their purpose.  I think it’s great when students want to meet, talk, and work on matters related to a class I am teaching.  At the same time, I definitely want you to arrange to meet with me in conference, periodically over the course of the semester, to talk about your project, in progress, so that I can help you in your work on it.  As far as possible, and as far as useful, I am ready and willing to collaborate with you in this effort.  You may likewise consult with me in work on your journal, and in relation to other work for our class.  

* 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://www.uwec.edu/ranowlan/PROFILE_.htm.  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 believe 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 about all of that.  I look forward to a great semester working together with you!