ENGLISH 181: INTRODUCTION TO FILM, VIDEO,
Section 001: M
3-6:30 pm, Screenings, and
W 3-5:30 pm,
Lectures and Discussions, HHH 323
PROFESSOR BOB NOWLAN
Office: HHH 425,
Office Phone: (715) 836-4369
Office Hours: M
6:40-7:30 pm, T 8:50-9:30 pm, W 5:40-6:30 pm,
and By Appointment
APPRENTICES (TEACHING ASSISTANTS):
Drew Cramer (firstname.lastname@example.org), Amanda
Scott Hansen (email@example.com), Ryan
Le May (firstname.lastname@example.org),
Alex Long (email@example.com), and Kat
English 181: Introduction to Film, Video, and
Moving-Image Culture is an introduction to the critical study of film
and video: to the interpretation and evaluation of film and video in cultural context.
includes everything that we, as human beings, have created in the
course of our entire history, in distinction from what nature itself
has given us. A specific culture
comprises the sum total of the distinct knowledges, capacities, fields
of work and fields of play, customs and habits, traditions, values and
attitudes, social roles and identities, and shared ways of thinking,
feeling, acting, interacting, and behaving that members of a particular
social group (such as a nation, a region, a locale, a neighborhood, a
class, a profession, etc.) share in common. As such, the specific
culture of a particular social group unifies that group and
distinguishes it from other groups of the same kind (such as other
nations, regions, locales, neighborhoods, classes, professions,
Film and video constitute principal constituents of
three kinds of cultures:
culture (i.e., culture produced, distributed, exchanged, and
consumed in the form of constellations of moving-images),
2.) human culture
in general, and
specific national, regional, local, racial, ethnic, class, gender,
sexual, generational, political, religious, artistic, philosophical,
recreational, and avocational cultures (as well as
“subcultures”–which are partially independent cultures that operate at
the margins of larger cultures, and usually construct their cultural
identities in some kind of critical relation with those larger
(For the sake of simplicity of expression, I will refer from this point
forward in the rest of this course explanation statement to 'films'
when I am actually describing films, videos, and other kinds of
moving-image cultural productions.)
Throughout the history of world cinema, three
principal objectives have driven forward the production, distribution,
exhibition, and reception of film:
1.) the provision of entertainment,
especially as diversion, distraction, and amusement;
expression and communication–concerned with aesthetic issues
such as capturing and conveying the felt experience of the ordinary and
the extraordinary, the everyday and the unusual, the familiar and the
unfamiliar, and, especially, "the beautiful" and "the sublime"–in both
the natural world and human society;
critique–as contribution to, and instrument of, social change.
Many films, as well as many cinemas, aspire to meet two or three of
these goals, often employing one as means toward the achievement of at
least one of the other two (e.g., artistic expression as a vehicle of
social critique). Yet it is still useful, in beginning to come to
terms with the aims of different kinds of film and cinema, to recognize
these as primarily oriented toward serving one of these three ends.
here refers to a particular institutional form governing the
production, distribution, exhibition, and reception of a series of
films, especially a series of films sharing common subjects, styles,
social vantage points, and cultural backgrounds: e.g., “German
Expressionist Cinema,” “Classical Narrative Realist Hollywood Cinema,”
“Italian Neo-Realist Cinema,” “French New Wave Cinema,” “Dogme 95
Cinema,” “1960s American Underground Cinema,” “British Free Cinema,”
and “The New Queer Cinema.”)
The kinds of pleasures film
can provide us in fact come in many forms, at times quite complicated
and sophisticated, including those that usefully subvert culturally
dominant ways of making sense. Yet Hollywood (along with other,
allied sectors of the multinational conglomerate, large-scale corporate
capitalist, mass media) often encourages us to approach the pleasure we
experience from film primarily, if not exclusively, as a purely
escapist form of entertainment. In other words, Hollywood
frequently encourages us to retreat from, rather than to confront,
understand, and strive to overcome life's problems and difficulties.
What's more, even when mainstream media productions
do address serious issues, they often do so in reductively simplistic
and sentimentally trivializing ways. Usually they don't extend
messages quite as trite as "everything always turns out for the best,"
"don't worry, be happy," "crime never pays," or "good always triumphs
over evil," yet they still usually embrace, rather than critique,
cultural clichés. For example, a film might suggest that
hard work and a positive outlook on life will overcome all obstacles,
or that the support of a loving family and true friends should be all
we ever need to pick us up when and if we are down and need help, or
that heroic individuals can always defeat even the most brutal (ab)uses
of state and corporate power.
At the same time, another popular current in
contemporary Hollywood film rejects, even mocks, these naive attitudes
but does so only to support a cynical view of contemporary social
existence as an alienated quest for survival in an essentially selfish,
corrupt, and vicious world where might makes right, style (in the sense
of superficial "flash" and "glitter") matters far more than substance,
and maintaining an outward facade of cool, confident control, along
with a pose of proudly defiant self-reliance, always trump
manifestations of fellow feeling, shared concern, and social
solidarity. In addition, other common trends in contemporary
Hollywood involve making films a.) that function as little more than
opportunities to demonstrate the look, sound, and feel of the latest
special effects technology, or b.) that delight in facile forms of
pseudo-comedy–comedy devoid of wit, charm, and even humor–so as to
revel in the gross, the mean, and the cruel.
Hollywood films often tend, moreover, to discourage
us not only from questioning, challenging, and critiquing the social
status quo but also from thinking for ourselves as we come to terms
with what they represent to us in the course of our experience watching
(and listening to) them. These films frequently tell tales that
represent "the way things are" as simply "the way they have to be"–or,
even more insidious, as "the only way they can and should be."
They insert us into positions within the illusory worlds they construct
such that we experience no incentive to reflect either upon the process
of construction or the meaning of illusion, where we are reassuringly
protected from having to confront any genuinely unsettling thoughts or
feelings–i.e., thoughts or feelings that linger to trouble us long
after the film has ended. These films flatter us by providing us
with a false sense of our omniscience– false because these films not
only do our seeing and hearing for us but also because they attempt to
take charge as well of our thinking, feeling, reacting, and responding
in relation to virtually everything we encounter from the beginning to
the end of the film's running time.
In this course we will reflect critically upon the
processes of manipulation I have just recounted as well as examine a
number of alternative models of film production and reception that
challenge this interpellation of the film spectator-auditor (i.e.,
viewer-listener) into the position of uncritical, passive
consumer. In fact, the films we screen in class will most often
represent this–latter–kind of cinema. Yet we will also carefully
consider the contradictions involved in processes of film production,
distribution, exhibition, and reception that spark usefully critical
engagements with even the most "mind-numbing," "desensitizing," and
"trivializing" forms of mainstream Hollywood "blockbuster" film.
Hollywood has been, is, and will continue to be a contradictory site
(that means, in contrast with the kinds of Hollywood films I discussed
above, a good number of Hollywood films–or, as is common today, films
that are partially Hollywood and partially non-Hollywood–have been,
are, and will be themselves genuinely quite innovative, challenging,
critical, and progressive). And it is always possible to “read
against the grain.”
In other words, we will seek to inquire critically
into how and why films, of all kinds,
appeal as they do, to whom, when, where, and in response to what needs
and desires, rather than simply judging them as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, as
‘likeable’ or ‘unlikeable’, as seemingly “realistic” or “unrealistic,”
or as merely offering us occasions where what we see–and hear–is easy
to identity with or not. That means we have to reflect critically
on our own biases as we approach films–where we are coming from, how,
and why–as well as keep an open mind toward backgrounds, experiences,
perspectives, and outlooks that are very different from our own.
It is important that we subject film to critical
study because, over the course of the past 110+ years, films have come
to exert an extremely powerful impact upon both the shape and the
substance of individuals' lived experience of their relationship to the
conditions of their own existence. This impact is today often
considerably more powerful than that exerted by traditional print
media. In fact, film, television, video, and "cyberspace" have
become principal sites within our contemporary Western societies for
the production and dissemination, as well as the reproduction and
reinforcement, of meanings, values, ideas, ideologies, and social modes
of thinking, understanding, feeling, believing, acting, and
interacting, even when presented to us as "sheer
This course will begin, first, with “an introduction to
film analysis and to writing about films” followed by an
“narrative form” in film. From that point, we will turn,
second, to learn about film makers' use (to express and communicate
meaning) of techniques of a.) “mise-en-scène,”
“sound.” We will here concentrate on influential and
innovative uses of these techniques, including representation from
"independent" film makers working outside of Hollywood and beyond the
United States as well as examples from historically significant
Hollywood films. After this, we will, third, inquire into the art and politics of
representation in (especially) American (primarily Hollywood)
film. In this third section of the course, we will begin with an
introduction to and overview of the study of representation and ideology in
film and related media, turn from there to discuss the structure and
history of Hollywood, as industry and
institution, along with alternatives to Hollywood. From
that point, we will proceed to examine representations of race and ethnicity,
class, gender, and sexuality in (especially American) film.
The films I have selected to screen in this course
represent a critically acclaimed and historically influential
variety. One of my principal responsibilities in teaching this
course (a course that I myself designed and developed for this
department and university) is to introduce you to titles of films, and
kinds of film making–as well as ways of interpreting and evaluating
films–that you often have not encountered before. Like past
students in the many Introduction to Film, Video, and Moving-Image
Culture classes I have previously taught, I hope you too will come to
appreciate the opportunity this course provides for an "eye-opening"
The following required
textbooks are available for purchase at the UWEC Bookstore in Davies
1. Pramaggiore, Maria and Tom Wallis. Film: a Critical Introduction.
2nd Edition. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2008. ISBN#:
978-0-20-551869-2. This Edition Only.
2. Benshoff, Harry M. and Sean Griffin. America on Film: Representing Race, Class,
Gender, and Sexuality at the Movies. 2nd Edition.
Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. ISBN#:
978-1-4051-7055-0. This Edition Only.
You may feel free to purchase these books from any other bookstore or
book outlet, including by means of on-line ordering outlets (such as www.amazon.com), as you wish, as long
as you do acquire them in time to use in and for class (and as long as
you obtain the correct edition).
I will supply copies of other required texts used in
this course–photocopied handouts, weblinks, documents posted on our
Desire2Learn electronic classroom, and possibly yet others as
well. At each screening session I will give you a study packet to
use in preparing for our Wednesday discussion as well as to help guide
you in making sense of readings, screenings, and connections between
the two. I will also provide the DVD copies of all the films we
will screen in class this semester.
KEY: FCI=Film: a Critical Introduction, and
AF=America on Film: Representing Race, Class,
Gender, and Sexuality at the Movies.
1/25: Screening, The Exterminating
Angel and Memento.
1/27: Introduction and Orientation; Initial Discussion of The Exterminating Angel and Memento.
2/1: Screening, The Science of Sleep
2/3: Discussion, Introduction to Film Analysis and Writing About Film, The Exterminating Angel, Memento, The Science of Sleep, and Images.
Class on W 2/3 at the Latest: FCI, Chapter 2, “An Approach to
Film Analysis,” and Chapter 3, “Writing About Film,” 9-57.
2/8: Screening, Brick and Me and You and Everyone We Know.
2/10: Discussion, Narrative Form, Brick,
and Me and You and Everyone We Know.
Class on W 2/10 at the Latest: FCI, Chapter 4, “Narrative Form,”
Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #1 Assigned, W 2/10. *
2/15: Screening, Dogville.
2/17: Discussion, Mise-en-Scène and Dogville.
Read–Completely–Before Class on W 2/17 at the Latest: FCI,
Chapter 5, “Mise-en-Scène,” 87-128.
* Learning and
Contribution Reflection Paper #1 Due by 4 pm, F 2/19, in my English
Department Mailbox, HHH 405. Do not send this paper to me by
2/22: Screening, The Conformist
and Children of Men.
2/24: Discussion, Cinematography, The
Conformist, and Children of
Class on W 2/24 at the Latest: FCI, Chapter 6, “Cinematography,”
3/1: Screening, The Battle of Algiers
and Bloody Sunday.
3/3: Discussion, Editing, The Battle
of Algiers, and Bloody Sunday.
Class on W 3/3 at the Latest: FCI, Chapter 7, “Editing,”
3/8: Screening, Trainspotting
and Brassed Off.
3/10: Discussion, Sound, Trainspotting
and Brassed Off.
Class on W 3/10 at the Latest: FCI, Chapter 8, “Sound,” 233-278.
Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #2 Assigned, W 3/10. *
3/15 and 3/17: Mid-Term Exam, Parts 1 and 2.
3/22: Screening, High Noon
and The Manchurian Candidate.
3/24: Discussion, Film Form, Representation, Ideology, High Noon, and The Manchurian Candidate.
Class on W 3/24 at the Latest: AF, Chapter 1, “Introduction to
the Study of Film Form and Representation,” 3-20; FCI, Chapter 11,
“Film and Ideology,” 331-354.
* Learning and
Contribution Reflection Paper #2 Due by 4 pm, F 3/26, in my English
Department Mailbox, HHH 405. Do not send this paper to me by
4/5: Screening, The Player
4/7: Discussion, Hollywood, Alternatives to Hollywood, The Player, and Close-Up.
Class on W 4/7 at the Latest: AF, Chapter 2, “The Structure and
History of Hollywood,” 21-44; FCI, Chapter 9, “Alternatives to
Narrative Fiction Film: Documentary and Avant-Garde Films,” 279-307.
4/12: Screening, The Letter: An
American Town and the ‘Somali Invasion’, A Dream in Doubt, and Rabbit in the Moon.
4/14: Discussion, Race and Film, The
Letter: An American Town and the ‘Somali Invasion’, A Dream in Doubt, and Rabbit in the Moon.
Class on W 4/14 at the Latest: AF, “Introduction to Part II:
What is Race?,” 47-49; Chapter 3, “The Concept of Whiteness and
American Film,” 51-77; and Chapter 6, “Asian Americans and American
4/19: Screening, Mystic River
and Paranoid Park.
4/21: Discussion, Class and Film, Mystic
River and Paranoid Park.
Class on W 4/21 at the Latest: AF, “Introduction to Part III:
What is Class?,” 167-170; Chapter 8, “Hollywood Cinema and Class,”
171-186; and Chapter 9, “Cinematic Class Struggle After the
Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #3 Assigned, W 4/21. *
4/26: Screening, The Ballad of
Little Jo and The Prize
Winner of Defiance, Ohio.
4/28: Discussion, Gender and Film, The
Ballad of Little Jo, and The
Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio.
Class on W 4/28 at the Latest: AF, “Introduction to Part IV:
What is Gender?,” 213-216; Chapter 10, “Women in Classical
Hollywood Filmmaking,” 217-237; Chapter 11, “Exploring the Visual
Parameters of Women in Film,” 238-256; Chapter 12, “Masculinity in
Classical Hollywood Filmmaking,” 257-277; Chapter 13, “Gender in
American Film Since the 1960s,” 278-302; and “Case Study 10: The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio
Take-Home Final Examination Assigned, W 4/28. *
** Learning and
Contribution Reflection Paper #3 Due by 4 pm, F 4/30, in my English
Department Mailbox, HHH 405. Do not send this paper to me by
5/3: Screening, Kinsey and Shortbus.
5/5: Discussion, Sexuality and Film,
Kinsey, and Shortbus.
Class on W 5/5 at the Latest: AF, “Introduction to Part V: What
is Sexuality?,” 305-308; Chapter 14, “Heterosexuality, Homosexuality,
and Classical Hollywood,” 309-328; and Chapter 15, “Sexualities On Film
Since the Sexual Revolution,” 329-355.
5/10: Screening, Far from Heaven
5/12: Discussion, Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality, and Film, Far from Heaven, and Quinceañera.
Class on W 5/12 at the Latest: “Case Study 12: Quinceañera (2006),” 408-409.
* Take-Home Final
Examination Due by 4 pm, W 5/19 in my English Department Mailbox, HHH
405. Do not send this paper to me by email. *
[N.b.: we will not meet in class
during final exams week, but will have a class party–at my house,
day/time yet to be determined–instead.]
*** THIS SCHEDULE IS
SUBJECT TO CHANGE ***
ORGANIZATION AND CONDUCT OF CLASS
On Mondays we will
screen films. We will take a brief break of no more than five
minutes between each screening on days in which we will screen more
than one film. Students are welcome to bring pillows, blankets,
and folding lounge chairs to use if you find these more comfortable
than the classroom chairs. You may also bring snacks as long as
you take care to eat and drink quietly as well as not to spill anything
on the classroom carpet. Please note well that
occasionally screening sessions will run slightly longer than three and
one-half hours, and occasionally they will run shorter; students are
expected to stay through the end of screening sessions that run late,
yet may leave as soon as screening sessions that run short end–the time
commitment will all balance out.
On Wednesdays we
will discuss topics in film, video, and moving-image culture study
based upon the assigned readings for the week as well as the films
screened the preceding Monday. From time to time, I will show
clips from the films screened the preceding Monday as well as,
occasionally, DVD extras to initiate and stimulate discussion. I
will also, sometimes, show clips from other videos, and more to help
explain and illustrate key concepts. Drew, Amanda, Scott, Ryan,
Alex, and Kat, your academic apprentices (teaching assistants), and I
will occasionally make use of other kinds of equipment and associated
materials to demonstrate techniques, concepts, and practices as well.
I will direct our discussions, assisted by Drew,
Amanda, Scott, Ryan, Alex, and Kat. Often I will combine
discussion with some extended opening comments and relatively short,
informal initial presentations of my own. However, I will also
ask you to help out as I introduce and explain positions, concepts,
methods, and practices. Wednesday classes will in general involve
extensive questioning of and discussion with students, following a
variety of formats, including plenty of work in small groups. I
always prefer to teach primarily by way of discussion as opposed to
primarily by way of lecture; students learn better through active
engagement and dialogue with each other as well as with me than they do
from having me talk the bulk of the time while you only listen and take
notes. But you should take notes
on the short presentations I make, as well as, briefly, and insofar as
you find helpful in advancing your critical thinking, during the
screenings of the films themselves.
In addition, on Mondays, at the beginning of
screening sessions, I will distribute copies for every student of a packet of questions
and comments focusing on key issues related to the readings and
screenings for the week; you should use this packet to prepare
for discussion on Wednesday, to help you in thinking critically about
the readings and screenings, and in reviewing ideas we addressed in
class discussion as you work subsequently on writing papers and taking
exams. At times these packets will include copies of ‘print
lectures’ where I will offer you an extensive introduction to and
overview of key concepts and issues in this form (rather than taking up
precious class time to do so). Pay careful attention to these
lectures; they are meant to help your understanding, and to deepen your
awareness and appreciation. Finally, I will include within each
week’s packet for study, discussion, and review your homework
assignment, which will always be due at the beginning of each
Wednesday’s class meeting.
GOALS OF THE BACCALAUREATE
These are the five most important,
official goals all UWEC undergraduate courses are designed to help you meet:
1. Knowledge of Human Culture and the Natural World
2. Creative and Critical Thinking
3. Effective Communication
4. Individual and Social Responsibility
5. Respect for Diversity Among People
These goals require your striving to
meet them. Striving
means learning actively and deliberately, completing assignments in a
thorough and timely fashion, participating in class discussion, and
making connections between what we do while meeting in class and what
you do when engaged outside of the classroom.
GENERAL EXPECTATIONS OF STUDENTS
Although I expect that students enrolled in this
course do enjoy watching films for pleasure (as I most certainly do),
and although I also suspect that some of you may have already had some
experience in film production or may wish to pursue this work in the
future, as participants within this course students should be
sincerely interested in learning about the critical study of film and
culture. This class is not a place for
you simply to be entertained or merely to engage as a fan. This
means you need to
be prepared to go far beyond reacting to films, or kinds of films, as
things you personally merely ‘like’ or ‘dislike’. At
the least this means always being prepared to explain why you like
and/or dislike what you do, how so, and why so, as well as to take into
account how and why others might respond in opposing ways–and to take
into account, furthermore, how and why films, and kinds of films,
might be significant in ways that have nothing at all to do with how
likeable or unlikeable they happen to be.
I expect students in this course to be consistently
intellectually serious as well as academically diligent. I expect
you to strive to bring actively to bear–in your writing for class and
your contributions to class discussion–insights you gain through your
engagement with the films we screen, the required readings, and the
topics these films and readings raise for our consideration. And
I expect you to let me, Drew, Amanda, Scott, Ryan, Alex, and Kat
know right away when and if you have any questions or problems in
relation to any aspect of how you are doing with the course, so that we
can do everything we possibly can to help answer these questions and
solve these problems.
I also want to call your attention to the fact that
the English Department aims to provide you with an intellectually
challenging education. This means we often include texts
and introduce topics in our courses that candidly explore adult issues,
including ones that offer representations that may, on occasion, prove
unsettling, disturbing, and even offensive to some of you. The
higher educational academy is not a "safe space" separate from the rest
of the "real world" where you can expect to be sheltered from
encountering anything you might find disagreeable or
objectionable. On the contrary, we expect you to take
up the challenge to confront these kinds of texts and topics in a
mature, responsible way, and that means bringing directly to
bear your negative reactions in class discussions and in your writings
and presentations for class. After all, disturbing positions and
practices exist extensively outside of the classroom as well as in what
we read, see, hear, and otherwise confront in and for class; what we do
confront in class exists in this institutional space as symptomatic of
positions and practices that operate beyond the confines of the
classroom, the course, and the university.
should expect therefore that you may 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. And this does mean we will as part of this class
at times screen films that include extensive, explicit, even graphic
depictions of violence, and of sex; none of this involves
showing violence merely for the sake of showing violence or sex merely
for the sake of showing sex–it is always included, in the films we will
engage, for significant social, historical, political, and artistic
reasons–but it still may indeed be disturbing, even shocking, at
times. You should keep in mind, whenever you encounter a
disturbing, even a shocking, representation in a film, that film
makers, like all serious artists, often deliberately aim to disturb and
shock their audiences as a way of provoking strong responses and
stimulating intense thinking, feeling, discussion–and action. You don’t need to like
what you see, or hear, and you don’t need to agree with what the film,
and its makers, are arguing (implicitly as well as explicitly); not at
all. But you do need to respond in an intellectually serious and
mature adult manner–at all times.
Finally, you should also recognize and respect the
fact that 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 forms of knowledge in our fields of expertise, and that
includes forms of knowledge that some will find disturbing. In
short, we must profess
these knowledges; if we fail to assume this responsibility we
shirk our professorial responsibility and render ourselves unworthy of
maintaining our professorial positions.
SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS FOR THE COURSE
General Criteria for Evaluation of
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 films, videos, and other electronic texts we screen;
the graphic texts we read; by me; by Drew, Amanda, Scott, Ryan, Alex,
and Kat; and by each other.
This course cannot contribute effectively to your
education as critical students of film if you do not attend
class. What happens in class is an indispensable part of this
course. I will keep track of student attendance and therefore I
expect students to adhere to the following attendance policy for this
1.) Students should not exceed a maximum of two unexcused absences.
2.) Students should provide me with written confirmation of a serious,
individual or family emergency for any further–excused–absences beyond
the maximum of two unexcused absences.
3.) Students who miss
more than six classes total, except for an official UWEC
authorized absence, should expect that they are unlikely to pass the
course, and therefore should withdraw from
the course and enroll again in a subsequent semester.
4.) Attendance at all
classes in which films will be screened is required as well,
even if and when the films we screen are readily available on video for
you to watch and listen to elsewhere and at another time.
5.) Students are expected to arrive at class on time and to stay
through the end of class. Coming late or leaving
early, unless for emergency or other exceptional reasons, counts as
absent. I will also note well students who leave
class after the break during these screening sessions; not attending
the entire screening session (unless you have made arrangements with me
ahead of time to leave early) will count as an absence from class that
6.) Students need to be awake, alert, and attentive while in
class, including throughout screening sessions; this means you can’t
expect to sleep or rest in class. Again, if you do so, this will
count as an absence from class. And the same is true of doing
other schoolwork in class or attending to other–personal–matters
irrelevant to the focus of what we are about in this course (e.g.,
text-messaging). CELL PHONES SHOULD BE
TURNED OFF AND PUT AWAY DURING CLASS, INCLUDING DURING SCREENING
SESSIONS. STUDENTS WHO SPEND TIME PLAYING WITH THESE WHILE THEY
ARE SUPPOSED TO BEING PAYING CLOSE, CAREFUL, CRITICAL ATTENTION TO
FILMS–INCLUDING BY TAKING NOTES AS YOU WATCH AND LISTEN–WILL SUFFER A
GRADE PENALTY EACH TIME I OR ONE OF THE ACADEMIC APPRENTICES OBSERVES
YOU DOING THIS.
7.) Students are responsible for finding out and making up
whatever you miss if and when you do miss
Starting the second week of the semester I will give
you one homework question (or series of short questions) at each Monday
screening session for you to write out your response to prior to our
subsequent Wednesday discussion class. This question (or series
of short questions) will relate primarily to the assigned readings for
that week, but also likely will ask you to refer to films you will
watch, and listen to, in class that Monday. Homework will always
be collected at the beginning of class on Wednesday.
For each homework assignment you should type out
your response, double-space, you should make sure to put your name on
what you write, you should number your pages and staple separate pieces
of paper together, and you should aim to cover an average of
approximately two pages (or 500 words). Key here, in evaluating
your work on these homework assignments, will be how accurately,
carefully, and thoughtfully you engage with the question(s) asked of
you, as well as the quality of the insights you offer and the effort
you demonstrate both in preparing well for discussion and in using the
writing out of your response to this homework assignment as itself an
occasion for significant learning. Neither I nor the academic
apprentices will be sticklers for minute points of writing style, but
you should nevertheless try to express yourself, and communicate to us,
clearly and precisely.
The academic apprentices will read and offer
evaluative comments on homework first, before I do this second. I
will do all of the grading. Each academic apprentice will be
responsible for an average of five to six students’ homework for each
homework assignment; they will rotate from assignment to assignment so
that each academic apprentice will likely evaluate your homework twice
over the course of the entire semester. I will look over every
student’s homework for every homework assignment.
Each homework assignment will be worth 2.5% of the
overall course grade, and you should make sure that you do
twelve of these assignments, to complete the total required percentage
of the course grade that homework will constitute: 30% of the overall
course grade. You should note well that you will
receive thirteen homework assignments this semester, which means you
can choose to do any twelve of the thirteen. It also means that
if you do all thirteen you can earn 2.5% extra
credit. I will give you a mid-term homework grade, for
your work on the first six homework assignments, worth 15% of the
overall course grade, and then I will give you a final homework
grade, for your work on the last six homework assignments, worth 15% of the
overall course grade.
I will grade homework on a curve, taking account of
how well the class as a whole is doing with these assignments.
The principal aim of these assignments is to help you–to help you learn
through thinking in writing, and by providing you the opportunity to
work directly with ideas you are studying in this course. If you
make a serious, conscientious effort to learn, and you respond well to
suggestions and recommendations for improvement as you proceed from one
homework assignment to the next, you should do very well with this
work, and be thankful to have the opportunity it provides you–including
to share your thoughtful reflections on all of the films we will screen
and discuss in class over the entire course of the semester.
Learning and Contribution/Learning and
Contribution Reflection Papers
My foremost aim in teaching this course is to help
you to learn something of significance and value. I will judge
you to a significant degree on what you learn, how–and how hard–you
strive to learn, and on how–along with how well–you contribute to the
learning for the rest of the class.
Class participation represents an important
opportunity to learn, not just a place in which to demonstrate what you
have learned. By raising questions, testing and trying out ideas,
taking risks and making mistakes, you learn a great deal–and help
others learn a great deal as well. You learn through talking, not
just talk to show what you have learned. Don't hesitate to speak
forth in class if you have anything at all to throw into the mix.
And don’t worry about whether what you have to share is ‘the right
response’ or ‘sounds good’. Often, we will discuss issues that it
is possible to make sense of any many equally viable ways, and, even
so, you learn better ways of making sense by sharing ideas which you
are not by any means certain or confident about. Also, all of you
are beginning critical students of film; I don’t expect you to speak in
a highly polished and sophisticated way–not at all–and you shouldn’t
maintain unreasonable expectations of yourself either. You get
better with practice–and experience. And I am here to help.
If you make a serious effort I will respect and appreciate that a lot.
In addition, you really shouldn’t worry about how
your understandings and interpretations–or your ways of putting
these–compare with other students in the class. Almost always,
when students are worried about that kind of thing, they see and hear
themselves versus their peers entirely differently than I do.
Other students in this class really aren’t likely to be significantly
‘better’–or ‘worse’–in their ability to speak in useful ways than you,
even when you falsely imagine this to be the case. People are
different: you have your own style of expressing yourself, and others
have theirs; don’t worry about being different in this way.
At the same time, however, I also want to make clear
that talking a great deal in class does not necessarily mean you are
making a quality contribution to the class in aiding the learning we
aim to accomplish. Quality of participation is much more
important than quantity, although a sufficient quantity is
indispensable to insure quality. Still, I want to emphasize here
that I perceive talking which pulls us off on far-fetched tangents,
which remains disconnected from and disengaged with the reading and the
rest of the class, or which effectively silences others to be negative
participation. Quality class participation does not, moreover,
involve merely asking questions of me and responding to my questions;
quality class participation means working to advance a serious and
substantial discussion with your peers too.
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 homework
assignments, for exams, and as part of learning and contribution
reflection papers are also highly valuable ways to contribute to
class. At the same time, listening carefully, respectfully, and
thoughtfully in class discussions is yet another very important form of
contribution–as is taking time to meet and talk with me and with Drew,
Amanda, Scott, Ryan, Alex, and Kat outside of class. In fact,
meeting and talking with us outside of class can be an excellent way to
contribute–as well as to show us how seriously interested in and
engaged with the course material you are.
Learning and contribution will constitute a
significant proportion of your overall course grade. As part of
this grade, you will write three short learning and contribution
reflection papers. For these papers I will ask you, simply, to
assess how, along with how well, you have been learning and
contributing in the class over the course of the preceding
approximately four week period of time. As I see it, these
short papers provide you a useful opportunity to communicate with me
how you believe you are doing with the course, as well as why so, and
to demonstrate your critical self-reflexivity, the hallmark of a
liberal arts education. As you are assessing your own learning
and contribution, you may include thoughts in reaction to issues raised
in class discussion that you did not have the opportunity or did not
feel comfortable enough to share in class; these additional reflections
can help me get a better sense of what you have been thinking about and
how you have been responding to class discussions, as well as to the
readings. I will take into account what you write in determining
your learning and contribution grade for the preceding semester period;
performance on these papers represents a vital component of your
learning and contribution grade.
I will provide you specific directions in the
assignments I give you for each of these papers. The first
learning and contribution grade will be worth 5% of the overall
course grade, the second learning and contribution grade will
be worth 7.5% of
the overall course grade, and the third learning and
contribution grade will be worth 10% of the
overall course grade--adding up to a total worth 22.5% of the
overall course grade.
Once again, academic apprentices will read and offer
evaluative comments on these papers first, and then I will do this
second. And yet again, as with all assignments in this course, I
will do all the grading. Each academic apprentice will be
responsible for approximately five to six learning and contribution
papers each time around, and they will rotate so they work with
different students’ papers from the first to the second to the third
assignment. I will read, evaluate, and grade all papers, from all
students, each time.
The mid-term examination will take place as follows.
On Monday March 15
you will write short critical analyses of a series of four clips from
films screened prior to this point in the semester which I will
re-screen for you at this time, prior to you writing each of these
short critical analyses. In each case you will respond to
specific questions about the clip, the film from which it is excerpted,
and the concepts I have selected it to illustrate. This will
proceed for approximately two hours and constitute part one of the
mid-term examination; it will be worth 10% of the
overall course grade.
After a short break I will then screen a film for
you that we have not previously watched, and listened to, together–for
the remainder of the period. On Wednesday March 17,
I will screen a key clip, or several clips, from this same film at the
beginning of class. After this, you will have the remainder of
the period to write a critical analysis of this film in relation to the
concepts we have been studying and working with up to this point in the
semester. Again, I will give you a specific set of questions to
address in doing this work. This essay will constitute part two of the
mid-term examination; it will also be worth (an additional)
10% of the overall course grade.
This is an “open book” examination, meaning you may
refer to your textbooks, photocopied handouts I will have prepared for
you, notes, and any other written materials you think might prove
useful in responding to the questions (both parts of) this examination
poses of you.
Once more, academic apprentices will read and offer
evaluative comments on these exams first; I will then do so second, and
I will grade all of the exams. Each academic apprentice, again,
will be responsible for evaluating approximately five to six students’
The final examination will be a take-home essay
examination, asking you a series of short essay questions directly related
to concepts and films we have addressed in class during the second half
of the semester. As long as you take this exercise seriously and
work on it conscientiously, striving to express yourself and
communicate to me in as clear, accurate, precise, and thoughtful a way
as possible, you should do very well with this assignment. The
final examination will be worth 22.5% of the
overall course grade.
I will consult with academic apprentices in
evaluating these exams, but other than that, I will do all the reading,
evaluating, and grading of all students’ final exams.
Formatting: Homework, Papers, and
You may handwrite homework assignments, learning and
contribution reflection papers, and the take-home final exam, as you
wish, as long as you do so neatly and legibly, but I prefer that you
type these writings. The mid-term exam you will write in class,
so this will be handwritten.
Double space what you write, keep your margins
standard, include your name on the first page, number your pages, and
staple separate pages together. Use any standard font you wish,
but make your point size 11 points or higher.
Try to follow rules and conventions of Standard
Written English as far as possible, although the key here is clarity,
coherence, precision, and specificity. Document sources that you
use beyond ones from this class, if and when you use these, in
sufficient detail so that anyone reading what you write could readily
find these sources.
If you make arrangements with me ahead of time, or
shortly after an assignment is due, because of some emergency of other
exceptional development in your life, you may turn in late work.
If not, your grade will be reduced. Sometimes problems come up; I
understand. You don’t need do every homework assignment to do
well, and I will offer you a number of opportunities to earn extra
credit to make up for work you don’t get a chance to do (on time), or
don’t do particularly well with.
If you are drawing from someone else’s ideas, and
these are not matters of fact, give them credit. Otherwise do
your own work; you won’t learn if you don’t, and the penalties at this
university–like most others–for students found guilty of plagiarism are
severe. Don’t risk it.
Usually when I teach this course I take students–and
friends from outside as well as inside of our English 181 class–with me
one Saturday to Minneapolis to see some films, and to otherwise hang
out and have fun. I pay for the bus. Just for coming along,
you can earn 7.5% of extra credit. We will talk
further about this class field trip as the semester proceeds.
In addition, the academic apprentices and I will
select films from the Spring 2010 weekly UWEC Campus Film Series and
from the Eau Claire Progressive Film Festival (April 16 through 25)
which we will make available as opportunities to earn extra
credit. In these cases, you’ll attend a screening, and then write
a short reflection paper on the film, following guidelines the academic
apprentices and I will give you. You will be able to
earn 1.25% extra credit for each short reflection paper you write, as
long as the academic apprentices and I agree that it represents quality
work on your part.
Finally, at the end of the semester, you and your
friends–from outside as well as inside of our English 181 class–will be
invited to a class party at my house. You will earn 2.5% extra credit just for
coming to this party. The party will take place during
finals week, on a day and at a time to be announced.
We may even offer additional extra credit
opportunities, but, as you can tell by this point, I want to give you
plenty of chances to do well in this class, including to make up for
not doing well on some assignments.
I encourage you to meet with me in conference during
office hours or at another mutually convenient time to discuss any
issue of interest or concern that you develop as a student in this
course and as a member of this class. I recognize the value of
learning that takes place in conferences; I know this can at times be
equally as important, and in fact occasionally even more important,
than what takes place in class. It also provides you an
opportunity to contribute beyond what you say in class and write for
class. So please do not hesitate to meet with me at any time you
think this might be helpful to you–or whenever you’d just like to talk
further with me. I want to help you in your understanding
of issues addressed in texts (including audio-visual texts) and
discussions, as well as in your writing and participation. And
you may certainly also feel free to contact me by e-mail or by (my
campus office) phone as well. Please come see me if you have
questions or concerns as you are doing work for class; I will be glad
to help you.
I really do like to get to know my students;
students at this university continually demonstrate impressive ability,
talent, knowledge, experience, insight, vitality, and good
character. I am lucky to get to know you; it enriches
me. And one thing is worth emphasizing from the start, as I
know just the fact that one is a professor can be intimidating, even
when, like me, one never thinks of himself as an intimidating kind of
person, and that is, above all else, I like my students, I always do, I
like you a lot, and I care about not only how you are doing in class
but also about your well-being in general. The more and the
better I get to know you, the more and better I can help you, and, it’s
quite possible, as has been the case with many students I’ve taught
over the years too, that we can even become friends.
In addition to all of that, please keep in mind that
Drew Cramer, Amanda Fay, Scott Hansen, Ryan Le May, Alex Long, and Kat
Parks have joined this class as academic apprentices–teaching
assistants–because they want to work with and help you. These
people will read and write evaluative comments on your written work
(although I will do all the grading) and they will help out in class
discussions as well as with class screenings, presentations,
demonstrations, activities, and field trips. In addition, all six
will hold office hours where they will be available to meet with you to
discuss interests this class raises, as well as to help you with work
for class. Drew, Amanda, Scott, Ryan, Alex, and Kat can be of
great help do you; take advantage of the opportunity to work with them
outside as well as inside of class. The fact that I have invited
these six men and women–all advanced, experienced, and highly capable
upper-level undergraduate students themselves–to join our class to work
with me and you as teaching assistants should make clear to you that I
sincerely want to do everything I possibly can to make this class a
valuable experience for you, and to assist you in doing well with
So, finally, once again–we are here to help.
We want to help you. We want you to do well. We want you to
learn and grow. We want you to find what we engage stimulating
and fulfilling. And we want you to have fun too, even as you work
hard and as we engage with many serious issues and challenging
Any student who has a disability and is in need of classroom
accommodations, please contact the instructor and the Services for
Students with Disabilities Office. *
In the interest of accountability–me to you–I am
here providing you weblinks: 1.) to my statement of philosophy as a
college teacher: http://www.uwec.edu/ranowlan/philosophy.htm
and 2.) to my autobiographical profile: http://www.uwec.edu/ranowlan/PROFILE_.htm.
You are also welcome to check out 3.) my myspace page, http://www.myspace.com/insurgentseanmurphy,
and to look me up 4.) on facebook,
http://www.facebook.com, where I just started a page last summer
under ‘Bob Nowlan’. [If you are interested in becoming myspace or
facebook friends, feel free to contact me about that.] In
addition, you can find 5.) my professional vita (the academic
equivalent of a resume) at: http://www.uwec.edu/ranowlan/VITA.htm.
I encourage you to check these sites out; it is useful for you to know
who your teacher is, what he’s about, and where he’s coming from–and I
like to be open, honest, and forthright with you about all of
that. I look forward to a great semester working together with