ENGLISH 210: INTRODUCTION TO TEXTS

    Section 002, MW 10-11:50 am and F 10-10:50 am, HHH 226
    Fall 2012, UWEC

    PROFESSOR BOB NOWLAN
    
    Office: HHH 425, Office Phone: (715) 836-4369
    Office Hours: MW 11:55 am to 12:25 pm, M 6:35 pm to 7:05 pm,
    W 5:35 to 6:05 pm, F 10:55 to 11:25 am, as well as By Appointment

ranowlan@uwec.edu
    http://uwec.edu/ranowlan

STEPHANIE TINBERG, Academic Apprentice, tinbersa@uwec.edu

COURSE EXPLANATION

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


    The word “texts” in the title of this course likely leads many of you to imagine a considerably different focus for this course than is actually the case.  This is not, in other words, a class focused on studying “textbooks” or on studying print design or on studying only particular  kinds of books in print.  In order to begin to grasp what this course is about I need, right away, to explain what “texts” means instead, in this context.


    In order to do so, allow me first to a take a brief step back.  English 210 focuses on teaching you concepts and practices that maintain wide applicability, across a range of disciplines, not only within “English” but also across the arts and humanities–as well as the social and behavioral sciences (and even to a significant degree within the natural and physical sciences as well as in pre-professional fields like business and nursing for that matter).  These concepts and practices are ones that are shared by practitioners of disparate critical and theoretical approaches, by people working with different subjects, through different media, and in pursuit of different objectives.  These concepts and practices come from multiple overlapping and interrelated kinds of interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and transdisciplinary fields: semiotics, rhetoric, critical studies, cultural studies, textual studies, critical theory, and more.  For simplicity sake, I will now refer, in the next few paragraphs, to this considerable array of interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and transdisciplinary fields as, simply, “cultural studies,” but I believe it is important that I make clear that the broad understandings of “text” and “textuality” and of “reading” and “writing” I will explain in these forthcoming paragraphs is shared even more widely than within just cultural studies alone.


    Introduction to Texts is a course in Cultural Studies.  Cultural Studies is a cross-disciplinary field of intellectual work that emerged in the 1980s, with particular emphasis in the arts and humanities. Cultural studies engages the "writing" and "reading" of all "texts" of culture (and not just conventional "literary"–or print or verbal–varieties of texts).  According to cultural studies, we "read" whenever we interpret what something "means," and we "write" whenever we create something which others must interpret so as to determine what it means.  This leads us to approach all products of culture as "texts" insofar as they are written and read, insofar as they are understood as possessing or bearing meaning.  "Texts" include everything from the seemingly most "profoundly meaningful" to the seemingly most "mundanely meaningless" (as, after all, to be considered insignificant, or of little or no meaning, is to be judged to mean in a particular way as well). Cultural studies thus focuses on making sense of "texts" such as films, television shows, music and video productions and performances, paintings and drawings, sculpture and architecture, sports teams and games, trends in clothing and fashion, commercial advertisements, individual dreams and plans, shopping lists and checkout receipts, buildings and rooms, kinds of food and drink, roads and vehicles, manners and gestures, ceremonies and rituals, personalities and personal relationships, and individual actions and specific incidents.  Cultural studies focuses on making sense of the meaning of human products and practices–as well as of the meaning of the social relationships humans form in the course of interacting with each other.  Cultural studies further inquires into the ways meaning often, in fact, changes over time, from one period to another, and varies across space, from one location to another.  Likewise, cultural studies further inquires into the ways meaning, even at one place and in one time, is often multiple, complex, and contradictory.  Cultural studies attempts to explain what accounts for meaning–and especially what accounts for the ways that it emerges, develops, and changes, as well as for the ways that it is complex and contradictory, in particular as site, and stake, of conflict and struggle among social groups representing different social positions, maintaining different social interests, and striving toward different social ends.  A “text” is any entity (of any kind, in any form, and in any medium) that people interpret as meaningful–i.e.,  anything that people “read” as meaningful and anything that people “write” so that others can and do “read” it as meaningful.  “Textuality” refers, in turn, to the operations of meaning in textual form–to how, in short, texts provide means and medium for expression and communication, and for interpretation and understanding, of meaning.


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


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


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


    In the first half of this course we will focus on learning and initially applying key concepts and practices for understanding and interpretation of cultural texts.  You will learn and apply techniques of “close reading”: what Barry Brummett defines as “the mindful, disciplined reading of an object with a view to deeper understanding of its meanings.”  You will learn and apply methods and approaches for effective critical and argumentative writing.  And you will, ultimately most important of all, learn and apply key concepts: concepts of theory, author/ authoring/ authority, reading/ textuality/ writing, subjectivity, culture/ multiculturalism/ popular culture/ media culture, ideology, history, space/time, and ‘differences’–including race, gender, queer(ity)/ sexuality, and class.  Unlike English 284, Introduction to Theory and Criticism, in English 210 we will not focus in depth or detail on learning and applying distinct theoretical and critical approaches, such as feminism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, strructuralism, deconstruction, and so on.  And further unlike English 284 we will not concentrate on reading primary texts written by leading exemplars of these kinds of theoretical and critical approaches.  When we engage with theoretical and critical concepts in this class, our aim will be to focus on what does it mean to begin to think, to read, to write, and to act critically and theoretically, in general.  All of what we concentrate on, in the first half of the course, will be concerned with introducing you to broadly useful ways of reading–and writing about–cultural texts, and as we do so, we will make reference to a range of different kinds of cultural texts, including many from contemporary American popular culture.


    In the second half of this course we will transition from working with ways of reading–and writing about–cultural texts to focus as well on learning and initially practicing writing–that is creating–cultural texts.  Here we will begin by reading, discussing, and interpreting a series of six critically acclaimed modern and contemporary plays that all offer overtly challenging and deliberately provocative interpretations of a broad range of complex, serious, and persistently topical issues: Lorainne Hanberry, A Raisin in the Sun; Bruce Norris, Clybourne Park; Caryl Churchill, Far Away; Harold Pinter, The Hothouse; Jo Clifford, Every One; and Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman.  These plays will present stimulating challenges to your own interpretive abilities, especially in drawing out implications from what each represents that will enable you to make illuminating connections with diverse other cultural texts–and contexts.  All six playwrights have achieved the stature of major writers of our times, while scholars, critics, and general audiences have lauded all six plays, even as each play deals with sensitive issues through often bold and unsettling means.  What you will be doing, after we take the time initially to read, discuss, and interpret these plays as a whole class, is to divide into three teams where each team will be working together to compose, produce, and ultimately perform–for the rest of the class–a short play of your own.  These plays you write will be related to and inspired by one of the following three sets of two plays we earlier read and discussed: 1.)  Lorainne Hanberry, A Raisin in the Sun, and Bruce Norris, Clybourne Park; 2.) Caryl Churchill, Far Away, and Harold Pinter, The Hothouse; and 3.)  Jo Clifford, Every One, and Arthur Miller, Death of a SalesmanYour play will be set in the here and now as well as otherwise significantly adapted and transformed from your two source plays.  So, in sum, in the second half of class you will gain the opportunity to bring to bear the key concepts and practices you have learned in the first half of class toward the creative writing of a cultural text of your own.  And you will gain the benefit of working closely with drama, which tends to be taught and studied considerably less often in other English literature and creative writing courses, at many US colleges and universities, than is the case with poetry, fiction, and even creative non-fiction.   What’s more, you will gain the benefit of working as part of a creative team.  This kind of experience is increasingly widely rated, by education leaders and scholars, by graduate programs, and by both for-profit and non-profit employers not only as an especially valuable “high-impact practice,” but also as a crucial “liberal education learning outcome.”

BOOKS

    The following books are required:

1.    Brummett, Barry.  Techniques of Close Reading.  SAGE Publications, 2010.  ISBN#: 978-1-4129-7265-9.

2.    Nealon, Jeffrey and Susan Searls Giroux.  The Theory Toolbox: Critical Concepts for the Humanities, Arts, &  Social SciencesSecond Edition.  Rowan and Littlefield Publishers, 2012.  ISBN#: 978-0-7425-7050-4.

3.    Hansberry, Lorraine.  A Raisin in the Sun.  Seventh Edition.  Vintage, 2004.  ISBN#: 978-0679755333.  

4.    Norris, Bruce.  Clybourne Park.  Faber and Faber, 2011.  ISBN#: 978-0865478688.

5.    Miller, Arthur.  Death of a Salesman.  Penguin, 1974.  ISBN#: 978-0140481341.

6.    Clifford, Jo.  Every One.  Nick Hern Books, 2011.  ISBN#: 978-1848420915.

7.    Churchill, Caryl.  Far Away.  Nick Hern Books, 2003.  ISBN#: 978-1854597441.

8.    Pinter, Harold.  The Hothouse.  Grove Press, 1999.  ISBN#: 978-0802136435.


    All of these books are available for you to purchase at the UWEC Bookstore. You may purchase them elsewhere, as you wish, as long as you do acquire them in time to use for class; these days many students find many required texts for their classes through on-line booksellers.  All are readily available through that means from multiple different vendors.  I will supply additional written texts in the form of photocopied handouts, or on Desire2Learn and the W (the Student-Faculty Shared) Drive.  I will also supply copies of the visual, audio, and audio-visual texts that we may make use of from time to time as well.  Please note well that you must obtain access to the second edition of The Theory Toolbox; you may acquire access to different (complete) editions of all the other books (especially the plays, #s 3-8 above) that I have ordered if this is easier for you.  

SCHEDULE
    
Part One

W 9/5: Introduction and Orientation.

F 9/7: Why Theory?

    Read for Class, F 9/7: The Theory Toolbox, Chapter 1, 1-9.

M 9/10: Author/ity.  

    Read for Class, M 9/10: The Theory Toolbox, Chapter 2, 9-20.

W 9/12: Reading.

    Read for Class, W 9/12: The Theory Toolbox, Chapter 3, 21-34.

F 9/14 and M 9/17: Subjectivity.

    Read for Class, F 9/14: The Theory Toolbox, Chapter 4, 35-50.    

    * Paper #1 Assigned, M 9/17: Explanation and Illustration of Key Concepts. *
 
W 9/19: Introduction to Techniques for Close Reading: On Noticing What You See and Hear.

    Read for Class, W 9/19: Techniques of Close Reading, Chapter 1, 1-26.

F 9/21 and M 9/24: Techniques for Close Reading: Using Form for Close Reading.

    Read for Class, F 9/21: Techniques of Close Reading, Chapter 3, 49-71.

    * Paper #1 Due, M 9/24: Explanation and Illustration of Key Concepts. *

W 9/26 and F 9/28: General Recommendations for Critical Reading About Cultural Texts: a Review and Elaboration Concerning the Writing Process and Effective College-Level Writing.

    Read for Class, W 9/26: To Be Announced.    
    
    * Paper #2 Assigned, W 9/26: Application of Key Concepts in Analysis and Interpretation: A Critical and Argumentative Reading of a Single Cultural Text. *

M 10/1 and W 10/3: Ideology and Argument.

    Read for Class, M 10/1: Techniques for Close Reading: Chapter 5, “Ideology and Argument” and “Conclusion: a Close Reading Using Multiple Techniques,” 97-130 and The Theory Toolbox, Chapter 6, 93-105.

F 10/5 and M 10/8: Culture.

     Read for Class, F 10/5: The Theory Toolbox, Chapter 5, 51-91.

    * Paper #2 Due, M 10/8: Application of Key Concepts in Analysis and Interpretation: A Critical and Argumentative Reading of a Single Cultural Text. *

W 10/10 and F 10/12: History and Space/Time.

    Read for Class, W 10/10: The Theory Toolbox, Chapters 7-8, 107-137.

M 10/15, W 10/17, and F 10/19:‘Differences’: Gender, Queer, Race, Class, and More.

    Read for Class, M 10/15: The Theory Toolbox, Chapter 7, 171-205.

    * Paper #3 Assigned, F 10/19: Application of Key Concepts in Analysis and Interpretation: a Critical and Argumentative Reading of Two Cultural Texts. *

Part Two

M 10/22, W 10/24, F 10/26, and M 10/29: A Raisin in the Sun and Clybourne Park.

    Read for Class, M 10/22: A Raisin in the Sun, The Entire Play.

    Read for Class, W 10/24: Clybourne Park, The Entire Play.

    * Paper #3 Due, M 10/29: Application of Key Concepts in Analysis and Interpretation: a Critical and Argumentative Reading of Two Cultural Texts. *

W 10/31, F 11/2, M 11/5, and W 11/7: The Hothouse and Far Away.

    Read for Class, W 10/31: The Hothouse, The Entire Play.

    Read for Class, F 11/2: Far Away, The Entire Play.

F 11/9, M 11/12, W 11/14, and F 11/16: Every One and Death of a Salesman.

    Read for Class, F 11/9: Every One, The Entire Play.

    Read for Class, M 11/12: Death of a Salesman, The Entire Play.

    * Paper #4 Assigned, F 11/16: Interpretation of and Reflection on Six Dramatic Texts.*

M 11/19, W 11/21, M 11/26, W 11/28, F 11/30, M 12/3, W 12/5, F 12/7, and M 12/10: Work in Teams Writing, Producing, and Practicing Performing Short Plays.

W 12/12 and F 12/14: Performance of Short Plays and Conclusion/Wrap Up.

M 12/17:  * Paper #4 Due, Interpretation of and Reflection on Six Dramatic Texts, by 4 pm in My English Department Mailbox, HHH 405 *


* THIS SCHEDULE IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE *

** THERE IS NO FINAL EXAMINATION IN THIS CLASS **


ORGANIZATION AND CONDUCT OF CLASS SESSIONS

    We will work continuously throughout each period.  (If you need to take a short restroom break, you should feel free to go ahead and take it–but try to keep it short.)  Class will follow a variety of formats, but throughout you will be consistently actively involved.  In other words, while I will devise the structures for what we do, and direct all of our work together, this will be a discussion-emphasis as opposed to a lecture-emphasis class.  From time to time I will make short presentations, but that’s it, as it will be up to you to help us work our way toward a consensual understanding of key concepts and practices–what they mean, how and for what they are useful, and what their significance happens to be.  You will need to work with me in order to enable your learning and that of your peers; I find that students learn better, in this kind of class, through active participation and extensive collaboration (including often as part of groups and teams) rather than by remaining largely quiet and merely taking notes during the course of long lectures.  Plus, we will be making use of your prior, and other, knowledge, skill, talent, and experience as a crucial point of connection with everything “new” you encounter in this class.  While working, toward the end of the semester, on your short plays you will be working in three separate classrooms.  I will give you directions, including targets, for what you should aim to accomplish each day.  I will also ask you to account in precise detail for what you do as part of these teams throughout the process, as well as precisely to evaluate your teammates’ contributions toward your collective work.  


UWEC MISSION AND GOALS OF THE BACCALAUREATE

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


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


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


    The following, in addition, are the six official liberal education learning goals for undergraduate education at UWEC, and this class aims to help you, in particular, with goal number two:

1.) Knowledge of Human Culture and the Natural World

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

4.) Individual and Social Responsibility

5.) Respect for Diversity Among People

6.) Integrative Learning

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

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

SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS FOR THE COURSE GRADE

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

Attendance

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

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

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

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

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

Papers

    Papers #1-#3 will provide you an opportunity to test out your developing grasp of key concepts and practices for reading and writing about cultural texts.  Paper #4 will provide you an opportunity to elaborate your interpretations of and reflections on significant issues raised by each of the six plays we will read and work with in class.  Each paper assignment will be different, asking you to work with a different set of concepts and to engage in at least somewhat different kinds of practices.  Each paper assignment will directly relate to concepts and practices and/or texts and topics we will have been working with together since the last paper assignment (or, in the case of paper assignment #1, since the beginning of the semester through the time of that, initial, paper assignment).  I will provide a precise and thorough explanation at the time that I distribute each of these paper assignments to you, including specifications for length (although I will mention here that I tend to be quite flexible in working with different lengths depending upon what works for different students).  I will also, at the same time, provide you an explanation of the criteria I will be using in evaluating, and grading, your work on these papers.  Paper #1 will be worth 7.5% of the overall course grade, Paper #2 will be worth 10% of the overall course grade, Paper #3 will be worth 12.5% of the overall course grade, and Paper #4 will be worth 15% of the overall course grade.  The four papers will, together, be worth a total 45% of the overall course grade.

Participation and Contribution

    As a discussion-intensive class, this one depends on students’ participation.  By raising questions, testing and trying out ideas, taking risks and making mistakes, you learn a great deal–and help others learn a great deal as well. You learn through talking, not just talk to show what you have learned.  At the same time, however, 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, is negative participation.  In other words, quality participation is key, although a certain quantity is necessary in order to enable quality. Quality class participation does not, however, involve merely asking questions of me and responding to my questions; quality class participation also requires you to work to advance a serious discussion with your peers about the texts we are addressing, and about the issues these texts raise for our consideration.  


    At the same time, I certainly understand that not everyone is equally at ease talking in class, for multiple and varied reasons.  Listening carefully, making effective use of what is discussed in class in papers and other assignments, and working with me, with your academic apprentice Stephanie Tinberg, and/or with tutors in the Writing Center outside of class are all other ways in which you can demonstrate your quality contribution to our collective endeavor.  At the same time, work in small group discussions and as part of group and team projects provide diverse opportunities for different kinds of participation, and contribution.  For those who are especially shy or otherwise hesitant to speak forth in class, for whatever reason, I will provide you an opportunity to write two additional reflection papers, in which you can share with me some of what you have been thinking about and how you have been working with ideas discussed in class–demonstrating kinds and degrees of engagement, in other words, that I might not readily recognize, because of you being shy or quiet.  I will offer you opportunities to write one additional reflection paper prior to my determination of your participation and contribution grade for part one of the semester, and one additional reflection paper prior to my determination of your participation and contribution grade for part two of the semester.  


    I do urge all of you, even those of you who conceive of yourselves as shy or quiet students, to do your best to talk in class, even as part of whole class discussions, now and then; start slowly and work your way up.  Work with me and with Stephanie, your academic apprentice, to find ways to do so.   Keep in mind that what you have to say matters, and that everyone struggles to articulate ideas in conversation about serious and substantial topics as precisely as we might ideally like, but we all do in fact gain a great deal from taking a stab at it, and speaking forth even when we are confused and unclear.  We can–and we will–help each other in all the more precisely formulating what we each aim to say; all you need to do is give us something, in discussion, to work with, to build upon, develop, and refine.  If you do so, that’s a highly positive contribution.  Don’t hold yourself to unrealistic standards for participation, as I certainly won’t; this is an ‘introductory’ class, and an ‘introductory’ level of understanding and engagement is all that I am looking for.  In my past English 210 classes all of the students enrolled always eventually ending up participating regularly and extensively in our class discussions, and that was great for everyone involved.  You can do it too; I know you can–I have confidence in you; you wouldn’t be here if you were not eminently capable of doing a fine job in participation and contribution.   


    You will receive two participation and contribution grades, each corresponding roughly to one-half of the semester, with each worth 10% of the overall course grade, for a combined total worth 20% of the overall course grade.

Small Group Project–Leadership of Class Discussion of Issues Related to Two Plays

    As part of a group of students you will be responsible for leading our discussion of a significant issue, or nexus of issues, from one of the following three sets of two plays: 1.) A Raisin in the Sun and Clybourne Park; 2.) Far Away and The Hothouse; and 3.) Every One and Death of a Salesman.  In consultation with me, you will get to choose the issue(s) and you will get to decide what kind of short presentation and what kind of extended activity you think will prove most useful, and most interesting.  Your aims here will be: to help your fellow students better understand and appreciate (the meaning, value, and significance of) the plays for which you are responsible, as well as to help stimulate an interesting discussion of the plays, including by drawing connections (comparisons and contrasts) with other cultural texts and contexts.  If you can come up with some good ideas to help the students who will subsequently be working with these two plays as source material for composing, producing, rehearsing, and ultimately performing their own short play that will be great.  Each group will meet with me (and, as possible, also with Stephanie Tinberg, your academic apprentice, as well) in a conference prior to the day in which you will be responsible for half of class; I will help you prepare.  Your performance on this assignment will be worth 10% of the overall course grade.

Large Team Project–Composition, Production, Rehearsal, and Performance of a Short Play

    Here you will be working together with a team of your peers from class to compose, produce, rehearse, and ultimately perform–in class, for the rest of us–a short play directly inspired by one of the following three set of two plays: 1.) A Raisin in the Sun and Clybourne Park; 2.) Far Away and The Hothouse; and 3.) Every One and Death of a Salesman.  You will be updating and translating these plays so that your play is focused on the here and now.  At the same time, you will be maintaining significant elements of plot, character, style, mood, tone, and even setting from your original source-plays.  And you will be working to find ways to make use of the key concepts for reading and writing about cultural texts that we discussed in the first half of the semester; you will be bringing these to bear in how you compose, produce, and perform your play, demonstrating how your “writing” here of a cultural text reflects your critical “reading” of (and is in fact another way of “writing about”) a series of other cultural texts.  As such, your play will offer a critical as well as creative take on some significant aspects of contemporary American culture, linked with and inspired by Hansberry’s and Norris’, Churchill’s and Pinter’s, and Clifford’s and Miller’s creative and critical takes on significant aspects of American and/or British culture.   I will provide more details when I give you the specific assignment for this project.  I will also give you instructions as well as suggestions and recommendations throughout the time you will be working on this assignment.  And you should note well that even as this is the kind of assignment that students overwhelmingly tend to enjoy working on, and that includes students initially skeptical or worried about it, you will need to take it seriously, and make productive use of your time.  In addition, you almost certainly will need to work on it outside of as well as inside of class, even though you will have three weeks of class periods to work in your teams on composing, producing, and rehearsing your short plays.  Please feel free to consult with me outside as well as inside of class as you are working on this project; I will be glad to help in any and every way I can.  (Likewise, Stephanie Tinberg, your academic apprentice, will be happy to assist you outside as well inside of class as well.)   I will be doing everything I can to help you in class throughout the period of time that you are developing your play.  Finally, I will be giving each member of each team an evaluation sheet to fill out and turn in after your play has been performed in class, where you will evaluate your own and each other member of your team’s contribution to the collective project you have worked on; I will take what teams write on these evaluation forms, about yourselves and your teammates, significantly into account in determining your individual grades for this project.  Please also feel free to let me know right away, at any point in the process, if any members of your team are not contributing constructively to your collective project.  The grade for your work as part of a team of peers involved in composing, producing, and performing a short play will be worth 25% of the overall course grade.

General Formatting Requirements: Papers

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

Late Papers

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

Academic Honesty

    Plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty are serious offenses.  They not only undermine the goal of learning but also are exploitative of the work of others.  Deliberate dishonesty in written work as part of this course will result in a failing grade.  In addition, plagiarism may result in further disciplinary action on the part of the University administration, ultimately including expulsion from the University.  Also, if you directly echo someone else’s thoughts as articulated in the course of class discussion you should add the last name, followed by the letters CD (for class discussion), followed by the date, in a parenthetical citation right after the end of the sentence, viz: (Nowlan, CD, 10/7/12).

CONFERENCES/EXTRA HELP

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


    Stephanie Tinberg has joined this class as an academic apprentice–a teaching assistant–to work with me to help you learn, and to gain the most from your experience in class.  Stephanie will be helping out with class discussions, with group activities and team projects, and with papers.  Please take advantage of the opportunity to work with Stephanie; she is ready, willing, and able to give you a great deal of useful help.  

* 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 *

CONCLUSION
                    
    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 encourage you to check these sites out; it is useful for you to know who your teacher is, what he’s about, and where he’s coming from–and I like to be open, honest, and forthright with you about all of that.  I look forward to a great semester working together with you!