ENGLISH 110: INTRODUCTION TO COLLEGE WRITING
Special Focus: Argumentative Writing, Critical Citizenship,
Social Struggle, and Social Change
Professor Bob Nowlan
Section 032, MW 3:30-5:45 p.m., HFA 159
Spring 2001, UWEC
Office: HHH 405
Office Phone Number: (715) 836-4369
Office Hours: T 3:15 to 4:45 p.m. and 9:45 to 11 p.m.,
W 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., R 3:15 to 4:45 p.m.,
and by Appointment
Introduction to the Statement of Explanation of General Principles
The aim of this section is to provide not merely a description
but rather an explanation, as well as a justification, for how I have conceived
and organized this section of this course, and why so. I want to provide
you with as precise and thorough an accounting as possible of what we will
be doing together this semester, how, and why, as well as from where I am
coming in my approach to teaching this course. I recognize that the way
I have conceived and organized the teaching of this course is likely different
from what many of you expected to encounter, and I also recognize that encountering
the unexpected can at times prove unsettling, at least for an initial period
of time. However, I want to reassure you that I have taught many English
composition courses for many years at many colleges and universities, including
for four years now at UWEC, where not only have most students managed to
do quite well in these classes but also the considerable majority of these
students have also indicated, by the end of the semester, that they had found
my approach quite stimulating, refreshing, and enabling. I do not wish to
intimidate you with anything I have written in this syllabus, although I
well know that I run the risk of so doing, as many, if not most, other faculty
with whom you are familiar likely use syllabi that only provide a purely
factual outline of the basic "nuts and bolts" of how the course will proceed.
However, I personally believe I maintain a greater ethical responsibility
and that is to be far more entirely forthright with you. I hope, therefore,
that you will recognize my aim in writing this course explanation statement
and including it at the beginning of this syllabus is to prove helpful to
you, by taking you seriously enough to tell you, in careful detail, not only
what I plan for us to do together this semester, but also how and why so.
Why This Special Focus for this Section of English 110
English 110 is an intensive, demanding, five-credit introduction to "college writing." Although all sections of English 110 share a broad set of common objectives, we who teach these sections interpret meeting these objectives according to a range of often considerably different and sharply opposing conceptions of precisely what to teach, how to teach, and why to teach. I teach English composition according to a model that I first developed working with a collective of fellow composition faculty at Syracuse University close to fifteen years ago, and which I have since brought to bear and taught other composition teachers to employ at a diverse range of colleges and universities across the United States. This model focuses on argumentative writing, writing as critical citizenship, writing as critical culture studies, writing as ideology critique, writing as the cultivation of critical literacy in relation to visual and audio-visual as well as verbal texts, and writing as focused on engaging with and contributing toward the further development of ongoing social struggles for progressive social change.
What This Special Focus Means, in Sum;
The Importance of Writing Critically and of
Writing as Social Engagement and Social Responsibility
What does this mean for what we will do together this
semester? In short, it means that I teach "college writing" as writing designed
to contribute actively, intelligently, and especially critically toward
what I contend constitutes the ultimately most powerful and significant work
carried out from within this social institution, the higher educational "academy":
that is, the production and dissemination of advanced forms of knowledge that
can enable substantial progress in ongoing struggles for human emancipation,
collective equality, social justice, and ecological sustainability.
Who are 'College Writers'?
College Writers, College Writing, Social Struggle, and Social Change
As I teach it, this course presents an opportunity for
you to learn how you can join the most serious and important intellectual
work of this institution, no longer as mere subordinates, as people only "passing
through" on the way toward taking up your real lives' work elsewhere, but
rather as the potential co-equals of university faculty. I conceive "college
writers" to be men and women who know and care about what is happening in
the world, and who strive to do what they can to make this world a better
place, for generations to come, even when and where the obstacles you confront
in these efforts are great, and when and where the freedom you enjoy to exercise
genuinely democratic rights in pursuit of these objectives is severely limited.
In other words, you learn to recognize and accept, to paraphrase the famous
words of Frederick Douglass, "that without struggle there can be no progress."
I teach "Introduction to College Writing" to people
whom I approach not merely as "students," but also, much more importantly,
as human beings seeking to learn and understand, and to act and interact -
to intervene - by joining with and contributing to ongoing struggles for urgently
needed social change, change that extends far beyond the limited confines
of the classroom, the course, or even the university. These are men and
women who conceive of college education as entailing a social responsibility,
and who commit themselves to do what they can, in practice, to meet this responsibility.
"College writers" are therefore not, as I see it, simply
those men and women who have "mastered the rules," who have "learned how
to play the game," and who can, as such, write in technically competent and
skillful fashion sufficient to enable them to "get by" in their college courses,
and to obtain "good jobs" afterward. "College writers" do not approach their
writing as a mere means of finding the best way to "fit in," "obey orders,"
submit to authority, and conform to the dictates of those in dominant positions
of power. College writers are people who can, and as necessary who will,fight
this power -- a power often deployed in the interest of maintaining and reproducing
relations of oppression, exploitation, alienation, and dehumanization - and
they are prepared to do so with the critical and oppositional power that
their own writing helps provide.
Writing as a Process of Thinking and a Mode of Committed, Activist Practice
"College writers" conceive of writing not as a mere "product" that displays what these women and men have thought, in an "acceptable form," after the thinking is done, and after these writers have self-censored anything that might "upset" or "disturb" anyone else. On the contrary, college writers conceive of writing as a process of thinking, and as a process, more precisely, of exploring, inquiring, reflecting, interpreting, evaluating, expressing, communicating, and of taking up and pushing forward positions to which the writer can and does commit herself with sincerity, determination, passion, and enthusiasm. College writers do not hesitate to represent unpopular positions, and to advocate for these, when and where they do maintain these positions, because these writers are men and women who have not given way to the cynical and despairing conviction that they are entirely powerless and inconsequential (despite the abundant, often highly sophisticated ways that our dominant capitalist culture inculcates us with this sense of our own powerlessness and inconsequentiality). Instead, college writers believe the issues their positions address are vitally important and they have a right, as well as a responsibility, to make their voices heard. These men and women are willing to risk provoking, challenging, even alienating and offending their readers, when and where it is right and necessary to do so -- when and where, that is, the issues at stake require it.
Writing with a Purpose; Writing as Unity of Form and Content, and of Text and Context;
and What it Means to Think, Read, and Write Critically
Writing is always intrinsically connected with reading,
thinking, feeling, speaking, and acting. What's more, how we write always
depends upon what we write, for whom we write, and, especially, why we write.
Writing can be taught as if it involved merely a set of neutral skills and/or
empty forms -- and yet, in actuality, the skills and forms that are so taught
are neither neutral nor empty of content; such formalist approaches in fact
teach us to develop, express, and communicate the kinds of thoughts and feelings
in the kinds of ways which serve to maintain and reproduce the interests of
dominant social groups without us understanding that this is what they are
It is, therefore, of crucial importance that writing
be taught as a unity both of form and content, and of text and context. Writing
is not merely form; forms never really exist separate from contents. Neither
is writing merely text; texts never really exist separate from contexts.
In this course, you will learn how to read and write in ways that involve
the uniting both of form and content and of text and context. In particular,
you will learn how to do this by learning how to read and write -- and to
think -- critically. Learning to read and to write critically
means learning to proceed beyond merely describing the ways in which texts
work, toward explaining how and especially why -- in particular, for what
-- they work as they do. "Composition," in sum, is not manipulation: it is
construction, design, and creation. To learn how to compose in written language
is to learn how to express, communicate, develop, and refine ideas, beliefs,
thoughts, and feelings of significance and urgency.
The Rhetoric and Politics of Reading and Writing;
Writing to Persuade and Compel
In the process of learning to read and write critically,
it is necessary to focus particular attention upon both the rhetoric
and the politics of reading and writing. "Rhetoric" refers to the
art of using words effectively to express and communicate thoughts and feelings
in speaking and writing. In particular, you will learn how to produce arguments
capable either 1. of persuading others to accept and/or
identify with a particular position with which they are not already previously
in agreement, or 2. of compelling these others to reformulate
and rearticulate previously maintained positions in response to the pressure
your arguments have exerted upon their previously maintained positions.
"Politics" does not refer merely to that which it is conventionally understood
to refer -- campaigning and voting for election to legislative and executive
positions in government -- but rather to the entire sphere of conflict and
struggle, as well as the regulation and adjudication of this conflict and
struggle, among individuals and social groups over right of access to, and
opportunity for the exercise of, natural and cultural resources, powers,
and capacities. The "politics of reading and writing" refers to the ways
in which the activities of reading and writing -- and the texts we read and
write in the process of pursuing these activities --- are both affected by
and in turn affect this conflict and struggle over access to and exercise
of resources, powers, and capacities. Rhetoric focuses upon how
writing is done: how to make it as effective as possible so as to
persuade or compel its audience. Politics focuses upon what
writing is designed to persuade or compel its audience to do and
why this writing is designed to enable such ends and serve such
Argumentative Writing and Critical Citizenship
The ultimate goal of learning to write critically is
to enhance your ability to engage as a critical citizen.
Critical citizens are empowered agents able effectively to question, challenge,
and contribute toward the progressive transformation of the prevailing status
quo within the communities, societies, and cultures of which they are a part.
Argument is the most fundamental and indeed indispensable
means of discourse (i.e., social use of human language) for all kinds of
serious intellectual work and especially for all forms of effectively critical
citizenship. Argument is essential to practices of inquiring and investigating,
convincing and compelling, persuading and moving, contesting and cooperating,
and negotiating and resolving. Therefore, this section of English 110
will focus on education in argumentative writing. This does not
mean we will neglect "other kinds of writing," as effective argumentative
writing necessarily draws upon and incorporates all of the following subsidiary
writing practices: paraphrasing, summarizing, citing and quoting, comparing
and contrasting, analyzing and synthesizing, reporting and informing, researching
and investigating, reflecting and commenting, imagining and inventing, describing
and explaining, revising and editing, and demonstrating and presenting.
Moreover, we will also continually address questions of grammar, usage, punctuation,
and mechanics over the course of the semester, but in this course you will
develop and improve your mastery of the rules and conventions of Standard
Written English by learning how and why mastery of these rules and conventions
will facilitate and strengthen the effectivity of your arguments on issues
of substantial social interest and concern.
Conclusion: Teaching Against Fascism
In conclusion, I teach "college writing" as I do because
I do not want you, as my students, to leave this course equipped simply,
passively, to follow others' instructions in solving others' problems without
being able to question, challenge, and critique the ways in which these others
have conceived and articulated these instructions, and these problems; I do
not want you merely to "fit in" and "take orders" as dupes of the rich, the
strong, the elite, and the powerful -- I teach instead in direct
opposition to education which is designed to make you into good fascist subjects
The following required texts are available for purchase
at the UWEC bookstore in Davies Center:
I will supply copies of all the films we will screen in this class.
We will screen these in VHS video format with large-screen projection. Along
with each series of films I will supply a packet containing credit and (plot)
summary information, sample reviews and critiques, and a short selection
of background and contextual information. I will also supply photocopies
of all assignment sheets, guide sheets, class discussion outlines, and supplemental
HOW I HAVE ORGANIZED THIS COURSE AND WHY SO:
SPECIFIC STRUCTURE AND FOCUS
In this section I explain precisely what topics we
will engage as we proceed over the course of the semester as well as why I
have selected these topics and organized the course to focus on these topics
according to this structure.
Unit One: the Aims and Methods of Argument
We will begin this course, after an initial class of
introduction and orientation, and a second class in which you will write an
autobiographical essay as a diagnostic examination of your current level of
writing competency, by studying the principal aims and methods of argument.
Unit One: Schedule
M 1/22: Introduction and Orientation.
W 1/24: Diagnostic Examination Essay.
M 1/29: Introduction to Reading and Writing Arguments.
Read for Class:The Aims of Argument, Chapters
1-3, pp. 3-36; Jefferson, "Declaration of Independence" (Photocopied Handout);
and Stanton, "Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, Seneca Falls" (Photocopied
W 1/31: Arguing to Convince.
Read for Class:The Aims of Argument, Chapter
5, pp. 69-106; Thoreau, "Civil Disobedience" (Photocopied Handout); and Mead,
"Warfare: an Invention -- Not a Biological Necessity" (Photocopied Handout).
M 2/5: Arguing to Persuade.
Read for Class:The Aims of Argument, Chapter
6, pp. 107-145; Swift, "A Modest Proposal" (Photocopied Handout); and Hughes,
"Let America be America Again" (Photocopied Handout).
W 2/7: Research and Arguments.
Read for Class:The Aims of Argument, Chapter
9, pp. 227-279; Reyes, "Bilingual Education in a Multicultural Nation" (Photocopied
Handout); Richards, "A Flawed Saint" (Photocopied Handout); Sanchez, "Into
Las Animas and Myself" (Photocopied Handout); and Robinson, "Female Identity
in Kate Chopin's 'The Story of an Hour'" (Photocopied Handout). Argument
and Research Paper Assigned.
M 2/12: Interpreting and Evaluating Visual (and Audio-Visual) Arguments.
Read for Class:The Aims of Argument, Chapter
8, pp. 191-226, and from Part Two: Maung photo, p. 330; Anderson cartoon,
p. 390; Ad for Women's Jeans, p. 427; Cheney cartoon, p. 483; Trudeau cartoon,
p. 515; Twohy cartoon, p. 567; Bernstein photo, p. 598; Ramey photo, p. 654;
and Anonymous, photo, p. 703. Also, to be Screened in Class, Supplied by
the Instructor: Clip from Berkeley in the Sixties.
Unit One Class Contribution Summary and Evaluation Report
Assigned M 2/12; Due M 2/19.
Introduction to Units Two through Four
After unit one, we will engage with arguments that arise
out of and press forward a series of three distinct sets of social struggles
for social change. Each of these struggles challenge mainstream commonsense,
in both "liberal" and "conservative" varieties. These arguments represent
the interests of people fighting (back) collectively against exploitation,
oppression, alienation, and dehumanization and for freedom, justice, democracy,
and equality. In these units we encounter so-called "ordinary people" uniting
together in "extraordinary" efforts, manifesting extraordinary courage and
extraordinary insight, talent, idealism, and commitment, to struggle against
powerful capitalist interests and against the state, the chief political representative
of these interests. These people have made history, and continue to make
it, even when their contributions are largely ignored, or otherwise denigrated
and distorted, in conventional history courses and in the mainstream corporate
The writers and film makers we will meet in units two
through four do not all agree with each other, by any means, but instead
represent a considerable array of different positions. These writers and
film makers explicitly as well as implicitly contest each other on a number
of significant points, and therefore you should feel free to argue strongly
against as well as with what these writers and film makers themselves argue.
In fact, I will be quite surprised if you do not do so, from time to time,
as the arguments we will encounter in units two through four challenge culturally
dominant ways of making sense. My principal aims here are to expose you
to powerful viewpoints that are largely marginalized within mainstream education
and the mainstream media, on vitally important social issues that are often
largely neglected if not altogether ignored in these quarters, and to provide
you with source material that will be sufficiently provocative so as to stimulate
you to take strong stands and write strong arguments of your own.
The Focus of Unit Two: U.S. Labor History of Struggle
In unit two, we will focus on U.S. labor's history of struggle, engaging with arguments advanced primarily from a rank-in-file workers' vantage point. These arguments challenge both corporate business interests as well as the interests of conservative "business unionism" represented by bureaucratic union leaderships. In this unit we will examine the successes and the failures of self-organized efforts of working class American men and women to strike (back), in mass, from the late 1890s through the present (from "the Great Upheaval" of 1877 through the United Parcel Service strike of 1997 -- and beyond).
We will pay considerable attention, in particular, to
the problems confronting the struggles of organized labor over the course
of the past approximately 25 to 30 years in the wake of a substantial decline
in the relative strength of organized labor versus that of organized capital
and of a fundamental restructuring of the organization of global labor relations.
For those who do not recognize the changes to which I am referring in this
last sentence, let me just indicate that they include all of the following,
and much more: 1.) the "deindustrialization" of the United States with the
shift, throughout much of the "First World," from an economy dominated by
manufacturing work to one dominated by service work; 2.) the rise of "the
global assembly line," "the global hiring hall," and "global free-market capitalism,"
including the shift of enormous amounts of manufacturing labor to the "Third
World" where workers can be paid a pittance versus what would be the case
in the "First World," where companies face virtually none of the costs of
health and safety, consumer, and environmental protection they would confront
in the "First World," and where local, regional, and national governments,
as well as transnational lending institutions, provide these companies enormous
subsidies to locate in places where the right to strike is illegal and all
forms of organized resistance to labor exploitation are usually met with
considerable violence on the part of the state; 3.) the rapid growth of temporary,
contingent, and part-time forms of labor simultaneous with increased emphasis
upon "flexible" employment patterns, the return of de factosix and seven
day workweeks along with de facto ten and twelve hour workdays, and the
substantial rise in the numbers of men and women who must work multiple jobs
at the same time as well as be prepared to shift frequently from one kind
of job to another in order to survive; 4.) the return of 19th century
"sweatshop" labor conditions on a massive scale in urban and rural pockets
of the "First World" as well as throughout much of the "Third World"; 5.)
the decimation of the welfare-state social "safety net" and the concurrent
movement toward extensive "privatization" of formerly "public" goods and services;
6.) the virtual elimination of long-term labor contracts, especially with
guaranteed cost of living adjustments and the guaranteed right of collective
bargaining, simultaneous with the emergence of extensive pressure for labor
concessions and givebacks, at the same time as union membership in the United
States has fallen to its lowest level since the 19th century; and
7.) the accelerating gulf in the extent of social wealth under the control,
on the one hand, of the very rich versus that, on the other hand, under the
control of virtually everyone else.
In this unit, you will learn about a major force in American history that has substantially shaped and determined the nature of the ways in which we live and work today, dramatically transforming these from the conditions prevailing in the early days of the initial rise of U.S. capitalism with the advent of the "industrial revolution." This is a social force which continues to make a considerable difference today in all of our lives, even when we are virtually entirely unaware of this fact; the history of labor struggle is a vital part of our history that is in fact rarely, if ever, taught in most schools.
Unit Two: Schedule
W 2/14, M 2/19, W 2/21, M 2/26, W 2/28: Screenings and Preliminary Discussion
of Screenings: Films concerned with U.S. Labor History of Struggle.
Films to Be Screened (Tentative List): The Uprising
of '34, Struggles in Steel, Drawing the Line at Pittston
, The Battle Against Corporate Greed, Lords of the Press:
the Detroit Newspaper Strike and the Death of Truth in the Media,
Solidarity Forever, and Women Empowering Women: Women in the Unions
Simultaneous Reading: Brecher, Strike!.
Recommended Reading Schedule: pp. 1-68 (Introduction,
Prologue, and Chapters 1-2) by W 2/14, pp. 69-158 (Chapters 3-4) by M 2/19,
pp. 159-236 (Chapter 5) by W 2/21, pp. 237-304 (Chapters 6-8) by M 2/26,
and pp. 305-365 (Chapter 9) by W 2/28.
Also Read through the Supplemental Packet of Credits
Information, (Plot) Summaries, and Background and Contextual Information
About the Series of Films as We Proceed with the Screening of These Films.
Please complete all of the above reading by W 2/28.
Unit Two Argument and Critique Paper Assignment Distributed in Class: W 2/14;
Paper Due in Class, in Multiple Copies, on M 3/5.
M 3/5, W 3/7, M 3/12, and W 3/14: Presentation, Discussion, and Critique
of Sample Student Unit Two Argument and Critique Papers on Topics Provoked
by Unit Two Screenings, Reading, and Preliminary Discussion.
Autobiographical Paper (Revision of Diagnostic Examination Essay)
Due in Class: M 3/12.
Unit Two Class Contribution Summary and Evaluation Report
Assigned W 3/14; Due M 3/26.
The Focus of Unit Three: The 'Celling of America'
In unit three, we will turn to consider the conditions today confronting one of the most widely despised and brutally oppressed populations in the U.S.: prisoners. Many middle and upper class White Americans are virtually entirely ignorant of what prison life in the U.S. today is really like, and of the actual conditions and circumstances that have shaped and determined most modes of "criminal behavior," relying instead upon Hollywood mystifications and romanticizations as well as right-wing demagoguery and demonizations for what they imagine "the problem of crime" and "the life of the criminal" to be all about.
In this unit we will examine the following contemporary
trends, among others: 1.) the massive increase in the numbers of Americans
imprisoned over the course of the past approximately 25 to 30 years with
the emergence of what is frequently identified as the U.S. "prison-industrial
complex"; 2.) the simultaneous substantial decline of prison living conditions
and massive rise of human rights abuses of prisoners; 3.) the extreme race
and class imbalance among which "criminals" are imprisoned and which not,
for how long, and in what kinds of penal institutions, as well as among whom
is punished in what ways and to what degrees, both in prison and beyond, including
by means of capital punishment; 4.) the extent to which many poor people,
mentally ill people, and people of color are imprisoned and otherwise brutally
punished as a result of conviction for crimes where it remains highly questionable
that they are, in fact, guilty as charged; 5.) the growing numbers of "political
prisoners" locked up in American prisons and the extent to which inmates
who actively organize and lobby for prisoners' civil and human rights are
usually treated by prison guards and other agents of the state the most severely
for exercising these supposedly constitutionally protected liberties; 6.)
the cynical manipulation by many mainstream politicians of the so-called "War
on Crime" to advance their own professional interests and political careers
without at the same time demonstrating much of any real concern to address
the conditions of destitution and deprivation that generate and perpetuate
most forms of crime; 7.) the huge social as well as economic costs of the
so-called "War on Drugs" and the utter failure of this "War" to meet its feigned
objectives; 8.) the virtual abandonment of all efforts, and most resources,
invested in "rehabilitation" within these ostensible institutions of "correction";
and 9.) the rapidly increasing militarization of police functions throughout
our country, on all levels, to the point where even a considerable number
of relatively "moderate," "mainstream" human rights activists describe the
United States as on the verge of becoming a (neo-fascist) "police state"
(at least for many poor and working class men and women, many people of color,
and many activists fighting for radical social change.)
Certainly, a considerable number of those imprisoned
in the United States today are guilty of horrendous crimes against others
(although, at the same time, the number of Americans imprisoned for non-violent
crimes, and for "crimes against property" is a significantly greater percentage
than those imprisoned for violent "crimes against persons"). Yet, even for
those who have committed violent crimes against others, should we subject
them to "cruel and unusual" forms of punishment motivated first and last
solely out of a desire for "vengeance," while in effect depriving them of
basic human rights and virtually all means by which to salvage their lives
beyond their terms in prison? This is only one example of the kinds of questions
we will address in this unit. Undoubtedly, it will prove an especially controversial
unit, yet I expect that the controversy should prove quite stimulating to
provocative discussion and debate.
Unit Three: Schedule
M 3/26, W 3/28, M 4/2, and W 4/4: Screenings and Preliminary Discussion
of Screenings: Films concerned with The Celling of America.
Films to Be Screened (Tentative List): USA Incarcerated
, Visions of Freedom, The Farm: Life Inside Angola Prison
, Incident at Oglala: the Leonard Peltier Story, Mumia: a Case
for Reasonable Doubt?, and The Thin Blue Line.
Simultaneous Reading: Burton-Rose, Pens, and Wright,
eds., The Celling of America and Selections from Christian Parenti,
Lockdown USA: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis, New York:
Verso, 1999 (Photocopied Handout).
Recommended Reading Schedule:The Celling of America
, pp. 1-61 (Introduction, Part One, and Part Two) and Lockdown USA
, pp. 163-81 (Chapters 8-9) by M 3/26; The Celling of America, pp.
64-100 (Part Three) and Lockdown USA, pp. 182-193 (Selections from
Chapter 10) by W 3/28; The Celling of America, pp. 102-188 (Parts
IV, V, and VI) and Lockdown USA, pp. 213-225 (Selections from Chapter
11) by M 4/2; The Celling of America, pp. 189-249 (Parts VII and
VIII) by W 4/4.
Also Read through the Supplemental Packet of Credits
Information, (Plot) Summaries, and Background and Contextual Information
About the Series of Films as We Proceed with the Screening of These Films.
Please complete all of the above reading by W 4/4.
Unit Three Argument and Critique Paper Assignment Distributed in Class: M 3/26;
Paper Due in Class, in Multiple Copies, on M 4/9.
M 4/9, W 4/11, and W 4/18: Presentation, Discussion, and Critique of Sample Student Unit Three Argument and Critique Papers on Topics Provoked by Unit Three Screenings, Reading, and Preliminary Discussion.
Unit Three Class Contribution Summary and Evaluation Report
Assigned W 4/18; Due W 4/25.
The Focus of Unit Four: Globalization and Its Discontents
In unit four, we will focus our attention upon the recent rise of an international mass movement organized in opposition to contemporary capitalist "globalization," a movement that first attracted enormous media and public attention in November of 1999 with protests in Seattle, Washington directed against the World Trade Organization (the WTO). Since that time, this movement has continued to grow and has made its presence felt with mass protests in April of 2000 directed against the International Monetary Fund (the IMF) and the World Bank in Washington, D.C., at the Republican and Democratic Party Presidential Conventions in Philadelphia and Los Angeles last July and August of 2000, and at the Presidential Inauguration of George W. Bush in Washington, D.C. this January of 2001 (as well as in many other places and through many other avenues across the globe). This movement targets the anti-democratic, anti-labor, anti-environment, anti-consumer and anti-human rights policies and practices not only of the WTO, the IMF, and the World Bank, but also the multinational and transnational giants whose interests these supranational institutions represent as well as the governments of the major, advanced capitalist nations such as the United States who have eagerly identified our national interests with those of insuring maximal rates of profit expropriation and accumulation for multinational and transnational capitalist enterprises.
Many commentators argue that this emergence of globalization's
vast array of enormous "discontents" marks the rise of the most historically
significant popular mass mobilization in the United States since the celebrated
movements for social change of the 1960s. What's more, young Americans, especially
traditional college-age men and women, are among the largest constituencies
involved in this movement. The specific forms, tactics, and strategies of
this movement are extensively informed by the values, ideals, and commitments
of generations that have come of age in the 1980s and 1990s. For many members
of American generations popularly (albeit crudely) labeled as "X" and "Y,"
the movement organized against capitalist globalization and its concomitant
ideology of "neoliberalism" represents today's equivalent of the Anti-Vietnam
War, the Black civil rights and Black power, the Democratic Free Speech, the
Countercultural, and the Women's and Gay Liberation movements fought and
led by many young American men and women in the 1960s and 1970s.
For these reasons alone, I believe it is important that
college students today become familiar with where they stand concerning "globalization
and its discontents." Yet this is hardly all, as the processes of capitalist
"globalization" effect us all, to an extraordinary degree and in myriad different
ways, while many of us are not all-that-familiar with how this is so, or
with why so many different groups of people have organized and united to
protest, contest, and work to transform the ways in which this process has
proceeded to date.
In unit four of this class, you will gain the opportunity
to learn much (more) about today's "globalization and its discontents." This
will include inquiring into the social impact of the post-Cold War trend toward
integration of the entire "new world order" into a single "free market" under
the control of a global capitalist class that is increasingly "freed from"
any external constraints upon how it treats its labor force, the consumers
of its goods and services, and the surrounding human community and natural
environment. Anything that takes away from profit becomes an obstacle.
Of course, big capitalists have not yet succeeded in
achieving complete autonomy, nor have they managed completely to stave off
those social forces which aim to limit and restrict their power, yet capital
has gained considerable ground in the quest to free itself from labor, community,
consumer, and government "interference" over the course of the past approximately
25 to 30 years. The exponential rise in the number of large-scale corporate
mergers in recent years, along with the formation of conglomerates who no
longer concentrate in any one particular field or array of fields of production
or service but instead simply concentrate as many money-making enterprises
as they can under the centralized control of one small group of capitalists,
are two of the most immediate signs of the greatly enhanced power of "big
business" today versus what was the case only a few short decades ago. Once
again, I expect that students will find the opportunity, in unit four, to
engage with this vitally important set of contemporary issues, and social
struggles, of considerable relevance - and interest.
Unit Four: Schedule
M 4/23, W 4/25, M 4/30, W 5/2, and M 5/7: Screenings and Discussion
of Screenings: Films Concerned with Globalization and its Discontents.
Films to Be Screened (Tentative List): Sweatshops:
a Legacy of Exploitation, a History of Struggle, Showdown in Seattle:
Five Days that Shook the WTO, Breaking the Spell: Anarchists, Eugene,
and the WTO, Breaking the Bank, and LA 2000.
Simultaneous Reading: Danaher and Burbach, eds., Globalize This! and Cockburn, St. Clair, and Sekula, Five Days that Shook the World.
Recommended Reading Schedule: Danaher and Burbach,
pp. 1-123 (Chapters 1-15) by M 4/23; Danaher and Burbach, pp. 124-208 (Chapters
16-26) by W 4/25; Cockburn, St. Clair, and Sekula, pp. 1-86 (Chapters 1-4)
by M 4/30; and Cockburn, St. Clair, and Sekula, pp. 87-118 and Concluding
Photographic Portfolio by W 5/2.
Also Read through the Supplemental Packet of Credits
Information, (Plot) Summaries, and Background and Contextual Information
About the Series of Films as We Proceed with the Screening of These Films.
Please complete all of the above reading by W 5/2.
Argument and Research Paper Due in Class: M 4/23.
Unit Four Class Contribution Summary and Evaluation Report
Assigned M 5/7; Due M 5/14.
W 5/9: In-Class Final Essay Examination: Screenings, Readings,
and Discussions Concerned with Globalization and Its Discontents.
M 5/14: English Composition Competency Examination,
8 to 11 a.m., Room T.B.A.
Why Focus on Reading and Writing about Films: The Importance of Visual,
and Audio-Visual, as well as Verbal Literacies
It may be somewhat surprising to you that we will engage so extensively this semester with arguments presented by audio-visual as well as print texts. The reason why I believe it is important that we do so is as follows. Audio-visual texts, especially audio-visual texts organized around the moving image (i.e. film, television, and video), have come to exert an extremely powerful impact upon the shape and substance of individuals' lived experience of their relationship to the conditions of their own existence. This impact is today prospectively as powerful, if not indeed often considerably more powerful, than that exerted by traditional print media. In fact, film, television, and video 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 of social modes of thinking, understanding, feeling, believing, acting, and interacting, even when presented to us as "sheer entertainment." In sum, critical citizens within today's global capitalist culture must be highly literate in the reading and writing of signs and texts from diverse kinds of different sign systems from diverse forms of different media, and not only from linguistic sign systems and not only from traditional forms of print media.
My Stake in Teaching as I Do
As I see it, college is not, in actuality, a separate world unto itself: college is not "an ivory tower." On the contrary, college is an integral part of a larger society -- even when this does not readily appear to be the case. College always serves specific interests and needs of this larger society. Every college should always strive to be a vital part of the local, regional, national, and international communities in which it is situated, and the college teacher should always teach with this is mind. The knowledge concentrated within the higher educational academy does not exist in a vacuum, and it should not be taught as if it did so exist. Knowledge therefore should always be taught and learned in terms of how and for what it can be socially useful.
I believe that the knowledges and skills students gain
from college study should serve as more than merely means to the acquisition
of a degree and to the increase in wealth, status, and power that this degree
can help obtain. Students do hear and read and talk about major social and
political problems quite often, yet they also frequently tend to think of
these as problems which are beyond their capability significantly to influence.
I aim to show my students that they do not need to accept this sense of their
own insignificance and powerlessness. I believe, on the contrary, that you
can begin to make a difference in the positions you take up and in the practices
you pursue, every day, within even the most immediate of the local communities
in which you participate.
As I see it, any serious intellectual, working as a
professor at the university level, should be open with her students about
her stance on the issues she addresses in teaching the texts and topics that
she does. In other words, he should have ideas of his own which he represents
to his students and he should be accountable to his students for where he
is coming from, how, and why. In making my positions clear and being open
about them, trusting and respecting you as capable of dealing with these for
what they are, I am inviting contestation and I am making it all the less
likely that I might in any way "deviously" "manipulate" your own thinking.
Teachers who pretend to maintain a position of "disinterested neutrality"
in relation to the texts and topics they teach are, in contrast, those who
are far more likely to be deviously manipulative, because it is in fact impossible
to be genuinely disinterested about social issues that shape and determine
who and what we are all about, and it is also likewise impossible to remain
effectively neutral in relation to ongoing social struggles over how to conceive
and engage with these issues.
All education is political, and this includes education
that claims to be apolitical - that is, to be above and beyond, or indifferent
to and unconcerned about politics. The supposedly apolitical classroom in
fact supports the maintenance and reproduction of the status quo because it
does nothing to question, challenge, critique, and work to change this status
quo. If I were to teach this way, I would teach in direct opposition to
my own foremost principled convictions. In effect I would be doing either
one of two things that I simply cannot and will not, in good conscience, do.
Either I would pretend to be a mainstream conservative who is satisfied
that "the way things are is the way they should be," or I would accept the
despairing conclusion that nothing can be done to change any of this, that
I am essentially powerless and inconsequential, and that I should cynically
simply "do what I have to do to take care of myself" by merely "going along"
with mainstream conservative commonsense in order to "get along" with those
who exercise dominant positions of institutional and social power. I refuse
to do either of these things; I must stand up for what I believe is right,
no matter what the cost might be to my own immediate comfort and security.
At the same time, I always seek to do justice to positions
different from, and opposing, my own -- to my mind no other stance is intellectually,
ethically, or politically responsible -- and I welcome, in fact encourage,
my students always to feel free to disagree with, argue against, and critique
the positions I maintain. I do not seek to "persuade" my students to accept
and identify with "my" positions so much as to "compel" you to rethink, reformulate,
and rearticulate your previously maintained positions in response to the
pressure my arguments, those of your classmates, and those advanced in the
texts we will read and the films we will screen exert upon those previously
maintained positions. If you agree with me, or find yourself "persuaded"
to agree with me, so be it, but that is not my principal objective in openly
representing "my own" positions in my pedagogical interaction with you.
In short, I want you to think, rigorously and critically, for yourself, and
to question all authorities, including me. In the courses I teach no position
is ever simply unwelcome and excluded out of hand. I maintain a commitment
at all times to free and open inquiry and to critical -- including self-critical
-- examination, reflection, and exchange. Students are judged not on what
positions they hold and support but rather on how well they argue and account
for these and how well they do so by engaging seriously with other positions
represented by myself, by other students, and by the writers and film makers
I insist upon maintaining a certain amount of discipline
and order in how I organize and conduct my classes, and I think this is in
fact necessary for students to be "free" to learn effectively from me, from
the texts we read in and for class, and from each other. This also means
that I do not pretend that I as teacher -- and especially as a doctor and
a professor -- occupy the same institutional or cultural position as my students.
I do not try to hide or deny the fact that I am called upon to exercise authority
in the course and in the classroom. I do not seek to protect myself from
student contestation and therefore am upfront about the fact that I am the
teacher and am called upon to exercise authority. I account for my authority
in terms of how -- and especially for what -- I use it. I believe that the
classroom in which the teacher denies and disowns her authority is more likely
to be the classroom in which the teacher abuses her authority since this
latter kind of classroom allows the teacher to conceal the fact that she
does exercise authority and thereby protects her use of this authority from
being questioned and challenged.
GENERAL EXPECTATIONS OF STUDENTS
While I am providing you an elaborate framework to
direct our work together, I firmly believe that the success of any course
I teach depends as much -- if not often in fact much more -- on what my students
bring and give to the process of learning as what I do. I see college teaching
and learning as a collective project and this means its success -- or failure
-- depends upon the degree and kind of commitment and the quantity and quality
of contribution of everyone involved. Some of the best teachers with whom
I have ever worked have insisted that they do not teach their students as
much as they teach their students how to teach themselves. Even if this overstates
the case, I do think that it is impossible to teach someone who does not
sincerely want and who does not assiduously strive to learn. I will always
work equally hard and equally seriously to help students who demonstrate this
kind of effort succeed, both within my courses and beyond.
I expect you to approach this course as a course
that you sincerely want to take, and in which you sincerely want to learn.
I expect you to work hard in this course and to approach this course with
both diligence and enthusiasm. I expect you to become, and to remain, interested
in the subject matter of the course as an end in itself and not merely as
a means to achieve a grade and five credits.
I expect you to be actively engaged in class
discussion, in an intellectually serious manner. Some students
prefer courses in which teachers simply tell them what is right, what is
true, and everything that these students are supposed to do, so that the
students need merely repeat all of this back to their teachers to obtain
a good grade while not expending much of any intellectual energy or demonstrating
virtually any genuine intellectual growth. This is definitely not that kind
of course, and if you approach your work in and for this section of English
110 as a passive learner you will do very poorly.
If you experience problems at any point over
the course of the semester I expect you to contact me right away and discuss
these forthrightly with me; I am ready to do whatever I can to help
you if and when you experience problems in this course, or elsewhere, as long
as you are candid and sincere, but I can't help if you are not upfront about
what's going on and if you don't level with me. I am a compassionate as well
as a passionate person, so don't hesitate to talk with me about problems if
and when you experience them; we can work past many of these, if you contact
me in time and if we work together.
Finally, if you do not find the particular
focus and emphasis of this section of English 110 of interest ,
or prospective interest, and if you would prefer to enroll in a composition
course focused on the intensive review and practice of the rules and conventions
of Standard Written English, or in writing as personal expression, or in writing
as "free creation," or in technical or business writing, or in writing as
direct vocational training, or in writing as direct preparation for advanced
research projects in higher-level courses to be taken later in the course
of your undergraduate studies, I expect you to withdraw from this course and
enroll instead in a course or section more suitable to your interests and
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE COURSE GRADE
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, the
films we screen, by me, and by each other.
This course cannot contribute effectively to students'
learning if students do not attend class. What happens in class is an indispensable
part of this course. Therefore, the following attendance policy will apply
for students enrolled in this section of English 110:
You should try not to miss classes in which we will spend the period screening
video copies of films; don't imagine that you can miss these classes and
then easily arrange to obtain copies of the films to watch at another time
and place. The films we are using for this course are virtually all produced
and distributed by independent, non-profit organizations, and are, as such,
not readily available in video collections at UWEC or in Eau Claire. In
fact, I have paid a considerable amount of my own money to purchase and rent
these videos; these are neither inexpensive nor easy to replace, so I am
very reluctant to loan out the single copies of these videos to which I will
have access, although we may be able to arrange make-up screenings on campus
for groups of students if necessary.
I will not lecture in this course; instead, we will
proceed together entirely by way of discussion. If you don't contribute substantially
to the work of this class not only will you fail to derive much gain from
it, but also you will deprive everyone else of the benefit of your thoughts,
feelings, beliefs, values, knowledge, and experience. In fact, to remain
passively silent in class exploits the work of others who actively engage.
Quality of participation is more important than quantity,
although a sufficient quantity is indispensable to insure quality. Quality
class participation does not, moreover, involve merely asking questions of
me and responding to my questions; quality class participation requires you
to work as assiduously as you can to advance a serious and substantial discussion
with your peers as well as with me about the texts and topics subject to discussion.
Students should, therefore, be prepared to engage with and respond to each
other in class discussion, and I will take particular note of how well you
I will divide your class contribution grade
into four parts, one for each unit of the course. I will ask that you prepare
a brief written summary and evaluation of your own contribution to the class
for each of these four parts. You should turn these reports into
me no later than one week later in each case (see the schedules for each of
the four units). You will have the opportunity therefore to participate
in the determination of your class contribution grade for each of these four
units; I will pay careful attention to what you communicate to me in these
reports as I make my decision about what grades to give you for your class
I will give you specific instructions for what I would
like you to take into account as you write your class contribution summary
and evaluation reports. I encourage you to include in these reports your
reflections and comments on issues raised by our readings, screenings, and
discussions that you did not have the opportunity to bring up in class. I
will count these reflections and comments as part of your contribution to
the class. I recognize that there will always be much more to say about the
texts and topics we will study in this course than class time allows, and
I also recognize that not everyone is equally comfortable talking in class.
I want therefore to give you the opportunity to show me what you have been
thinking and doing in contributing to our class that I will not see from
simply paying attention to what you say in class discussions and write in
your papers. Meeting and talking with me in conferences outside of class
will also count positively toward your class contribution grades.
Class contribution will be worth 5% of the overall
course grade in unit one, 7.5% in unit two, 7.5% in unit three, and 5% in
unit four; as a whole, class contribution will therefore be worth a total
of 25% of the overall course grade.
Diagnostic Examination Essay and Revision: Autobiographical Paper
On the second day of class, you will write a diagnostic
examination essay. I will use this as a measure of your current writing
ability. I will ask you to write about something which at first might seem
relatively easy, and yet will likely prove more challenging than it seems
once you start to work on it: yourself. At the least, this autobiographical
essay should prove of interest to you. I will give you the specific assignment
for this essay at the beginning of class two, and I will then ask that you
take the entire period to work on writing it.
When I will return your diagnostic examination essay
to you I will let you know in what specific areas your writing can use significant
improvement. To help you begin to improve, I will give you anindividual
assignment to read and study a series of appropriate chapters and sections
in Keys for Writers. This reading and study will help you improve your writing
in each problem area.
I will then ask that you revise your diagnostic examination
essay to turn it in for a grade. You will need substantially to improve in
all areas where I have indicated your writing is problematic, and to correct
for all errors of grammar and usage, sentence and paragraph construction,
punctuation, mechanics, and spelling. Once you have completed a rough draft
of this revision, I will ask that you meet with me in a required
conference so that we can talk about what you have written up to
that point and so that I can offer you my suggestions and recommendations
for further improving this autobiographical paper. At the same time, we
can discuss areas in which you continue to have problems as you revise.
Your autobiographical paper should be typed, double-space,
on single sides of standard white letter (8" X 11") typewriter, computer printer,
or photographic copy paper. Any standard font and print size (between 10
and 12 points) is acceptable. The pages of your paper should be numbered,
your name should be at the top of the first page, and the separate pages of
the papers should be stapled together. Your margins should be standard, and
all of the other conventions of Standard Written English should be observed
as well, including for citation from and documentation of secondary sources
(should you find it useful to include these). You should make sure
carefully to proofread your paper before turning it in to me for a grade,
making all minor proofreading corrections neatly in ink over the mistakes
in the typed copy. Your autobiographical paper should be a minimum
average of 1500 to 2000 words (approximately six to eight average-sized,
double-spaced typed pages); it will be due in class Monday March
12 at the latest and will be worth 10% of the overall course
Argument and Research Paper
In this paper you will make use of research to support
and develop an argument on a topic of particular interest to you, as long
as it meets either one of the following two requirements: 1.). The paper
deals with a past or present struggle on the part of a group of people to
bring about some kind of urgently needed social change, or 2). The paper
deals with an important contemporary social issue where you will argue that
collective action to bring about change is urgently needed.
To help you get started in thinking about a prospective
argument and research paper, I recommend you turn to Part Two of The Aims
of Argument. Here you will find series of essays concerned with the
following prospective argument and research paper topic areas: Immigration,
Feminism, Marriage and the Family, Gay and Lesbian Rights, The News and Ethics,
Liberal Education and Contemporary Culture, Race and Class, and The Twentieth-First
Century. You do not need to write on a topic in any of these areas, but
you may find it useful to look over these chapters in thinking about a prospective
argument and research paper topic, and, if you decide to write a paper in
any of these areas, you may use the writings on this topic from The Aims
of Argument as part of the research you draw upon to advance your argument.
As you are working on your argument and research paper,
you are required to meet with me in a minimum of one individual conference
to discuss your work for this paper, and to gain the benefit of my advice
and assistance. You may also arrange to consult with me in conference more
than once as you find this to be useful.
The specific assignment for this paper will be explained
in class. The argument and research paper must follow the same stylistic
formats and requirements as indicated for the rest of the papers for this
course and should be a minimum average of 2500 words. The argument
and research paper will be due in class onM 4/23, at the
latest, and will be worth 15% of the overall course grade.
Argument and Critique Papers
In both units two and three I will ask give you to
write a critical and argumentative paper. Your paper will engage with the
issues upon which we will focus in the unit as well as with the arguments
and critiques set forth by the texts we will read and the films we will screen
during the unit. You will have the opportunity to argue with and/or against
the writers and film makers we will meet in the unit.
You should make multiple copies of these argument
and critique papers, one for each other member of the class. Your unit two
argument and critique paper is due in class on M 3/5 while your unit three
argument and critique paper is due in class on M 4/9. You are
yourself responsible for obtaining access to photocopying facilities, and,
as necessary, for paying for all photocopies of your paper. You should be
prepared to present, defend, discuss, and critique your own as well as your
fellow students' argument and critique papers in class, as we will spend
the next four class periods in unit two and the next three class periods
in unit three entirely devoted toward engaging with select student argument
and critique papers.
Although you will have the opportunity to revise each
of these papers, what you present in class must be a finished
paper, and, therefore, you should take time carefully to pre-write and
to write, revise, and edit at least one rough draft before preparing the
draft of what you present to the class. Students who turn in rough drafts
instead of finished papers will receive a substantially
reduced grade for so doing.
Further details concerning the specific assignment for this paper will be explained in class. You should note well, however, that both argument and critique papers must follow the same stylistic formats and requirements required for the autobiographical paper (the revision of the diagnostic examination essay), and in this case I will ask that you make sure to follow MLA guidelines for citation and documentation of sources. The target length for both papers should be a minimum average of 2000 words. The initial finished versions of the argument and critique papers will be worth 5% of the overall course grade in each case, for a total of 10% of the overall course grade.
I will ask you to revise each of these argument and
critique papers, taking into account not only my comments upon and critiques
of your initial finished versions, but also all that you have learned, including
from your classmates, in our collective discussion of select student argument
and critique papers in class. The specific assignment for these revisions
will, once again, be explained in class. You must follow the same stylistic
format required for the initial finished versions of these papers, yet the
target length should be a minimum average of 2500 words. The revisions
will be due no later than two weeks after I have returned your initial finished
versions to you; the revisions will be worth 15% of the overall course grade
in each case, for a total of 30% of the overall course grade.
In-Class Final Examination
In this examination, scheduled for W 5/9 in class,
you will write an in-class critical and argumentative essay concerned with
"Globalization and Its Discontents," engaging with a significant number of
our readings and screenings from unit four. You will have the entire class
period, and you may make use of any textbooks, notes, and handouts you wish
as you write this essay examination. Further details concerning this examination
will be explained in class. The final in-class essay examination
will be worth 10% of the overall course grade.
UWEC English Composition Competency Examination
The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire maintains
two requirements in English composition for obtaining the bachelor's
degree. The first is that students pass English 110 or the equivalent; the
second is that students pass an independent, standard competency examination
with a grade of at least a C. Students should note well that the existence
of this requirement at UWEC means that you may pass English 110, and yet,
if you fail to pass the English Composition Competency Examination, you will
still not complete the University requirement in English composition necessary
for graduation. The competency examination requires you to write a single
essay in response to a short series of readings and a prompt distributed
on the last day of class. The best possible training to do well
on this examination is exactly the kind we will be pursuing this semester
, in focusing on critical and argumentative reading and writing. I will
be responsible for reading and grading your competency examinations.
This semester the English Composition Competency Examination, for all sections
of English 110 and 112, will be held on M 5/14 from 8 to 11 a.m.
; further details, including the room in which our section will meet for
this exam, will be announced later this semester.
I encourage students to meet with me in conference
during office hours or at another mutually convenient time to discuss any
issue of interest or concern. Please do not hesitate to drop by during office
hours or to ask for an appointment at any time you think this might be helpful;
I regard making myself available for conferences with you to be my responsibility
as your teacher. Furthermore, I always welcome getting to know and working
with my students outside as well as inside of class. I recognize that learning
which takes place in conferences can at times be equally as important, and
in fact occasionally even more important, than what takes place in class.
I am ready to do whatever I can in conference to help you in your understanding
of issues addressed in presentations, discussions, and required readings and
screenings, as well as to help you in your writing for and participation in
this course. You may also feel free to write me via e-mail, and to call me
-- or leave a message for me on the answering machine -- at my office. I
enjoy meeting and working with students outside as well as inside of class;
I really do. I would rather talk with you during my office hours than do
anything else, so please do not worry about "disturbing" me in coming to talk
with me; my office hours are time that I have set aside to meet, talk, and
work with you.
THE WRITING CENTER
The Writing Center, located in HHH 385 (the program
assistant's office is HHH 352, phone 836-4621, and the Composition Director's
office is HHH 427, phone 836-3290) provides free peer tutoring for students
enrolled in English 110 and 112. Please make use of this resource by going
to the Center and signing up to work with a tutor for any extra help you
find that you need. Do not hesitate to consult a tutor about even a relatively
"minor" area of question, concern, or difficulty, and go to the Center to
start working with a tutor, should you find that you need this extra help,
as early in the semester as possible -- the earlier you go, the sooner you
will be able to work with a tutor and the sooner you will be able to make
This material is copyrighted (©)Professor Bob Nowlan