New Fall 2016 Course Syllabus: Situation Critical

Situation Critical: Digital Cultural Criticism and the Contemporary Museum

keay-mca-exhibition-without-you-im-nothing Without You I’m Nothing: Art and Its Audience, exhibition at MCA Chicago, 2010-2011 (Photo: Nathan Keay).

“…A statue has never been set up in honor of a critic!” — Jean Sibelius

Instructor

Dr. Michael J. Kramer

History & American Studies

email: mjk@northwestern.edu

Office hours: Th, 2-3pm or by appointment

Office location: 212 Harris Hall

 

Course Number

Hist 393-0-22/Am Studies 310-0-20/Art Theory Practice 372-22/Hum 325-6-21

 

Time

Fall Quarter 2016

Tu 3:30-8 pm; Th 3:30-4:50 pm

 

Location

Parkes Hall 224 and various museums in Evanston and Chicago (The Museum of Contemporary Art is located across the street from the downtown Northwestern campus and is easily accessible by the Intercampus bus shuttle—free with your Wildcard. The schedule for the shuttle is available at http://www.northwestern.edu/transportation-parking/shuttles/routes/intercampus.html; the Block Museum is located on the Evanston campus at http://www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu.)

 

Description

What is the history of cultural and arts criticism in the United States? Where is it headed? How do its past and future relate to each other? This methods course combines historical examination with fieldwork in the setting of contemporary art museums. Students read extensively in the history of cultural criticism while experimenting with new, digital modes of critical writing. The course convenes in seminar form on the Evanston campus with visits to museums in the Chicago area, in particular the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago as well as the Block Museum on the Northwestern campus. Students can also pursue fieldwork at other galleries, theaters, and performance spaces in the area. Over the course of the quarter, we will meet with museum professionals and professional critics. Expect extensive discussion of readings, films, artworks, digital projects, performances, and more. Assessment in the course revolves around multimedia and digital modes of cultural criticism. Students will write about exhibitions, performances, educational events, and more (no extensive computer experience required, just a willingness to dive in and experiment with digital approaches to cultural criticism). The course concludes with one final, more scholarly, multimedia essay on a topic related to the contemporary museum, cultural and arts criticism, or a student’s particular interests.

 

Course Objectives

  • Deepen understanding of the history of arts and cultural criticism in the US.
  • Sharpen critical and interpretive skills as active thinkers and writers.
  • Sharpen historical research skills (wielding primary sources to produce convincing, fresh, compelling interpretations in conversation with past historical arguments, evidence, and methods).
  • Improve digital literacy and multimedia skills.
  • Learn about what museum professionals and cultural critics do.

 

Materials

Available at bookstore, through online booksellers, or at NU Library reserve desk.

  • AO Scott, Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think About Art, Pleasure, Beauty and Truth (New York: Penguin, 2016), ISBN-13: 978-1910702550
  • Matti Bunzl, In Search of a Lost Avant-Garde: An Anthropologist Investigates the Contemporary Art Museum (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), ISBN-13: 9780226418124
  • Joshua Clover, 1989: Bob Dylan Didn’t Have This To Sing About (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009) ISBN-13: 978-0520267879
  • George Cotkin, Feast of Excess: A Cultural History of the New Sensibility (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015) ISBN-13: 978-0190218478
  • Claire Bishop, Radical Museology: Or What’s Contemporary in Museums of Contemporary Art? (London: Koenig Books, 2013) ISBN-13: 978-3863353643
  • Jacques Rancière, The Emancipated Spectator (New York: Verso, 2011) ISBN-13: 978-1844677610
  • The New Yorker magazine “back of the book” reviews section (https://subscribe.newyorker.com/subscribe/newyorker/96272)
  • Chicago Reader arts sections (http://www.chicagoreader.com)
  • New City arts sections (http://www.newcitystage.com)
  • 3rd Coast Review (http://thirdcoastreview.com)
  • Time Out Chicago (https://www.timeout.com/chicago)
  • Additional articles, films, and websites on course website and/or on reserve at NU Library, see our Canvas course page.

 

Websites

  • Canvas: https://canvas.northwestern.edu/courses/44023
  • WordPress: https://sites.northwestern.edu/situationcritical/

 

Schedule:

Week 1: Situation Critical, Getting Critically Situated

 

Tu 09/20

Parkes Hall 224

Materials

·      Daniel Mendelsohn, “A Critic’s Manifesto,” New Yorker, 28 August 2012, http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/a-critics-manifesto

·      Dwight Garner, “A Critic’s Case for Critics Who Are Actually Critical,” New York Times, 15 August 2012

·      Anya Ventura, “Slow Criticism: Art in the Age of Post-Judgement,” Temporary Art Review, 15 February 2016, http://temporaryartreview.com/slow-criticism-art-in-the-age-of-post-judgement/

·      Barry Schwabsky, “A Critic’s Job of Work,” The Nation, 9 March 2016, https://www.thenation.com/article/a-critics-job-of-work/

Optional:

·      Matthew Arnold, “The Function of Criticism at the Present Time,” Essays in Criticism (originally published in The National Review, 1864; reprinted, Macmillan & Co., 1865), 9-36

·      TS Eliot, “The Perfect Critic,” The Sacred Wood (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1921), 1-14

·      HL Mencken, “Footnote on Criticism,” in Prejudices, Third Series (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1922), 84-105

·      RP Blackmur, “A Critic’s Job of Work” in Language As Gesture: Essays in Poetry (1933; reprinted, New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1952), 372-399

·      Susan Sontag, “Against Interpretation,” in Against Interpretation (1966)

·     Various Authors, “Do We Need Professional Critics?,” New York Times, 7 October 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/10/07/do-we-need-professional-critics

·     “Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age” Talks and other materials, Walker Arts Museum, 28-30 May 2015, http://www.walkerart.org/superscript/

Th 09/22

Parkes Hall 224

Materials

·      Raymond Williams, “Criticism” and “Culture,” in Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (1976), 84-93

·      “Culture” in New Keywords: A Revised Vocabulary of Culture and Society, eds. Bennett, Grossberg and Morris (Wiley-Blackwell, 2005), 63-69

·      Stuart Hall, “Notes on Deconstructing ‘the Popular'” in People’s History and Socialist Theory, ed. Raphael Samuel (Boston: Routledge, 1981): 227-39

·      Edward Said, “Criticism Between Culture and System,” in The World, The Text, and the Critic (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), 178-225

·      Bruno Latour, “Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern,” Critical Inquiry 30 (2004), 225–48.

·      This week’s New Yorker back of the book and Chicago arts publications

·      Subscribe to daily or weekly ArtsJournal email, http://www.artsjournal.com/aj-newsletter-subscription-center

·      Join listserv mailing lists for MCA, Art Institute of Chicago, Arts Club of Chicago, Block Museum, and any other Chicago venues of interest (Links Hall, Siskel Film Center, Facets, arts at other area universities, museums, concert venues, theaters, etc.)

Optional:

·      bell hooks, “Cultural Criticism and Transformation” Video, 1997

Week 2: Why Criticism?  
TU 09/27

MCA (open until 8pm)

 

Guests:

·  Joey Orr, Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow, MCA

·  Erin Toale, Curatorial Assistant, MCA

WE 09/28 Assignment 01

Introductory Essay, 500-1000 words. Compile a list of quotations from our readings/viewings of whenever any writer/speaker attempts to define what cultural criticism is what a cultural critic does. Make a list of these. Develop a 500-1000-word exploration of 1-3 of the quotations. What do you make of each one? How do they compare to each other: similarities, differences, larger implications from those contrasts or intersections? Are there any “keywords” you notice among your quotations? Can you tell us more about why these are “keywords”? Submit assignment at WordPress website, https://sites.northwestern.edu/situationcritical/.

TH 09/29

Parkes Hall 224

Materials

·      AO Scott, Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think About Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth (New York: Penguin, 2016)

·      Manny Farber, “White Elephant Art and Termite Art” [1962], in Negative Space (New York: Da Capo, 1998), 134-44

·      Hilton Als, “I Am Your Conscious, I Am Love: A paean 2 Prince,” Harper’s, December 2012, http://harpers.org/archive/2012/12/i-am-your-conscious-i-am-love/

·      This week’s New Yorker back of the book and Chicago arts publications

·      ArtsJournal email

FR 09/30 Assignment

·      Responses to Assignment 01 (minimum 2). Submit assignment responses at WordPress website, https://sites.northwestern.edu/situationcritical/.

Week 3: Enter the Museum
TU 10/04

MCA (open until 8pm)

 

Guest:

·      Abraham Ritchie, Blog Editor and Social Media Manager, MCA

 

 

WE 10/05 Assignment 02

·      In 750-1000 words, respond to one artwork, song, exhibition, performance, or event that you experienced at the MCA or elsewhere. Your short critical essay should include a “close reading” (detailed description) of whatever it is you are examining and then should compellingly link detailed description to interpretation. Try to develop an effective opening “hook” and develop a clear, cogent, and exciting organizational flow for your essay. End strongly. Consider potential multimedia elements (photographs, annotations, video, experiments with design of text, hyperlinks, timelines, etc.). Refer to the rubric for additional information and consider examples and models from our materials as you develop your short critical essay. Submit assignment at WordPress website, https://sites.northwestern.edu/situationcritical/.

TH 10/06

Parkes Hall 224

 

Materials

·      Matti Bunzl, In Search of a Lost Avant-Garde: An Anthropologist Investigates the Contemporary Art Museum (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014)

·      Lane Relyea, “Your Art World: Or, The Limits of Connectivity,” Afterall 14 (Autumn/ Winter 2006): 3-8

·      Howard S. Becker, “Preface to the First Edition” “Art Worlds and Collective Activity,” and “Aesthetics, Aestheticians, and Critics,” in Art Worlds (1982; reprint, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008), xxiii-xxv, 1-39, 131-164

·      This week’s New Yorker back of the book and Chicago arts publications

·      ArtsJournal email

Optional:

·      Lane Relyea, Your Everyday Art World (2013)

Week 4: Curating the “Contemporary”

 

TU 10/11

Meet at Block Museum (Open until 8 pm)

 

Guests:

·      Susy Bielak, Associate Director of Engagement/Curator of Public Practice, Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University

·      Janet Dees, Curator, Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University

WE 10/12 Assignment

·      Responses to Assignment 02 (minimum 2). Submit assignment responses at WordPress website, https://sites.northwestern.edu/situationcritical/.

TH 10/13

Parkes 224

 

Materials

·      Susan Sontag, “In Plato’s Cave,” in On Photography (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1977), 3-26

·      Joshua Takano Chambers-Letson, “On Infiltration,” in Tseng Kwong Chi: Performing for the Camera (Chrysler Museum of Art/Grey Art Gallery/Lyon Artbooks, 2015), 87-118

·      Tal Rosenberg, “Tseng Kwong Chi, downtown New York’s photographic ambassador,” Chicago Reader, 29 September 2016, http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/tseng-kwong-chi-performing-camera-block-museum/Content?oid=23731017

·      This week’s New Yorker back of the book and Chicago arts publications

·      ArtsJournal email

Optional:

·      Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (New York: Hill and Wang, 1981)

FR 10/14 Assignment 03

·      In 750-1000 words, respond to one artwork, song, exhibition, performance, or event that you experienced at the MCA, Block Museum, or elsewhere. Your short critical essay should include a “close reading” (detailed description) of whatever it is you are examining and then should compellingly link detailed description to interpretation. Try to develop an effective opening “hook” and develop a clear, cogent, and exciting organizational flow for your essay. End strongly. Consider potential multimedia elements (photographs, annotations, video, experiments with design of text, hyperlinks, timelines, etc.). Refer to the rubric for additional information and consider examples and models from our materials as you develop your short critical essay. Submit assignment at WordPress website, https://sites.northwestern.edu/situationcritical/.

Week 5: History of American Cultural Criticism, A Deeper Dive
TU 10/18

Open for visit to museum of choice

 

WE 10/19 Assignment

·      Responses to Assignment 03 (minimum 2). Submit assignment responses at WordPress website, https://sites.northwestern.edu/situationcritical/.

TH 10/20

Parkes Hall 224

 

Materials

·      George Cotkin, Feast of Excess: A Cultural History of the New Sensibility (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015)

·      This week’s New Yorker back of the book and Chicago arts publications

·      ArtsJournal email

Optional:

·      George Santayana, “The Genteel Tradition Defined,” from Critics of Culture: Literature and Society in the Early Twentieth Century, ed. Alan Trachtenberg (New York: Wiley, 1976), 14-35

·      Van Wyck Brooks, “On Creating a Useable Past,” The Dial 64 (11 April 1918), reprinted in Critics of Culture: Literature and Society in the Early Twentieth Century, ed. Alan Trachtenberg (New York: Wiley, 1976), 165-180

·      Regarding Susan Sontag (documentary film, 2014)

 

FR 10/21 Assignment 04

·      In 750-1000 words, respond to two artworks, songs, exhibitions, performances, or events that you experienced at the MCA or Block Museum or elsewhere. Bring the two works into dialogue with each other around a theme and detailed analysis of each work. Imagine the two subjects of your critical review to speak to some kind of “sensibility,” as George Cotkin uses the term. What is that sensibility and how, specifically, do the works suggest it, speak to it, clarify it, signal it, question it, or confirm it? Your short critical essay should include a “close reading” (detailed description) of whatever it is you are examining and then should compellingly link detailed description to interpretation. Try to develop an effective opening “hook” and develop a clear, cogent, and exciting organizational flow for your essay. End strongly. Consider potential multimedia elements (photographs, annotations, video, experiments with design of text, hyperlinks, timelines, etc.). Refer to the rubric for additional information and consider examples and models from our materials as you develop your short critical essay. Submit assignment at WordPress website, https://sites.northwestern.edu/situationcritical/.

Week 6: Music and Film Criticism
TU 10/25

Arts Club of Chicago (201 E. Ontario Street)

 

Guest:

·      Janine Mileaf, Executive Director, Arts Club of Chicago 

 
WE 10/26 Assignment

·      Responses to Assignment 04 (minimum 2). Submit assignment responses at WordPress website, https://sites.northwestern.edu/situationcritical/.

TH 10/27

Parkes Hall 224

 

Materials

·      Joshua Clover, 1989: Bob Dylan Didn’t Have This To Sing About (2009)

·      Raymond Haberski, Jr., “Andrew Sarris, Pauline Kael and the Duel for the Soul of Criticism,” in It’s Only a Movie!: Films and Critics in American Culture (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2001), 122-143

·      Nathan Heller, “Five Classic Pauline Kael Reviews,” New Yorker, 14 October 2011 (read the five reviews too!), http://www.newyorker.com/books/double-take/five-classic-pauline-kael-reviews

·      Devon Powers, “Introduction: Criticism” and “Chapter 5: Mattering,” in Writing the Record: The Village Voice and the Birth of Rock Criticism (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2013), 1-22, 123-136

·      Ellen Willis, “Dylan,” Cheetah (1967) and “Janis,” Rolling Stone (1970), in Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis on Rock Music, ed. Nona Willis Aronowitz (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press), 1-20, 125-130

·      This week’s New Yorker back of the book and Chicago arts publications

·      ArtsJournal email

FR 10/28 Assignment 05

·      Cultural criticism criticism: You have been reading criticism in each issue of the New Yorker and Chicago publications over the last few weeks. Using our dive into the deeper history of American cultural criticism, select two essays from the New Yorker or elsewhere that you believe connect to each other (similar, contrasting, etc.). Write a 1000-word multimedia blog post that explains how they link to or are in conversation with or perhaps even contradict each other. Be sure to develop close readings of the essays and the material discussed in the essays to support your central interpretative contention and its elaborations. Use the  readings as background: to what extent are long-running themes, sensibilities, aesthetics, interests, concerns, anxieties present in contemporary criticism? Be specific in your analysis? Aim for subtle, precise analysis and explication. Submit assignment responses at WordPress website, https://sites.northwestern.edu/situationcritical/.

Week 7: Curation’s Critical Culture
TU 11/01

Meet at MCA

Guests:

·      Lisa Meyerowitz, Editor-in-Chief, Department of Design, Publishing, and New Media, MCA Chicago

WE 11/02 Assignment

·      Responses to Assignment 05 (minimum 2). Submit assignment responses at WordPress website, https://sites.northwestern.edu/situationcritical/.

TH 11/03

Parkes 224

Materials

·      Claire Bishop, Radical Museology: Or What’s Contemporary in Museums of Contemporary Art? (London: Koenig Books, 2013)

·      This week’s New Yorker back of the book and Chicago arts publications

·      ArtsJournal email

Optional:

·      Hal Foster, Art-Architecture Complex (2011)

·      Rosalind Krauss, “The Double Negative: A New Syntax for Sculpture,” in Passages in Modern Sculpture (1977)

·      Benjamin Buchloch, Neo-Avantgarde and Culture Industry: Essays on European and American Art from 1955 to 1975 (2001)

·      Nicholas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics (1998)

FR 11/04 Assignment 06

·     Using specific close readings from our recent materials such as Clare Bishop’s book, write a 750-1500-word blog post, with optional multimedia selections, about your understanding of what the “contemporary” is. You may incorporate an example (or multiple examples) from the MCA, Block, or other venues in Chicago or reviews from the New Yorker or elsewhere. Develop a clear interpretive argument that arises from your careful description and explanation of your evidence. How do these materials help us clarify what the “contemporary” is, why it matters, and what its larger stakes are? Or, with a work such as Bishop’s or George Cotkin’s Feast of Excess or Joshua Clover’s 1989: Bob Dylan Didn’t Have This to Sing About, how might we (almost paradoxically) consider the “contemporary” historically? Your review should include multimedia (images, video, sound) that helps propel your argument forward. Submit assignment responses at WordPress website, https://sites.northwestern.edu/situationcritical/. Remember to select Assignment category, add a featured images, and add any relevant tags.

Week 8: Performance Curation & Criticism

 

TU 11/8 – Curation

Parkes 224

Guest:

·      Peter Taub, Former Director of Performance Programs, MCA Chicago

Materials:

·      Jacques Rancière, The Emancipated Spectator (New York: Verso, 2011)

·      This week’s New Yorker back of the book and Chicago arts publications

·      ArtsJournal email

Optional:

·      Various authors, “Volume 1: On Performativity,” Walker Art Center Living Collections Website Online Magazine, http://www.walkerart.org/collections/publications/performativity

·      Richard Wagner, “The Artwork of the Future” in The Art-Work of the Future, and Other Works, trans. W. Ashton Ellis (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993)

·      Selections from The Aesthetics of the Total Artwork: On Borders and Fragments, eds. ‪Anke K. Finger and Danielle Follett (Baltimore: ‪Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010)

WE 11/09 Assignment

·      Responses to Assignment 06 (minimum 2). Submit assignment responses at WordPress website, https://sites.northwestern.edu/situationcritical/.

TH 11/10 – Criticism

Parkes 224

Guest:

·      Lauren Wernecke, dance critic, various outlets

·      Zachary Whittenberg, dance critic, various outlets; marketing director, Hubbard Street Dance Company

·      Laura Molzahn, dance critic, Chicago Tribune

·      Joanna Furnans, Joanna Furnans Dance and founder of Performance Response Journal

Materials

·      Kate Lydon, “Confessions of a Dance Critic,” Pointe Magazine, 11 November 2011, http://pointemagazine.com/inside-pt/issuesdecember-2011january-2012confessions-dance-critic/

·      Lauren Wernecke, “One Dance Critic’s View On Choreography And Criticism,” 24 February 2014, 4dancers, http://www.4dancers.org/2014/02/one-dance-critics-view-on-choreography-and-criticism/; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lauren-warnecke/one-dance-critics-view-on_b_5140918.html

·      Zachary Wittenberg, “Sudden Flash: Twenty-first century ballet arrived thirteen years early,” Critical Read, 2016, http://www.criticalread.org/sudden-flash

·    Laura Molzahn, “Death Without Dignity,” Chicago Reader, 6 April 1995, http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/death-without-dignity/Content?oid=887092

·      Arlene Croce, “Discussing the Undiscussable,” New Yorker, 26 December 1994, 54

·      Madison Mainwaring, “The Death of the American Dance Critic,” The Atlantic, 6 August 2015, http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/08/american-dance-critic/399908/

·      This week’s New Yorker back of the book and Chicago arts publications

·      ArtsJournal email

Week 9: Conclusions and Reflections

 

 
TU 11/15

Parkes 224

Materials

·      Let’s reread something together. Class choice.

WE 11/16 Assignment 07

·      Write a 500-1000-word review of a live performance in Chicago. You can write a traditional review, explore a multimedia mode of review (videocast, podcast), incorporate interview with artist for a mixed critical review/arts journalism report, or adopt some other creative approach, but your review should offer some kind of assessment of a performance’s context, details, and value (or lack thereof). Submit assignment responses at WordPress website, https://sites.northwestern.edu/situationcritical/. Remember to select Assignment category, add a featured images, and add any relevant tags.

**Special bonus points opportunity**: write about a dance performance and post both on Situation Critical website and Performance Response Journalhttps://performanceresponsejournal.com, anytime between now and the end of the quarter. Possible places to see dance: Columbia College Dance CenterLinks HallRuth Page Center; Harris TheaterAuditorium Theater; or check arts listings in Chicago Reader or TimeOut ChicagoYou can do this for Assignment 07 or in addition to it.

TH 11/17

Parkes 224

Conclusions and Reflections

·      This week’s New Yorker back of the book and Chicago arts publications

·      ArtsJournal email

FR 11/18 Assignment:

·      Responses to Assignment 07 (minimum 2). Submit assignment responses at WordPress website, https://sites.northwestern.edu/situationcritical/.

Final
FR 12/09 Final Assignment

·     Develop a longer interpretive multimedia essay about a work, activity, event, critic, curator, historical phenomenon, or other topic related to cultural criticism and the contemporary museum. Imagine your essay as a “feature” article or long review, roughly 2000-3000 words but also could be fewer words and more video or audio or use of images other modes of critical analysis/communication. Select something of interest to you, a topic that you wish to spend time investigating. For instance, your essay can be a focused historical study of a particular critic or a time period or it can be a more theoretical exploration of contemporary criticism, it can draw upon and compare readings from our syllabus or branch out to new readings and materials, it can focus on the MCA or Block or it can reach toward other institutions and contexts. You need not aim for breadth in your final assignment, but rather substantive inquiry based on close readings that inform an argument about a particular aspect of cultural criticism. Think carefully about how to unfold your argument and evidence effectively in the digital framework through multimedia and design elements. Consider how your voice and style enhance the interpretation you seek to make—how does the form of your review fit the content? You may consult with the instructor over the course of the quarter to conceptualize and hone your final essay into successful content and form. Submit assignment responses at WordPress website, https://sites.northwestern.edu/situationcritical/. Remember to select Assignment category, add a featured images, and add any relevant tags.

 

Evaluation

7 assignment posts (40%)

  • Original post of cultural criticism. See rubric and assignment instructions.

7 assignment responses (15%)

  • At least one substantive and thoughtful comment on a fellow classmate’s post. Be critical, ask questions, respond meaningfully, but do so constructively and supportively.

1 final assignment (30%)

  • See rubric and assignment instructions.

Class participation (15%)

  • Please come to seminar meetings prepared to discuss the following: What is the most important point you learned from today’s materials? What is the most important question you have about today’s materials?
  • Please attend museum visits prepared to ask our hosts questions and prepared to engage fully with what you view at museums.

 

Each student will receive a short midterm evaluation, detailed evaluation of final project, and final term evaluation in the course.

 

Assignments: Students must complete all assignments to pass the course. These are designed to be fun, but they are also demanding—and perhaps for some, frustrating. Please be aware that cultural criticism and historical analysis are not a science in the strict sense of the term. There is no purely objective, machine-like way to develop interpretation within the traditions of historical or musical meaning-making (even though we are using computers). This means there is not some perfectly standardized way to evaluate your work. There is, however, a craft to these modes of thinking, writing, describing, evaluating, and reasoning. It is that craft that this course strives to help you access, participate in, and through which you can improve your capabilities as a thinker, writer, observer, citizen, and human being. Your task is to develop effective and compelling evidence-based arguments informed by close attention to what you observe or witness and enhanced by your attention to history.

 

Rubric: Your essays (when called for in assignments) must be well written in order to communicate a convincing, compelling, and precise argument that is driven by our description of and analysis of meaning in materials drawn from the course (and other sources if needed). Evaluation is based on the following rubric: (1) presence of an articulated argument, (2) presence of evidence, (3) compelling and precise connection of evidence to argument by comparing and contrasting details and their significance, (4) logical flow and grace of prose: an effective opening introduction; the presence of clear topic sentences; the presence of effective transitions from one part of the assignment to the next; a compelling conclusion, (5) effective use of multimedia and digital elements (weight given to experimentation and innovation).

 

Late/Extension Policy: Please communicate with your instructor ahead of time if you require an extension for an essay. Reasonable, occasional requests will be granted, but may involve a slight deduction in points to be fair to students who complete work on time. Late assignments without extensions granted will lose 1 point per day.

 

Writing Consultation: You have not one but two writing centers available for consultation at any stage of writing, from “brainstorming” and outlining an essay to drafting and revising it. Use these services! Appointments and walk-in hours are available at The Writing Place: http://www.writing.northwestern.edu. The History Department also maintains a writing center  available for students working on your assignments. Students wishing to contact the History Department Writing Center should email historywriting@northwestern.edu. Website: http://www.history.northwestern.edu/undergraduate/advising/history-writing-center.html.

 

Notes on Using a WordPress Course Blog

We will be using an NU Sites WordPress website as the main arena for writing, conversation, and digital research and publication. The url is https://sites.northwestern.edu/situationcritical/. Log in using your Northwestern Net ID and password. WordPress is very simple content management software, but it can be stretched and expanded in productive ways. For basic instructions on using WordPress, see: http://codex.wordpress.org. I suggest simply diving in and experimenting with it as the platform is fairly intuitive (we’ll discuss how it works in class as well).

 

Please note that by enrolling in the course, you agree that it is acceptable to share your classroom work publically. I will generally ask your permission to do so, but the hope is that your best work will be published for an audience beyond our seminar. If you have any concerns—technical, personal, ethical—about public uses of your coursework, please feel free to confer with me to make arrangements. Generally, I advocate what has become known as “open access” in digital work, but there can also be very important and worthy exceptions to this philosophy. If you are curious, here is more on the ethics of public blogs for classroom use here: http://hastac.org/blogs/superadmin/2012/11/30/guidelines-public-student-class-blogs-ethics-legalities-ferpa-and-more.

 

Academic Integrity

All Weinberg College and Northwestern policies concerning plagiarism and academic dishonesty are strictly enforced in this course. See http://www.wcas.northwestern.edu/advising/integrity for more details. If you have any question as to what constitutes plagiarism or academic dishonesty or copyright violation, please feel free to contact the instructor. Please note that under WCAS and Northwestern policy, the instructor is required to report any suspected instances of academic dishonesty. The instructor also reserves the right to assign a failing grade for the course if a student is found to have violated college or university policy concerning academic integrity.

 

Special Needs

Students with special needs and disabilities that have been declared and documented through the Northwestern Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) should meet with the instructor to discuss any specific accommodations. For further information, see the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) website: http://www.northwestern.edu/disability.

Leave a Reply