Introduction – Sometimes it seems like everyone is a critic. Movies, music, food, sports, television, we all have our opinions on what we like and don’t like. But how can we express our reasons for why we enjoy what we enjoy? How can we incorporate arguments to explain why we think a particular film encapsulates an era, that an album is the most representative of its genre, or that a book expresses certain experiences in a particularly profound way? It may be true that everyone has an opinion, but not everybody has a reason. In this class we’ll use the rhetorical, argumentative, and critical skills of practical literary scholarship to better hone our ability to talk and write intelligently about the culture that is important to us.
Required Literary Texts
(You will need these books in roughly this order. I have chosen the editions I did for particular reasons, if you are using a different edition please check with me first).
Short Guide to Writing about Film (Longman) by Timmothy Corrigan
How to Write about Music: Excerpts from the 33 1/3 Series, Magazine, Books and Blogs with Advice from Industry-Leading Writers (Bloomsbury) by Marc Woodworth and Ally-Jane Grossan
Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution, from the Sopranos and Mad Men to the Wire and Breaking Bad (Penguin) by Brett Martin
On Boxing (Harper Perenial) by Joyce Carol Oates
Required Cinematic Texts
(You will be required to watch assigned films by the class we will be discussing them. It is the students’ responsibility to locate films themselves. Most will be available on NetFlix, YouTube, or Amazon Prime. Depending on interest it is possible that I will schedule screenings outside of class).
High Fidelity, Almost Famous, Life Itself, Bull Durham
Schedule of readings and assignments
All readings and assignments due on the date that is indicated
(Note: This is a tentative schedule, and it is subject to change).
Tuesday January 26th – Introduction to the class, watching clip from Stephen Frears’ High Fidelity.
Unit One: Movies
Thursday January 28th – Read chapters 1of Short Guide to Writing about Film. Discussion on the ranking of films, and construction of “Top Five” lists.
Tuesday February 2nd – Read chapter 2 of Short Guide to Writing about Film. We will be viewing An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge to begin discussing how we review the elements of film.
Thursday February 4th – Read chapter 3 of Short Guide to Writing about Film.
Tuesday February 9th – Read chapter 4 of Short Guide to Writing about Film.
Thursday February 11th – Read chapter 5 of Short Guide to Writing about Film.
Tuesday February 16th – NO CLASS: REQUIRED STUDENT CONFERENCES WITH ME. Read chapter 6 of Short Guide to Writing about Film.
Thursday February 18th – Viewing of Steve James’ Life Itself.
Unit Two: Music
Tuesday February 23rd – Read chapter 1 and chapter 3 of How to Write about Music, as well as watch Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous. Class discussion and activities on writing about whole albums.
Thursday February 25th – Read chapter 4 of How to Write about Music. Class discussion and activities will focus on video recordings of live music. FIRST PAPER DUE TODAY.
Tuesday March 1st – Read chapter 5 of How to Write about Music.
Thursday March 3rd – Read chapter 6 of How to Write about Music. Class discussion and activities about personal memoir and music criticism.
Tuesday March 8th – Read chapters 7 and 9 of How to Write about Music as well as “Desert Islands Disks.” Class discussion and activities about personal memoir and music criticism.
Thursday March 10th – Read chapter 10 of How to Write about Music
Tuesday March 15th – NO CLASS: SPRING BREAK
Thursday March 17th – NO CLASS: SPRING BREAK
Tuesday March 22nd – Read chapter 11 of How to Write about Music.
Thursday March 24th – Read chapter 12 of How to Write about Music. PEER REVIEW DAY – All students must bring at least two printed copies of their second paper.
Unit Three: Television
Tuesday March 29th – Read “Part One” of Brett Martin’s Difficult Men. SECOND PAPER DUE TODAY.
Thursday March 31st – Discussion of The Sopranos.
Tuesday April 5th – Read “Part Two” of Brett Martin’s Difficult Men.
Thursday April 7th – Discussion of The Wire.
Tuesday April 12th – Read “Part Three” and conclusion of Brett Martin’s Difficult Men.
Thursday April 14th – Discussion of MadMen
Tuesday April 19th – Peer Review Day – Students must bring at least two printed out copies of their third paper.
Thursday April 21st – Discussion of Breaking Bad. THIRD PAPER DUE TODAY.
Unit Four: Sports
Tuesday April 26th – Read A. Bartlett Giamatti’s “Greenfields of the Mind” (available on CourseSite) and chapters 1-2 of Joyce Carol Oates’ On Boxing.
Thursday April 28th – Read chapters 3-5 of Joyce Carol Oates’ On Boxing and the introduction to Roy Blounts’ About Three Bricks Shy: And the Load Filled Up.
Tuesday May 3rd – Read chapters 6-7 of Joyce Carol Oates’ On Boxing and a collection of short essays from The Best of Frank Deford (to be supplied on CourseSite).
Thursday May 5th – Conclusion of class and course evaluation.
Friday May 6th – FOURTH PAPER DUE TODAY.