Alex E. Blazer Course Site Assignments Description
Materials Assignments Policies Schedule


Faking It in America:

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

English 367.01 (07701): The American Experience

Autumn 1998, M/W: 3:30-5:18, University Hall 147


Instructor: Alex E. Blazer

Departmental Phone: 292-6065

Mailbox: 421 Denney Hall

Office Phone: 292-1790

Email: Office: 525 Denney Hall

Office Hours: M/W: 2:30-3:18,

     T 1:30-2:18


Course Description


Though commencing from a tongue-in-cheek point of departure, this course will explore a most serious issue: the nature of the self in a highly mediated and mediating society, America. It seeks to answer the question at the back of all of our minds, "What can I believe?" by analyzing various aspects of "rhetoric" in American popular culture through the lens of texts that are weary of the ideology that produces them. Don't worry, we'll investigate the credibility of those visions as well, as this opens the door for our own writing. As we analyze and evaluate texts that analyze and evaluate rhetorical practices in our society, we'll engage in critical writing that takes an argumentative stand in what it's analyzing (we'll create ourselves in our compositions). We'll write response/report papers for selected readings. Groups of three or four or will develop and demonstrate (both orally for the class, and as a group report of four pages) a debate or, more loosely, a multi-perspective reading of an assigned text or group of texts. The first paper, of four pages, will be a more developed reading of a class text (an explanatory annotation); and the final, of eight pages, will be research a class topic or text.


Course Materials



Anderson, Walter Truett: Reality Isn't What It Used to Be (available at SBX and Main Library Reserves)

Huxley, Aldous: Brave New World Revisited (available at SBX and Main Library Reserves)

a course packet (available at Bricker Hall COP-EZ)

an active email account


MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (available at Main Library or any bookstore)

recommended (extra credit)

Ballard, J. G.: Atrocity Exhibition (Main Library, Charvat Collection)

Bordo, Susan: Wexner Lecture (5:30 P.M. on Thursday, 11-5 at Sullivant Hall)

Herzog, Arthur: The B.S. Factor (Main Library, 24-hour Reserve)


Assignments and Grade Distribution


3 response/report papers (250 words each at 5% each), 15%

You must sign up for 3 report papers which respond to particular reading assignments. These semi-formal papers should 1) report theses, issues, and, contexts of the work as well as define key terms, 2) respond critically to the work, and 3) ask two questions or identify two issues for class discussion. These papers must be submitted to the course list service ( by 7 P.M. two daysbefore the class in which they'll be discussed for your peers and I need time to check our email. Monday's responses, then, are due on the listserv no later than 7 P.M. Saturday; Wednesday's no later than 7 P.M. Monday. Please spread out time slots throughout the quarter by signing up for no more than one slot every three weeks. Also, one paper should be done in conjunction with the collaborative oral presentation; I've designated those readings that qualify for group presentations on the sign-up sheet.

a collaborative oral presentation (15 minutes), 10%

Particular readings or groups of readings merit more attention and debate than one or two individual responses can give. Consequently, students will sign up to work in groups in order to demonstrate the multiple perspectives, interpretations, and contexts of certain readings. Broadly speaking, they will present a debate regarding the text(s) and its topics. As noted above, this assignment is used in conjunction with one response/report paper. Thus, either each group member can submit an individual response to the listserv two days before class, or the entire group can submit a response 2 days before class. (The paper length would increase accordinglyif 3 members, then 750 words; if 4 then 1000.)

a four-page paper (typed, double-spaced, 1000 words), 20%

This explanatory annotation paper should either 1) explain an assigned reading's most significant passage, 2) compare/contrast two assigned readings's most significant passages, or 3) explain the most significant passage of a different text by the author of an assigned reading. More instructions to come.

an annotated bibliography (10 sources, 50 words per annotation), 15%

As preparation for the final research paper, the purpose of this assignment is to compile and possible sources for a research topic or author. Annotations should 1) summarize theses or controlling ideas, 2) You may change research paper topics after completing the bibliography, though you must still research the final paper. More instructions to come.

an eight-page final research paper (typed, double-spaced, 2000 words), 25%

The paper should either 1) extend a conversation regarding an assigned reading by researching others' interpretations of the work and/or comparing it with selections of the author's other work or 2) researching a topic or issue of class conversation. I'll provide a list of possible topics and authors by the third week of class. The paper must incorporate at least 4-5 sources. More instructions to come.

peer/participation, 15%

This grade is determined by both class participation and the peer responses for first drafts of the explanatory annotation paper and the research paper. Responses should be critical yet sensitive in their evaluation of the form (style, voice, organization) and content (thesis, argument, use of evidence) of their peers first drafts. Class participation is vital in illuminating the multiple perspectives of the controversial issues and the divergent interpretations of the assigned readings that we'll be discussing.


Course Policies


Drafting and Revision

First drafts of the explanatory annotation paper and the research paper will undergo peer response from which you are encouraged to revise a second draft which will be turned in for a grade. The explanatory annotation paper, the annotated bibliography, and the group presenation paper (but not individual responses) may be revised once after receiving a grade with my comments.


At least once this quarter, you must sign up for an individual conference in order that we can talk about your work (I suggest scheduling an appointment for no date later than Week 6). Though no more than one individual conferences is required, I encourage you to see me during my office hours (or by appointment) to talk about your progress in the course, especially after turning in drafts.


Don't do it. Using someone else's words, ideas, or work without proper citation and representing it as your own is the most serious of academic offenses. All cases of suspected plagiarism will be reported to the Committee on Academic Misconduct.


Unexcused absences will not be tolerated. Family emergences, illness/injury with doctor's note, jury duty, athletic or other collegiate competition, religious holidays, and so forth constitute excused absences (Bring these notes within one (1) week of your return to class or I will not except them). Two-thirds () of a letter grade will be deducted from your final grade for every unexcused absence beyond two (2) (An "A"will become a "B+"). Finally, five (5) unexcused absences will result in your failure of the course. I do not tolerate tardiness either. Two (2) unexcused tardies equals one (1) unexcused absence (Note, therefore, that tardies will affect your grade; and ten (10) tardies (or any combination of unexcused tardies and unexcused absences) will result in your failure of the course. If you know in advance that you have to miss or arrive late to a class, please notify me beforehand in order that we can make arrangements regarding missed work.


On the Monday after finals week, I will make available any work not yet returned to you. Contact me to make an appointment to pick up your work. Otherwise, I will keep your work for two quarters, during which time you can pick it up. If you do not retrieve it, I will discard it.

Writing Center

The staff of the Writing Center serve as readers and responders to writing for English 110 and other university disciplines. Besides giving feedback, these English graduate students can help with other writing issues such as topic development, organization, coherence, clarity, and self-editing. To make an appointment, call 292-5607 or stop by 338 Denney Hall M/W 8:30-5:30, T/R 8:30-7:30, and F 8:30-1:30.


The Ombud is a resource for students and teachers of English 110 and 367. If you have any concerns about the course but feel you cannot speak with me, please feel free to consult with the Ombud. All conversations are confidential.

Ombud: Wade Kreuger Office Phone: 292-5778
Office: Denney Hall 363 Email:
Office Hours: MTWR 1:30-3:30

Office of Disability Services

If you have any specific needs or concerns, please feel free to discuss the issue with me during office hours. Students with disabilities who need accommodations should be registered at the Office for Disability Services (292-3307).


Course Schedule


This schedule is subject to change, so listen in class and check online for possible revisions.

H stands for Handout; P stands for Course Packet (ordered alphabetically by author's name).


Week 1


Syllabus Concerns

Week 2


Atwood: "Fiction: Happy Endings" (H 275-9)

Plato: "The Allegory of the Cave" (H 186-91)

Doctorow: "Ultimate Discourse" (H 472-5)

Lunsford: "On Reading . . . Critically" (H 1-8)



Anderson: Reality, Preface and "The Collapse of Belief" (ix-xii, 3-52)

Lunsford: "From Reading to Writing" (9-34)

Week 3


Anderson: Reality, "Postmodern Visions" (55-102)

Ramage: "Reading . . . Essays." (H 639-45)

Paper 1 Prompt: Explanatory or Comparison Paper



Bacon: "Idols of the Mind" (P 518-29)

Thomas: "Humanities and Science" (P 775-82)

Harding: "What is Feminist Science" (H TBA)

Barnet: "Critical Thinking Writing" (H 57, 73-86)

Group Presentation #1: The Objectivity of Science

Week 4


Anderson: Reality, "The Theatre of Reality" (105-83)

Due: Paper 1, Draft 1


Camp Culture

Sontag: "Notes on Camp" (P 105-19)

Group Presentation #2: Sontag and Camp Culture

Due: Peer Response of Paper 1, Draft 1 

Week 5


Anderson: Reality, "Faith and Freedom" (187-227)

Thoreau: "Why I Went to the Woods" (P 897-902)



Moore, Marianne: "Poetry" (P 509-10)

Rich: "When We Dead Awaken," et al (P 5-6, 22-4, 40-1, 42)

Group Presentation #3: Rich: Poetry that Crosses Boundaries

Research Paper Prompt: Author, Book, or Topic

Due: Paper 1, Draft 2

Week 6


Anderson: Reality, Part Five (231-69)

Baudrillard: "Simulacra and Simulations" (P 166-84)



Bell: "Book of the Dead Man #56" (P 46-8)

Ferlinghetti [History is made], et al (P 11-2, 300-4, 9-14, 15-7)

Barnet: "Critical Writing: Using Sources" (H 156-173)

Annotated Bibliography Prompt: Finding Sources

Guest Speaker on Library Research: Fred Roecker

Week 7


Lapham: "Democracy in America" (P 701-13)

Moore, Michael: "Don't VoteIt Only Encourages Them," et al (P 22-5, 43-56, 183-9, 221-9)

Group Presentation #4: American Politics: Apathy or Ideology?

Annotated Bibliography: Evaluating Sources



Ballard: "The Secret History of World War 3" (P 119-127)

(Extra Credit Response: Atrocity Exhibition)

Hammill: "Crack and the Box" (P 373-377)

James: "Pop Culture: Extremes but Little Reality" (H 572-5)

Rapping: "Local News: Reality as Soap Opera" (P 616-33)

Group Presentation #5: Mass Media and Culture/Society


Bordo: "Our Bodies, Ourselves" (5:30 P.M. at Sullivant Hall Auditorium; Extra Credit Response)

Week 8

The X-Files

meet at Lord Hall Room 19

The X-Files: "Jose Chung's From Outer Space"

Graham: "Conspiracy Theory and The X-Files" (P 52-62)

Kubek: "The Imaginary, Voyeurism, and The Symbolic Order" (P 168-204)

Group Presentation #6: The X-Files and Social Order

No Class: Veterans' Day
Week 9


Huxley: Brave New World Revisited, Ch1-6 (3-57)

Due: Annotated Bibliography



Huxley: Brave New World Revisited, Ch6-12 (58-118)

Week 10

Beyond Rhetoric

meet at Lord Hall Room 19

film: Wag the Dog

make up class: 6:00-7:00 P.M.

No Class: Thanksgiving (make up class Monday, 11-23)
Week 11

Beyond B.S.

Herzog: "The Death of Lies," et al (H 13-28, 183-218)

(Extra Credit Response: The B.S. Factor)

Due: Research Paper, Draft 1


Discuss: Peer Response of Research Paper, Draft 1

Conclusions, Evaluations

Due: Research Paper, Draft 1 Peer Responses

Due: Research Paper, Draft 2




I. Course Packet

II. Handouts