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


The Stories We Tell Ourselves

English 367.01 (07620-1): The American Experience

Winter 1999, M/W: 9:30-11:18, Ramseyer Hall 322


Instructor: Alex E. Blazer Office: 525 Denney Hall
Mailbox: 421 Denney Hall Office Hours: MW: 11:30-1:00
Email: Office Phone: 292-1790
Web: Departmental Phone: 292-6065


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 by composing papers that assimilate and master the other's discourse). 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 in a group paper) 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); the second, an annotated bibliography of ten relevant, scholarly sources should prepare for the final paper, of eight pages, that will research a class topic or text.


Course Materials



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

Huxley, Aldous: Brave New World Revisited (available at SBX)

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

an active email account (you'll be subscribed to the course listserv)


MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (Main Library or any textbook store, $13.50)


Assignments and Grade Distribution


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

You must sign up to write 3 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. Because your peers and I need time to check our email, papers on Monday's reading assignments must be submitted to the course listserv ( by Friday afternoon, those for Wednesday's by Monday afternoon.

a collaborative oral presentation (15 minutes), 10%

Particular 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 present to the class the multiple perspectives, interpretations, contexts, and correlations of those readings. Also, groups are responsible for compiling and distributing a bibliography of related and somewhat relevant primary and/or secondary sources (15-20) that inform the group's assigned readings. As noted above, this assignment is used in conjunction with one response paper; however, the paper will be graded individually while the presentation collectively. Either each group member can submit an individual response to the listserv by the Friday or Monday before the presentation, or the entire group can submit a response. (The length would increase accordinglyif three members, then 750 words; if four then 1000.) Groups must work together in interpreting and determining connections and differences among the texts. Individual responses must not only reference but engage the other texts in the group.

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.

a preliminary bibliography (20 sources), ungraded

This is due a week and a half before the annotated bibliography in order that you can determine if you have a researchable topic. If your search strategy does not locate approximately 20 sources, your topic needs to be rethought and you should confer with me.

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

As preparation for the final research paper, the purpose of this assignment is to compile and evaluate sources for a research topic or author. Annotations should summarize theses or controlling ideas and discuss the validity of the text's argument. More instructions to come.

an eight-page final research paper (typed, double-spaced, 2000 words), 30%

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 initiated in class conversation. I'll provide a list of possible topics and authors by the third week of class. The paper must incorporate and quote at least 4-5 sources. More instructions to come.

peer response and class participation (quizzes), 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. Peer responses, of approximately 150 words, should be critical yet sensitive in their evaluation of the form (thesis, support, 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. In order to participate in class, you must have read the assignments. To get the conversation started, approximately every other class we'll have a brief quiz and two or three students will be selected at random to read their quiz, to which the class is expected to respond.

extra credit

Composing a 250-word listserv response for an additional reading will elevate your response paper grades and/or your class participation grade, depending on the quality of the response.


Course Policies


The Course Listservice

The list service serves three main functions: 1) to save paper for homework assignments, 2) to provide a space for relevant discussion outside of class, i.e., share thoughts and research materials, and 3) to make course announcements and reminders. I encourage all to read these informative messages, not to mention share your perspective with the rest of the class; but, obviously, anything above and beyond the three pre-assigned responses is not required.

Late Assignments

There will be a one letter grade deduction per day for any and all assignments that are turned in late.  Thus, I suggest that you contact me if you're having difficulty completing an assignment. An extension may be given if absolutely necessary and warranted.

Drafting and Revision

First drafts of the explanatory annotation paper and the research paper will undergo peer response, and my response if you so desire, from which you are encouraged to revise a second draft which will be turned in for a grade. Though I will not grade first drafts, I do require (and check) that they meet at least three-fourth (¾) of the page limitthree (3) pages for the first paper, six (6) for the research paper. Failure to meet this minimum will result in a one-third () letter deduction from the paper's final grade (an "A" will become an "A-"). If you provide your peers no draft at all, you will earn a one (1) letter grade deduction on the final grade. The explanatory annotation paper and the group presentation paper, but not individual responses or the research paper, may be revised once after receiving a grade with my comments for a new grade assessment.


After the first paper, but before the annotated bibliography, you must sign up for an individual conference in order that we can talk about your first paper and research paper topics. Though no more conferences are required, I encourage you to see me during my office hours (or by appointment) to talk about any course concerns you have.


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 notes within one (1) week of your return to class or I will not accept the excuse. 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+"). 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. I strongly suggest not being late because quizzes will be given in the first five minutes of class. If you snooze, you loose. 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, English 367 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: Denney Hall 363
Office Hours: MW: 11:30-5:30; Office Phone: 292-5778
     TR: 11:30-1:30 Email:

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 is Handout; P is Course Packet (ordered alphabetically by author's name).


Week 1


Syllabus Concerns



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)

Week 2


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

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



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

Miller: "Our Legal System" (P 11-16)

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

Paper 1 Prompt: Explanation or Comparison Paper

Week 3
No Class: Martin Luther King Day


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

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

Harding: Introduction (P 1-16)

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)

(1/3 of class responsible for Ch5, for 6, for 7)

Due: Paper 1, Draft 1


Camp Culture

Boorstin: "From News Gathering to News Making"

(H 7-44, selected sections)

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

(½ of class read Boorstin, ½ read Sontag)

Group Presentation #2: Psuedo-Events and Camp Culture

Due: Paper 1, Draft 1 Peer Responses

Week 5


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

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



Ferlinghetti: [History is made], "History of the World"

(P 11-12, 300-4)

Rich: "Diving," "Translations, "Living" (P 22-4, 40-2)

Research Paper Prompt: Finding a Topic

Due: Paper 1, Draft 2

Week 6


Anderson: Reality, "Worldview" (231-69)

Guest Speaker on Library Research: Fred Roecker



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

Boorstin: "American Dream/American Illusions" (H 239-61)

Klugman: "Reality Revisited" (P 12-33)

(1/3 read Baudrillard, read Boorstin, read Klugman)

Group Presentation #3: Reality and Disneyland

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

Annotated Bibliography Prompt: Finding Sources

Week 7


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

Moore, Michael: "Don't Vote," 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)

Rapping: "Local News: Reality as Soap Opera" (P 616-33) (total: 74)

Group Presentation #5: Television and Culture/Society

Week 8

The X-Files

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

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

Lavery, et al: "Introduction" (P 13-20)

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

Due: Preliminary Bibliography (20 sources)



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

(1/3 of class read Chs1-2, read 3-4, read 5-6)

Week 9


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

(1/3 read Chs7-8, read 9-10, for 11-12)

Due: Annotated Bibliography


Beyond Rhetoric

Movie: The Truman Show

(Extra Credit Response: out-of-class movie)

Week 10


Herzog: "The Death of Lies," et al (P 15-27, 207-218)

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

Due: Research Paper, Draft 1


Conclusions, Evaluations

Due: Research Paper, Draft 1 Peer Responses

Due: Research Paper, Draft 2 by 5:00 P.M.




I. Course Packet

II. Handouts