Professor Jessica Yood
The Graduate Center, CUNY Fall 2013

Writing, Culture, and the Humanities in Transition: 1991-2002 
ENGL 79010: Mondays 4:15PM-6:15PM. 2/4 credits.(cross-listed with WSCP 81000).
[CRN 21564]

Description (in catalogue)
This course begins with an overview of the dynamic role that the humanities have played in the history of American culture in general and in higher education in particular. We will then determine how the intellectual climate shifted during the 1990s, when the meaning of popular and literary writing altered and the culture wars ensued. Historian and cultural theorist Phillip Wegner calls this decade the “life between two deaths” because it comes after many of the groundbreaking “isms” of the previous period and before the geopolitical and technological shifts of today. We will look again at the unique contribution of scholarly writing in this period, when critical and theoretical discourse merged in unprecedented ways with larger cultural, pedagogical and political debates. 

For students interested in the late twentieth/early twenty-first century, the course offers another lens for viewing your subjects of study. For those unsure of a specialization, or ambivalent about the idea of “specialization,” this course suggests how traditional disciplinary and professional categories were challenged in the 1990s, and how they paved the way for new approaches to knowledge and craft. Emerging fields like Digital Humanities and Writing Studies have their roots in this period, and we will explore several other recent experimental boundary crossings in English studies.

Learning Goals
I. By the end of the first three weeks of the course: 

Students will: 

  • connect with classmates to create a productive and stimulating class environment
  • assess their familiarity with the particular areas of English Studies that changed most dramatically during the 1990s: literary, cultural, and composition studies
  • be able to write informative and engaging blog posts that use course texts to address three key questions of the course:
    1. How have the humanities in general and English studies in American in particular changed over the last thirty years?
    2. What is the relationship between the culture wars of the 1990s and the realities of writing, literary and cultural studies today?
    3. In what ways might I contribute to the present and future of English studies?

The professor will:

  • expose students to important historical studies and theoretical and political debates about English studies and its place in American culture during the 1990s
  • argue for the particular importance of writing and writing studies in understanding the theoretical, pedagogical, and political goals of English studies
  • engage in critical dialogue with students about the relationship between history, cultural studies, the teaching of writing and literary and rhetorical theories
  • assign and respond to a course reading blog that captures what is new, familiar, and relevant to the student’s particular area of study.

II. By the middle of the course:

Students will: 

  • pair two texts (one from class one outside of class) and present a case for their relationship 
  • understand the primary theoretical and political debates of the 1990s in American higher education 

The professor will:

  • offer small lectures, provide online resources, and lead class discussions that provide an overview of period and offer critical questions about course material

III. By the end of the course:

Students will:

  • be aware of the major shifts in literary, cultural, and composition and rhetorical studies that occurred during the 1900s and connect these shifts to intellectual and political debates of today
  • return to the key questions of the course and connect these questions to historical and intellectual trends
  • create a publishable project (an academic article, conference paper or a digital media project) that connects themes of the course to the student’s area of interest in the humanities.

The professor will:

  • expose students to the variety of publishing options in our changing fields
  • engage in class on one-on-one with students on drafts of their projects

Almost all of the course material (required and suggested) is available via pdf on the blackboard site. Feel free to read online or print from the site. The only other text is:

David Lodge, Nice Work. New York: Penguin Books, 1990.

Requirements and Grading
Attendance and participation in class discussions and online via blog posts and one course presentation (twenty minutes, details on blackboard): 50%
Final course project (determined by student): 50%

Culture of Class:
Please login to the blackboard site by the end of the first week of classes (Sept 13th) and check in at least twice a week for updates, notes, assignments. Please be on time with posts so others can respond. Also, please email me if you will miss class. We are a small group and will come to rely on one another for productive, stimulating discussion.

Course Calendar  
Reading and writing due before the class meets on any given date. Posting to blog due Sunday, 11:30pm, before the Monday class.

9 The Tipping Point: Culture, Literature, Writing and Higher Education
Reading Due: Gladwell, Denby, Jones Royster

Reading Due: Gladwell, Denby, Jones Royster, Wegner, Harrison
Posting: Blog entry 1

23 The 1990s in Retrospect: History, Politics, Higher Education
Reading Due: Wegner, Harrison, Newfield
Presentation(s) 1

Reading Due: Ohmann (and Graff’s Foreword in Ohmann), Bérubé from Public Access 
Recommended: from Miller, Durst
Posting: Blog entry 2

7 The 1990s in Real Time: Writing, Educating the Public and The Culture Wars
Reading Due: Graff, Nelson, and from Bloom et al, Holladay
Presentation 2 

14 No GC Classes for Columbus Day

15 (Tues) GC on a Monday schedule—our class held online 
Reading Due: from Smithson and Ruff, Straub’s “Burning…” and Guillory

Reading Due: Guillory, Crowley
Presentation 3

Reading Due: Harkin and Schilb, Clifford, Worsham, from Contending 
Recommended: Greenblatt and Gunn and Nelson and Gaonkar
Posting: Blog entry 3

4 Literature, Writing and Higher Education    
Reading Due: Lodge and Readings
Presentation 4

Reading Due: Lodge and McSweeney’s (anything from 1998 or 1999 volumes) 

Reading Due: Lodge, Newfield, and Shor
Presentation 5
Posting: Blog entry 4

25 The Culture of Higher Education: Then and Now
Reading Due: Bruffee, Damrosch, Spellmeyer
Recommended: Bérubé from Rhetorical Education
Presentation 6
Writing Due: One Page Prospectus for Final Projects 

2 Writing, Writing Studies and The Culture of Higher Education        
Reading Due: Shipka, Dobrin, Rice, Vastola
Posting: Blog entry 5

9 Last day of classes
Reading Due: Taylor, Yood, Students’ work

16 Final projects turned in online