AWR101 – Writing About TV

AWR101 Writing and Inquiry

Writing About TV

There was a time when television was regarded as an “idiot box,” an enemy of education, reading, and critical thinking. The comedian Groucho Marx reportedly said, “I must say I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go into the library and read a good book.” Ray Bradbury, in his 1953 dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, predicts a world in which books are banned and television deadens the minds of the masses. And in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Oompa Loompas sing a song advising parents,

The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set–
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.

This line of critique—television makes us passive, stupid consumers—has never completely dissipated. But it has been challenged in recent years by a new wave of media studies which finds TV an important storytelling medium and a window into our culture and psychology. In this course, we’ll read and write essays analyzing television as a historical artifact and an art form. Our guiding question: what does it mean to watch TV without turning our brains off?

Course Info:

Instructor: Dr. Cari Hovanec

Course Texts:

  • David Rosenwasser and Jill Stephen, Writing Analytically, 7th ed.
  • Netflix subscription
  • Course pack, available at UT bookstore

AWR101 Goals:

AWR 101 should teach students

  • to read analytically and to utilize a text for the purposes of writing;
  • to actively engage reading texts and be able to discuss them
  • to gain greater awareness of language
  • to properly format and structure an academic essay;
  • to prewrite, draft, edit, and revise a piece of writing;
  • to work collaboratively with peers;
  • to cite sources properly and to fully comprehend plagiarism

AWR101 Course Outcomes:

Upon completion of AWR 101, a student should be able to:

  • identify an argument in a text and to present a coherent response to that argument;
  • evaluate the elements that make up a text, including its audience, purpose, genre, and context;
  • analyze connections between two or more texts;
  • demonstrate the multiple processes and strategies involved in writing, including drafting and revising in response to feedback from instructors and peers;
  • apply the conventions of standard written English and academic prose.

Saunders Writing Center:

The Saunders Writing Center provides free tutoring to all students interested in improving their writing abilities. The Center Tutors will assist with all aspects of writing. For example, they help students to identify paper topics and generate ideas, plan and organize drafts, rewrite, and edit. The Center’s purpose is not to correct or proofread final drafts, but to aid in learning strategies that good writers use during the process. The Center, in Plant Hall 323, is available for assistance with any writing project for any class. Hours are posted. Students may make an appointment or simply drop by (ext. 6244).

Assignments and Expectations:

  • Analytical Summary Essay: 150
  • Critical Analysis Essay: 180
  • Critical Synthesis Essay: 220
  • Writing Journal: 100
  • Presentation: 40
  • Quizzes: 50
  • Discussion: 100
  • Peer Review: 50
  • Course Climate Survey Completion: 10
  • Final Exam: 100

Total: 1000 points

No extra credit!

Please see the Assignments folder in Blackboard for detailed assignment descriptions and rubrics.

Grading Scale:

A         Outstanding  (940-1000)

AB       Excellent        (880-939)

B         Very Good     (840-879)

BC       Good            (780-839)

C         Average          (740-779)

CD      Below Avg.     (680-739)

D         Passing           (600-679)

F          Failure           (0-599)

NF       No Show        (Failure to attend)

Please note that students must earn a grade of C or higher in AWR101 in order to move on to AWR201. Students who earn CD or below will have to repeat the course before moving on.

How to Turn in Your Essays:

When rough drafts are due, you must do two things: Submit an electronic copy in the appropriate folder on Blackboard ten minutes before the beginning of class, and print a copy to bring to class for peer review.

When final drafts are due, you must submit an electronic copy on Blackboard by 11:59pm on the day it is due.

Electronic copies must be formatted as Word documents. No other file formats (e.g. Pages, OpenOffice, text files, etc.) will be accepted.

I will comment on your essays in Blackboard, so please make sure to view your comments! They are typically available within 7-8 days of your submission.

Course Policies: FAQ

Q: What should I call you?

A: You can call me Dr. Hovanec or Professor Hovanec. Dr. H. is fine too! Not Mrs. Hovanec; that’s my mom.

Q: Okay! Dr. H., what happens if I miss class?

A: Attendance is required. If you do miss a class, you are responsible for catching up—I won’t track you down to let you know what you missed. Students who miss more than two full weeks (six classes) are in danger of failing the course and should consider dropping.

If you miss a quiz or other in-class activity, you can make it up for credit only if you have a documented excuse. Absences are excused in the following situations: you are ill and have a doctor’s note; you are on a university sports team with an away game and have notified me of the absence in advance; or you are observing a religious holiday and have notified me in advance. I reserve the right to excuse absences in other extreme circumstances, but rarely do so. Please understand that if you miss class for work, family trips, or a friend’s illness, these absences will not be excused, and plan accordingly.

Q: What about if I’m late?

A: I take attendance at the beginning of class, so if you’re late you’ll be marked absent. Also, if you’re late you may miss important announcements, so make sure to check with a classmate to find out what you missed.

Q: I am indisposed and must miss class. Should I email you with a vivid description of my (typhoid fever/dysentery/cholera/broken bone/other malady)?

A: Please no. Save the vivid descriptions for your critical reflection essay.

Q: I’m really busy this week. Can I have an extension on my paper?

A: Nope. But I have a fairly tolerant late policy: 5% will be deducted for each day the paper is late, up to 7 days. After seven days, I will no longer accept the paper. This means that turning in one paper a day late will have a very small effect on your grade, lowering it by merely half a letter grade. But habitual lateness will add up and make a much bigger dent in your grade, so don’t make a habit of it!

Q: I really want to become a better writer this semester. Do you have any suggestions?

A: Yes! Take advantage of the resources available to you here at UT. Visit the Saunders Writing Center; ask the librarians for help with research; attend my office hours to talk about essay ideas. When you read assigned texts for this class and other classes, pay attention to their writing styles and structures. Read like a writer. Ask your other professors if they have tips for writing, and remember that writing is a little bit different in every discipline.

Q: Can I use my laptop to take notes during class?

A: I strongly encourage students to keep their laptops closed during class and take notes by hand. This is for two reasons. First, computers and smartphones are chock full of distractions, and studies show that multitasking doesn’t work; you can’t learn effectively or really engage with class discussions if you’re simultaneously browsing Instagram or emailing your mom. Second, research also suggests that we learn better and retain more when we take notes by hand rather than typing them.

In some circumstances, students may need to have laptops/phones out (e.g. if you have a sick family member and need to see incoming calls). So I don’t ban these devices outright. But if you don’t have a specific need to have your computer or phone out, I would invite you to put them away, engage with your classmates and me, and earn those discussion points!

Q: What is this MLA citation style I keep hearing about?

A: Oh, my sweet summer child. MLA is the Modern Language Association, a scholarly organization for people who teach literature, languages, and writing. They have guidelines for citing sources which are widely used in English classes. You can learn more by consulting the Purdue OWL, which has directions for citing every kind of source we’ll be using in this class.

Q: Gosh, the OWL’s citation guide looks really hard and boring. I’ll just use this website my friend told me about instead; it’s called (EasyBib/Citation Machine/Citefast) and it does the work for me.

A: Bad idea. Those websites are bad at extracting bibliographic data, and the works cited entries they generate are frequently wrong. Plus, if you don’t do it yourself, you won’t develop the familiarity with titles, authors, publishers, and dates that you need. Tedious as it may be, you need to take the time to put together your works cited entries yourself so you can make sure they’re done right.

Q: I know that it’s important to avoid plagiarism, but I’m not sure what exactly constitutes plagiarism. Can you clarify?

A: Good question! Here’s what one of the old UT catalogues has to say about plagiarism; it’s one of the most helpful and detailed explanations I’ve seen:

Plagiarism occurs when a person represents someone else’s words, ideas, phrases, sentences or data as one’s own work. When submitting work that includes someone else’s words, ideas, syntax, data or organizational patterns, the source of that information must be acknowledged through complete, accurate and specific references. All verbatim statements must be appropriately acknowledged. To avoid a charge of plagiarism, a person should be sure to include an acknowledgment of indebtedness and reference to these sources directly in the text clearly associated with the material being cited and in a bibliography or “works cited” page (this does not apply to a “works consulted” list where the source might not have been incorporated into the student’s text). Plagiarism can be said to have occurred without any affirmative showing that a student’s use of another’s work was intentional.

Examples of plagiarism include but are not limited to:

  1. Acquiring a term paper or other assignment and submitting it as your own work.
  2. Submitting a computer program, computer graphic, database, etc., as original work that duplicates, in whole or in part, without citation, the work of another.
  3. Quoting, paraphrasing or even borrowing the syntax of another’s words without acknowledging the source.
  4. Incorporating facts, statistics or other illustrative material taken from a source, without acknowledging the source, unless the information is common knowledge.
  5. Using another’s ideas, opinions or theories even if they have been completely paraphrased in one’s own words without acknowledging the source.
  6. Listing a source in a bibliography or “works cited” page without specifically citing the material within the text that was extracted from the source.

When in doubt about whether your paraphrase, quotation, or citation is sufficient, feel free to ask me!

Q: Do we have a final exam in this class?

A: Yes, and you must take it during our scheduled time slot (for section I4, Wednesday, 12/14, 1:30-3:30pm; for section G, Monday, 12/12, 1:30-3:30pm). I cannot offer any alternate exam times except under the most extreme circumstances. For example, if you are a retired CIA operative who has personally been called back by the President to perform one last, top-secret mission with the fate of the planet at stake, I can probably accommodate you with an alternate exam time. If you just want to leave a day early for winter break, you’re out of luck.

Q: Do you have any other tips for succeeding in this course? I really want to do well!

A: Sure! Do your readings, come to class prepared, ask and answer questions during class discussions, be respectful of your classmates, revise your essays carefully, and keep an open mind, and you’ll do great. One more very specific tip: be prepared for a syllabus quiz on Wednesday, 9/6, which will include questions about the aforementioned course policies. Thanks for reading this far, and I hope you enjoy the class and learn a lot!

Course Calendar:

All readings and viewings should be completed before class on the day they are listed. Please make sure to bring all readings to class with you!




Diagnostic Essay (in class)

Reading: Syllabus


Review diagnostic essays

Reading: Writing Analytically, ch. 1


Viewing: Stranger Things episodes 1-3


Reading: Aaron Bady, “Stranger Things, Season One: It Doesn’t Matter”


Reading: Writing Analytically, ch. 2


Viewing: Stranger Things episodes 4-6


Reading: Sigmund Freud, “The Uncanny,” first half


Reading: Sigmund Freud, “The Uncanny,” second half


Viewing: Stranger Things episodes 7-8


Reading: Writing Analytically, ch. 9


Reading: Richard Straub, “Responding—Really Responding—to Other Students’ Writing”

ANALYTICAL SUMMARY ROUGH DRAFT due in class; peer review/revision workshop


Viewing: Black Mirror, “15 Million Merits”

Individual conferences


Reading: Emily Yoshida, “Black Mirror Episode 2, ‘Fifteen Million Merits’: The Rebellion Show”

Individual conferences


NO CLASS – individual conferences



Viewing: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, “Gun Fever: Too Hot”; “The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award”


Reading: Emily Nussbaum, “Bar None”


Reading: Writing Analytically, ch. 4

Analytical Summary Postmortem


Viewing: Key and Peele: “Phone Call,” “Power Falcons,” “Substitute Teacher,” “Black Ice,” “Les Miz,” “Obama’s Anger Translator: Meet Luther,” “Negrotown”


Reading: Wesley Morris, “Race to the Top: The Meaning of Key and Peele”


Reading: Writing Analytically, ch. 5


Viewing: Jessica Jones, ep. 1-2 (content warning: sex, violence, allusions to sexual assault)


Reading: Ben Alpers, “Jessica Jones and the Film Noir P.I.”



Peer review/revision workshop – bring laptops


Viewing: The Defenders, ep. 1-2


Reading: Shaun Huston, “The Gritty and the Real: Unpacking the Realism Trope in Superhero Films”


NO CLASS – individual conferences



Viewing: Master of None, “Indians on TV”


Reading: Vikram Murthi, “Indians on TV: How Aziz Ansari and ‘Master of None’ Navigate the Anxieties of Representation”


Reading: Writing Analytically, ch. 6



Viewing: Bojack Horseman, “Fish Out of Water”

Critical Analysis Postmortem


Reading: Sergei Eisenstein, “On Disney,” excerpts


NO CLASS (Dr. H. at conference)

Last day to email me your proposed 2nd text for the critical synthesis paper



Peer revision/revision workshop – bring laptops


No class; happy Thanksgiving!


No class; happy Thanksgiving!


Viewing: The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, season 1 episodes 1-2


Reading: Lili Loofbourow, “Tina Fey’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is Weird. Good Weird.”










Exam review session

Critical Synthesis Postmortem

FINAL EXAM: AWR101 I4, Wednesday, 12/14, 1:30-3:30pm; AWRH101 G, Monday, 12/12, 1:30-3:30pm