Paying Attention: The Media and Mental Life

Course Description:

It is hard to imagine now how we did research before Wikipedia, how we found answers to everyday questions before Google, how we communicated before cell phones and email. New technologies have transformed how we access information, how we interact with others, and even, according to some cultural critics, how we think. Along with the new possibilities opened up by new media technologies come new challenges. Can we still pay attention in the age of Facebook? Can we still write coherently in the age of Twitter? Can we still keep track, or claim ownership, of source materials in the age of the mash-up? In this class, we will consider how media shapes and transforms our intellectual lives.

 

This is a composition course, which means we are studying writing. Please be prepared to do a lot of writing (formal writing assignments every two weeks, plus daily in-class writing) as well as a lot of reflecting on writing, both your own and others’. You should also realize that this class entails a lot of reading, including both topical essays and pieces on writing from the Norton Field Guide to Writing with Readings. Finally, this course will have a significant discussion component to it, so please come to class ready to talk.

Course Requirements:

First 6 writing assignments: 60% (10% each)

Research paper: 15%

Quizzes and freewrites: 10%

Class participation: 15%

 

Course Schedule:

Unit 1: Attention and Distraction in a Digital World

01/09/12

 

Introduction

Mary Jaksch, “73 Ways to Become a Better Writer” (handout)

01/11/12

 

Jeffrey R. Young, “The Fight for Classroom Attention: Professor vs. Laptop” (online)

Alina Tugend, “Multitasking Can Make You Lose… Um… Focus” (NFG 653)

01/13/12

 

Amy Goldwasser, “What’s the Matter with Kids Today?” (NFG 666)

“Guiding Your Reader” (NFG 272)

01/16/12

 

Sam Anderson, “In Defense of Distraction” (online)

Chapter 7, “Analyzing a Text” (NFG 38) (you may skip or skim the sample essays)

01/18/12

 

Nicholas G. Carr, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” (NFG 961)

Syllabus quiz

01/20/12

 

Textual analysis paper; writing workshop

 

Unit 2: Media and Attention: A History

01/23/12

 

John Locke, “Of the Modes of Thinking” (online)

David Hume, “Of the Connexion or Association of Ideas” (online)

“Questions to Ask When Revising a Paper” and “Revision” (online)

01/25/12

 

Henry Home, Lord Kames, “Emotions Caused by Fiction” (online)

“Getting Response and Revising” (NFG 235)

01/27/12

 

Henry Mansell, “Sensation Novels” (online)

“Reading Strategies” (NFG 352)

“Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing” (NFG 408)

01/30/12

 

Georg Simmel, “The Metropolis and Mental Life” (online)

02/01/12

 

Simmel, continued

 

“Beginning and Ending” (NFG 261)

02/03/12

 

Summary paper; writing workshop

02/06/12

 

William James, “Attention” (excerpts, online)

02/08/12

 

Walter Benjamin, “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire” (excerpts, online)

02/10/12

 

Benjamin, continued

Chapter 9, “Arguing a Position” (NFG 83) (you may skip or skim the sample essays)

02/13/12

 

Walter Benjamin, “What is Epic Theater?” (online)

“Arguing” (NFG 283-299)

02/15/12

 

In-class prep for debate

 

02/17/12

 

Class Debate: Debate papers due

 

Unit 3: Interlude: Personal Writing

2/20/12

 

David Sedaris, “Us and Them” (NFG 802)

Chapter 15, “Memoirs” (NFG 153) (you may skip the sample essays)

2/22/12

 

Henry Louis Gates Jr., “A Giant Step” (NFG 832)

“Describing” (NFG 324)

2/24/12

 

NO CLASS

2/27/12

 

Midterm evaluations

Alison Bechdel, “The Canary-Colored Caravan of Death” (NFG 583)

2/29/12

 

Jonathan Safran Foer, “My Life as a Dog” (NFG 180)

“Narrating” (NFG 343)

3/2/12

 

Reflection paper; writing workshop. (Since the following week is spring break, this one won’t be due to me until March 12.)

 

Spring Break

 

Unit 4: Gender, Class, Race, and Work

3/12/12

 

Virginia Woolf, excerpts from A Room of One’s Own (online)

Chapter 11, “Annotated Bibliographies” (NFG 116) (please read the samples)

3/14/12

 

Woolf, continued

“Developing a Research Plan” (NFG 375)

3/16/12

 

Patti Neighmond, “Working Moms Multitask, and Stress, More than Dads” (online)

“Finding Sources” (NFG 384)

3/19/12

 

Gregory Mantsios, “Class in 2003” (NFG 697)

“Evaluating Sources” (NFG 400)

3/21/12

 

Eleanor J. Bader, “Homeless on Campus” (NFG 635)

“Synthesizing Ideas” (NFG 404)

3/23/12

 

Statement of topic and annotated bibliography due

 

Unit 5: (Post)Modernist Attentions: Piracy, Plagiarism, Collage

3/27/12

 

Introduction to Research and Citation Practices; Discussion of Plagiarism

“Acknowledging Sources, Avoiding Plagiarism” (NFG 420)

“Documentation” (NFG 425)

3/29/12

 

Jonathan Lethem, “The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism” (online)

3/31/12

 

Lethem, continued

Chapter 10, “Abstracts” (NFG 11)

 

4/3/12

 

Marjorie Perloff, “Collage and Poetry” (online)

“Formulating Your Research Question” (online)

4/5/12

 

Lawrence Lessig, “Some Like it Hot” (NFG 88)

4/7/12

 

Research proposal; writing workshop

 

Unit 6: Attention and Advertising

4/10/12

 

Doug Lantry, “Stay Sweet As You Are” (NFG 43)

“Connecting Research to Your Writing” (online)

4/12/12

 

Katharine Q. Seelye, “Lurid Numbers on Glossy Pages!” (NFG 604)

“Structuring Your Research Paper” (online)

04/14/12

 

Mad Men (in class)

4/17/12

 

Mad Men continued

4/19/12

 

Roland Marchand, “Grotesque Moderne” (online)

4/21/12

 

Research paper; writing workshop

4/23/12

 

Research paper due to me

Last day of class; course evaluations

   

 

 

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