The role of the critic Syllabus
Comm 8210-002 Spring 2012
Prof. Gil Rodman / 612.626.7721  
office hours (253 Ford): TuTh 10-11:15a, W 10-11:30a, and by appointment  

Course description and objectives

This course will examine the various roles that intellectual work plays in contemporary culture and society. In particular, we will wrestle with the following questions:

Grading policy

Presumably, you're enrolled in this course because you genuinely want to be here, and so you're motivated by something other than the desire to add another A to your transcript -- and that's the way it should be. And so I assume that it's counter-productive for me to make you worry about letter grades. As of Day One, you begin the course with an A. If you show up for all our class meetings, participate productively in our discussions, and complete the required written work in satisfactory and timely fashion, you'll keep that A. That said, in cases where people clearly slack off, I reserve the right to go deeper into the alphabet when I submit final grades. Under such unfortunate circumstances, your grade will be calculated using the following formula:

Attendance/participation 15%
Discussion questions 10%
Public blog 75%


The following required books are available at the University Bookstore in Coffman Union:

Other required readings will be made available in class and/or via the course website.


Our weekly meetings will be oriented around seminar-style discussions, rather than formal lectures. Your primary responsibility each week will be to show up prepared to contribute thoughtfully and productively to our conversations about the assigned readings. You don't need to demonstrate perfect mastery of the issues raised by our readings, but you are expected to participate in our conversations actively and regularly. I'll chime in often enough that you'll certainly get my take on our readings, but this course will not be a spectator event for any of us.

Course website

We will conduct a significant amount of discussion and course business online via a Coursekit website. Among other things, the website will serve as:

Ideally, the website should function as a space that's serious enough for people to share extended thoughts on the course material, but also casual enough for people to post quick comments and "in progress" ideas. Full details on how to access and contribute to our course website are available on a separate handout.

Discussion questions

We have 14 weeks of scheduled reading this semester (24 Jan-1 May). For at least 10 of those 14 weeks, you should post 2-3 discussion questions related to those readings to the course blog by 2:30 pm the day before the relevant class meeting. Exactly what those questions should look like will vary from topic to topic (and from student to student), but you should be aiming for questions that serve as productive jumping-off points for our in-class discussions.

Public blog

In the context of a course devoted to public intellectual work, it seems counterproductive to require you to write a traditional 25-30 page scholarly research paper. Instead, your major writing assignment for this semester will be to start and maintain a public blog that is primarily focused on at least one aspect of your career-in-the-making as a professional academic/intellectual/scholar. The basic requirements are as follows:

There are many, many places online that provide free server space for would-be bloggers. The UMN Library is one of them. If you'd rather not have your blog housed on University servers (for whatever reason), two of the biggest free blogging sites are Blogger and WordPress, but you are free to use whatever blogging service and/or platform you choose.

[N.B.: If you already have a blog, you're free to use it for purposes of this assignment, provided that you (and your blog) still meet the requirements described above. If you would prefer for your blog to appear under a pseudonym, that's fine in terms of the general public, but you do need to attach your real name to your blog in the context of this course.]


Reading schedule


17 January
Daniel W. Drezner, "Public Intellectual 2.0"

What is writing for?

24 January
Edward W. Said, Representations of the Intellectual
Edward W. Said, "The Public Role of Writers and Intellectuals"
Michael Bérubé, "Bite-Size Theory: Popularizing Academic Criticism"
Michael Bérubé, "Cultural Criticism and the Politics of Selling Out"

31 January
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own
Antonio Gramsci, "The Intellectuals"
George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language"
George Orwell, "Why I Write"

7 February
Jonathan Sterne, "Blogging 101 for Academics"
assorted academic blogs

What are universities for?

14 February
Michael Bérubé and Janet Lyon, "Free Speech and Discipline: The Boundaries of the Multiversity"
Stuart Hall, "The Emergence of Cultural Studies and the Crisis in the Humanities"
Joe Moran, "Cultural Studies and Academic Stardom"
Cary Nelson and Stephen Watt, Academic Keywords [selections]
Marc Bousquet, "Students Are Already Workers"
Gordon Lafer, "Sorely Needed: A Corporate Campaign for the Corporate University"
Andrew Ross, "Global U"

21 February
Paulo Freire, "Chapter 2" [Pedagogy of the Oppressed]
bell hooks, "Engaged Pedagogy"
Henry A. Giroux, "Doing Cultural Studies: Youth and the Challenge of Pedagogy"
Elizabeth Ellsworth, "Why Doesn't This Feel Empowering?: Working Through the Repressive Myths of Critical Pedagogy"
Lisa Henderson, "Communication Pedagogy and Political Practice"
Lawrence Grossberg, "Teaching the Popular"
Elizabeth Bell, Kim Golombisky, G'han Singh, and Krista Hirschmann, "To All the Girls I've Loved Before: Academic Love Letters on Mentoring, Power, and Desire"

What are publishers for?

28 February
William Germano, Getting It Published [selections]
Meaghan Morris, "Publishing Perils, and How to Survive Them: A Guide for Graduate Students"
Thom Brooks, "Publishing Advice for Graduate Students"
Cary Nelson, "The Economics of Textbook Reform"
Gilbert B. Rodman, "Tyrannosaurus Text: Publishers, Profits, and Pedagogy"
Ted Striphas, "Acknowledged Goods: Cultural Studies and the Politics of Academic Journal Publishing"
Siva Vaidhyanathan, "The Googlization of Knowledge: The Future of Books"

6 March
Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Planned Obsolescence

13 March

Speaking in (lay) tongues

20 March
Greg Seigworth, assorted "Fear of a Blank Planet" columns
Michael Bérubé, "Pop Goes the Academy: Cult Studs Fight the Power"
Michael Bérubé, "Just the Fax, Ma'am: Or, Postmodernism's Journey to Decenter"
Michael Eric Dyson, Come Hell or High Water [selections]
Micaela di Leonardo, "Patterns of Culture Wars"
Micaela di Leonardo, "Margaret Mead vs. Tony Soprano"
Cathy Davidson, "Project Classroom Makeover"

27 March
Ellen Willis, Out of the Vinyl Deeps
Ellen Willis, "Intellectual Work and the Culture of Austerity"

3 April
Rius, Marx for Beginners
Ziauddin Sardar & Borin van Loon, Introducing Cultural Studies

Intellectual work and/as politics

10 April
Lawrence Grossberg, "Cultural Studies: What's in a Name (One More Time)"
Bill Readings, "Culture Wars and Cultural Studies"
Constance Penley, "From NASA to The 700 Club (With a Detour Through Hollywood): Cultural Studies in the Public Sphere"
Michael Rustin, Doreen Massey, Jeremy Gilbert, and Stuart Hall, plenary session from the "Cultural Studies Now" conference
Raymond Williams, "The Future of Cultural Studies"
Gilbert B. Rodman, "Cultural Studies Is Ordinary"

17 April
Gerald Graff, "Academic Writing and the Uses of Bad Publicity"
Cornel West, "The Postmodern Crisis of the Black Intellectuals"
George Lipsitz, "Taking Positions and the War of Position: The Politics of Academia"
Meaghan Morris, "Politics Now (Anxieties of a Petty-Bourgeois Intellectual)"
Michael Bérubé, "Entertaining Cultural Criticism"
Andrew Ross, "No Respect: An Introduction"
Carol Becker, "The Artist As Public Intellectual"

Going digital?

24 April
Henry Jenkins, "Quentin Tarantino's Star Wars?: Grassroots Creativity Meets the Media Industry"
David Gauntlett, "The Meaning of Making III: Digital"
Lawrence Lessig, Remix [selections]
Gary Hall, Digitize This Book! [selections]
Anne Balsamo, Designing Culture [selections]

1 May
individual class blogs

Reference list