pmbousquet (at) gmail (dot) com

Callaway N118

office hour:
Th 215-315 and by appt.

teaching ..

Course blog:

Fall 2014 Callaway N204
T/TH 1-215pm

What to expect. This class features active, collaborative, problem- and project-based learning by discovery. It is a "practicum," meaning that it emphasizes practicing or participating in the the object of study.

In this case, what you'll "practice" is composing for digital publication and civic engagement. You'll explore how digital literacy is re-shaping the relationship of academics, professionals, and activists to the public sphere.

Aspects of this kind of learning are often called situated, which means you'll work on real-world problems that don't usually have obvious solutions. You'll seek to become an actual, contributing member of a community of concerned persons researching a problem.

This can be exciting.

It can also create some anxiety, because many of us are trained to believe that education is about taking great notes and being sure we have the "right" answer. Even our classrooms are designed to reinforce bad 19th-century ideas about teaching and learning.

But real researchers in universities and corporate labs, or professionals like physicians, lawyers, dancers, journalists and architects don't sit in rows and regurgitate information. Ditto for entrepreneurs, managers, and engineers.

For professionals in many fields, most days are filled with thinking and writing about problems to which there are no obvious right answers. Often the problems are just as difficult to define as the solutions.

Dealing with the unknown and the contested--with ambiguity and uncertainty--can lead to cognitive overload. Being a professional is a lot like being a writer or any other kind of artist--a lot of creative problem-solving is required. Sometimes it's easier just to follow directions!

The effectiveness of this kind of learning is strongly supported by decades of research, especially by comparison to traditional forms of classroom activity: how long did you remember the information you crammed for your last test? These are proven, especially effective ways of learning to write and think.

learning pyramid

Although the percentages are hotly contested--especially by corporate-sponsored researchers heavily invested in profits from passive learning, most educators believe that the basic contention of the learning pyramid is sound: Active learning radically outperforms passive learning.

Another potentially good thing is that you will have a major role in choosing how to direct your time and energy in this class. The majority of students are quite proud of the work they do here.

There are drawbacks to this kind of learning. It is harder to coast. In project-based learning, completing an assignment poorly takes almost as much time as completing one successfully. For the same reason, i
t's harder to catch up if you fall behind. There's no way to last-minute cram for this class.

It can be either thrilling or disconcerting for so much of your work to be out in the open, under the scrutiny of other students and other professionals.

Finally: while the amount of work assigned in this class is really around average, it will feel like more if you don't have genuine enthusiasm for the topics and projects you choose. This will be especially the case in the second half of the term.

If you have concerns at any time, be sure to ask in class or, if it's more comfortable for you, arrange to see me privately. I can help!


Informal Writing, Discussion, Independent Reading, Digital Storytelling, and other forms of Participation. In preparation for (and during) some class discussions of homework reading, you will be expected to participate in informal online writing and other activities. This writing is just as important as more formal composition.

Research Hypertext Project. This will involve some form of research/information gathering (broadly construed).

Civic-engagement project: Tactical media projects on individual topics generated in class exercises. All topics require my advance approval. Will incorporate a 2000-word critical hyperessay (academic writing involving research), spread out over fifteen or more web pages. Must include other design elements encouraging or enabling civic engagement. The supported activity will be the use of web-published video in some form (public service announcement, interview, testimony, journalism, guerilla theater, dramatization, etc). But with my approval you can use some technology other than video to satisfy the engagement portion: social media, weblog, wiki, graphic display, web-delivered video, photography, sound, etc. There will be a revision stage leading to a printable (linear) version of the hyperessay.

Reflective hypertext essay. Reflect upon your learning in the class. In particular, analyze your tactical media project using several of the course readings as a lens.

FEEDBACK AND GRADING. Because this is a practicum, you should expect to have direct, personal feedback from me frequently during class meetings. In addition, we will have at least two required conferences outside of class time and I am always available for help and additional feedback. The Writing Center and Writing Program will have special lab hours designated for individual assistance.

Attendance, academic integrity, and disability accomodation.  Because of the participatory and hands-on nature of the learning you'll do in this class, I suggest that you miss no more than 2 classes, and arrive late no more than once. Unexcused attendence problems beyond these guidelines will be reflected by a reduction in your final grade (usually 1/2 to 1 1/2 letter grades); attendance issues affecting 4 sessions will usually result in a failing grade. Emory maintains a detailed policy on academic integrity that applies to this course. Students who experience a circumstance or condition that may affect their ability to complete assignments or otherwise satisfy course criteria are encouraged to meet with me to identify, discuss, and document any feasible instructional modifications or accommodations. You are encouraged to explore formal support for ability issues. Any other issues? Please email or drop by the office to talk.

Grading Philosophy. You’ll develop your class projects in multiple versions and have the freedom to do unlimited revision in response to feedback from me, other students and, possibly, from viewers of your projects online. At the end of the term, you’ll prepare a hypertext letter (a learning essay) linking to your web-published class work and discussing what you’ve learned. If you like, you can also send me an email proposing a final grade, based on assessment criteria we’ll develop over the course of the term. I'm always available to talk if you have questions about your grade and will always take time to help you figure out how to do as well as possible.  As long as your participation remains satisfactory, extra credit is usually available.  

My approach to grading is holistic: I prefer to take all of the assignments together, including participation, and consider the context of your personal goals for the class, your growth as a writer and, especially, your self-assessment. Essentially what happens is that during our required consultations, I ask you: What grade are you shooting for in this course? And then I tell you what you need to do to get there.

There are many good things about this approach: most people feel that it’s fair and they appreciate that it’s individualized, and they usually appreciate that I take their opinions seriously.  Most people also feel that it helps to keep the focus on research and writing.  On the negative side, we sometimes prefer what feels like the clarity, simplicity, and familiarity of a universal grading rubric that focuses on the results of your efforts:  (“A C paper fulfills the assignment, but lacks sophistication,” etc). 

My way of handling that is to ask you to develop a set of goals for yourself and to describe the way those goals connect to the sort of grading possibilities you envision for yourself.  You’ll share those goals and ideas with others and with me, and those exchanges may motivate you to revise your goals. Eventually that statement will be part of your portfolio: your concluding letter will reflect on the work you’ve done and on your goals.  

While I retain full responsibility for assessing your final grade, I take your assessments and grade proposals seriously. In most cases where there appears the possibility of a substantially different assessment, or in cases where you feel that you haven’t been meeting your goals for a variety of reasons, you can request (or I may suggest) extra credit activities.




Your sites in progress: Kirk Gulezian Joey Benevento Jenny Zhou Chang Meng Laura Flint Natalie Sterrett Yin Guo Saher Fatteh Meg Airey Vivie Lee Jiny Lee Yuchen Zhang Paloma Bloch Philip Maghen Ean Kitchens Grace Kim Arkin Agarwal

Websites from this course last term: Katrina Peed Izzy Kornman Virginia Spinks Sheena Desai Helen Zehan Hou Sam Nichamin Aaron Levey Nick Lal Joseph North Cody Perez Chelsea Walton Gideon Weiss Ajay Harish

Sample work by former students: Kelli Ryan, Claire Batty, Aldo Atienza, Vanessa Casalegno, Judith Martinez, and Charlotte West

English 212W: Melodrama in Culture and Politics

Melodrama is the dominant art form of modern, industrialized democracies. In any given year since cinema was invented, most of the top-grossing film and game genres are melodramas, continuing themes established on the 19th-century stage. Melodrama significantly influences nearly all forms of contemporary 21st-century public discourse, including both journalism and political speech. Originating as an iconography of democratic revolution--good workers, evil aristocrats--melodrama has been adapted to the propaganda of left, right, and middle. We'll look at classic examples of melodrama on stage and screen, consider the use and abuse of melodramatic rhetoric, and examine the way melodrama operates pervasively throughout contemporary global culture as an organizing mode of thought.

Books you must buy in traditional paper format:
Linda Williams, Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black and White from Uncle Tom to O. J. Simpson
Francesca Polletta, Passionate Politics: Emotions and Social Movements
Chris Bachelder, US! (out of print; please buy now used online)
Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun: The Unfilmed Original Screenplay

Further Reading (texts that I'll mention in class or circulate selections from as PDF files)

Ken Knabb, Situationist International Anthology
Suzan-Lori Parks, The America Play and Other Works
Langston Hughes, The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes (Vintage Classics)
Amiri Baraka, The LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader (Basic Books)
Richard Wright, Uncle Tom's Children
Clifford Odets, Waiting for Lefty and Other Plays (Grove Press)
Upton Sinclair, The Jungle: The Uncensored Original Edition (See Sharp Press)Jack London, any edition of The Iron Heel

Many useful items are on reserve in Woodruff Library including:

Bruce McConachie, Melodramatic Formations: American Theatre and Society, 1820-1870
Peter Brooks, The melodramatic imagination: Balzac, Henry James, melodrama, and the mode of excess.
Megan Sanborn Jones, Performing American identity in anti-Mormon melodrama.
Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, The many-headed hydra : sailors, slaves, commoners, and the hidden history of the revolutionary Atlantic.
Marcia Landy, ed. Imitations of life : a reader on film & television melodrama. 
Jackie Byars, All that Hollywood allows : re-reading gender in 1950s melodrama.
Michael Hays and Anastasia Nikolopoulou. Melodrama : the cultural emergence of a genre.
E. Ann Kaplan, Motherhood and representation : the mother in popular culture and melodrama.
David Grimsted, Melodrama Unveiled: American Theater and Culture, 1800-1850.
Daniel Gerould, American Melodrama.
Barbara Klinger, Melodrama and meaning : history, culture, and the films of Douglas Sirk.
Susan Gillman, Blood talk : American race melodrama and the culture of the occult.

This course fulfills Emory’s Continuing Writing requirement and adheres to the CWPA framework for postsecondary writing. It also participates in the Domain of One’s Own initiative. As part of the Domain of One’s Own project you will author and administer a personal website and compose with a variety of digital tools. However, no technological expertise is required to do well in this course. There are three tiers of support for your digital publication. The first tier is the Writing Center, where every tutor has been specially trained in supporting digital publication. The second tier of support is the Writing Program staff coordinator, who can answer nearly any question that stumps a tutor. The program coordinator's efforts are fully backstopped by the technical support of the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship. The coordinator will refer you to appropriate support at ECDS if he cannot help.

The main thing to understand is that you will write frequently; you will digitally publish much of this writing and have the chance to revise what you publish. Occasionally you will wish to write on a topic in a way that is uncomfortable or inappropriate for you to publish. I will work with you to find a way to write publishably on that topic or, when necessary, accept unpublished work.

Once you have completed the course, the site you built is yours to continue to develop into a personal cyberinfastructure that may include, but is not limited to, course projects, a professional portfolio, resume/CV documents, social media feeds, and blogs. I've been teaching with digital publication since 1998. In my archives you can see excellent student work by some students. However, since--unlike this class--that work was housed on university servers, it has been mostly wiped out after a few years. Because we are not using university servers, your work, on the other hand, will remain live as long as you wish.

What is Domain of One's Own? (slideshare)
Domain documentation

This schedule is a draft and because we do project-based learning, it is often necessary to make minor changes. This online syllabus will always be up to date. Readings are usually listed on the day they are discussed. In general, small assignments posted to the course blog are expected to contain 250 words of your own writing. Additionally: It is highly desirable that in addition to your own words you quote and respond widely from required & optional course texts as well as other students--doing so is part of the high level of engagement associated with doing well in this course.

Part 1 Introduction

Thu Aug 28 NO CLASS. If you haven't already, please join the course blog and carefully read through the syllabus, clicking on the links in the "what to expect" column at the left. For homework, please view the following clips: selections from Rocky and Bulwinkle, Dudley-Do-Right, and two silent films. On the course blog write at least 250 words describing some of the ways that the cartoons intentionally resemble the film clips. Bonus: Describe some of the ways the cartoons and film clips seem to resemble stage plays. *You have to get a Google account to join the blog. If you have trouble joining the blog, no worries; just email me your response and we'll post it later.

Tu Sept 2 Welcome & discussion: melodrama vs realism, naturalism, modernism, and sentiment.

Th Sept 4 Discuss Bousquet, Harry Potter, the 'War on Evil,' and the Melodramatization of Public Culture

No later than noon on the Wednesday before class: Use the course blog to quote a few lines of a Harry Potter novel or other cultural artifact that seem melodramatic to you. Explain what makes the passage melodrama. Can you describe the meaning of the passage in a non-melodramatic way? Or does the meaning of the passage depend on melodramatic rhetoric?

Part 2 Melodrama: Good or Bad?

Tu Sep 9 Discuss Ben Singer, “Melodrama and the Consequences of Capitalism,” (on 3-hour reserve), plus read the Communist manifesto:

No later than noon on the Monday before class: Use the course blog to identify elements of the Manifesto that seem melodramatic to you. Explain your reasoning.

Th Sep 11 Perform and discuss Dion Boucicault, The Poor of New York and J.S. Jones, The People's Lawyer. In assigned groups out of class, do selective staged readings of the plays. Use the course blog to identify two or three very short passages (5 minutes total performance) that your group might perform in the class. You do not have to memorize the lines, but you should make time to rehearse. Try to focus on scenes that allow you to critique or celebrate melodrama. Explain your choices. Several performances will take place in class.

Tu Sept 16 Discuss Linda Williams Ch 1 “The American Melodramatic Mode” and Chapter 3,“Anti-Tom and Birth of a Nation” Also screen Walt Disney, Mickey’s Mellerdrammer (1933, 8 mins). By Monday noon: Publish three questions about Disney, Williams or any of the texts she discusses to our class blog. Before class: Try to research and answer three questions from other students. You may not answer questions that others have answered, unless you disagree significantly and you are prepared to prove your position.

Th Sept 18 Discuss Birth of a Nation. Screen yourself with at least one and at most two classmates, using the Internet Archive or a dvd. Keep an individual diary of your reactions to the film, illustrating the diary with screenshots, using a program such as Storify. Your diaries should be individual but it is desirable that they be in dialogue with co-watcher's reactions. You may share the screenshots. Publish a link to the first-draft effort on the course blog.

Tu Sept 23. Discussion of annotated bibliographies and literature review. Revise your Storify analysis to include a brief 8-item representative literature review that relates real-world contemporary issues raised by melodrama & the film. Include at least five items from our course reserve.

Th Sept 25. Workshop. Revise your Storify analysis to include references to other students' analysis and course texts, both assigned and on reserve.

Part 3 Naming the Enemy

Tu Sept 30. Discuss Elisabeth Anker, Villains, victims and heroes : Melodrama, media, and September 11 and chapter 7 of Williams, “Trials of Black and White.” For Thursday's class: Use presentation software such as Powerpoint or Prezi to present the following in thoughtful context: a) Two examples of media stories that are completely unrelated to 9/11 or similar themes that seem to you to confirm Anker’s views; b) Two stories that Williams helps you to analyze; c) Two stories or issues where you think a melodramatic approach to journalism might be justified (again, avoiding 9/11 related themes). Share your presentation via a link on the course blog by 6am Thursday.

Th Oct 2 Selected presentations. Develop a topic from your Storify and Powerpoint analysis and create a 2000-word linear paper analysing a core real-world problem addressed by melodrama and the film, including a 500-word lit review and formal bibliography. Publish the papers to the course blog by Monday noon.

Tu Oct 7 Discussion of website creation. (Begin reading The Jungle) We will be using Weebly for sitebuilding. It is up to you whether you pay to register a domain name or use a free Weebly "subdomain" (which puts Weebly badges on your pages and adds to all of your pages). You can convert from free to paid at any time.

In essence, at this time you will be building two websites: a home or hub site, and one project site. The home or hub site will usually have at least three pages: home, coursework, and about me. The project site will have a different look. At this time the project site will have two pages, home and manifesto (see homework below). You will eventually create more pages for this site and other project sites. Typically different project sites will have different looks or visual themes, reflecting the different content and aims. The home and about me pages will have content of your choosing. The coursework page should be formatted like my model page, with links to all of the work you've done in this class. On your coursework page and the home page for any project site for this class, you should have three informational links: to the Domain of One's own slideshare, to this syllabus and my real home page (, not the weebly version).

Thu Oct 9 Website workshop

Oct 13-14 Emory Fall Break

Th Oct 16 Discuss Langston Hughes, “Good Morning, Revolution,” “White Man,” “Our Spring,” “Song of the Revolution,” “Revolution,” “Johannesburg Mines,” “Black Workers,” “Cubes,” “Poet to Patron,” “Advertisement for the Waldorf Astoria,", “Air Raid over Harlem: Scenario for a Black Movie," “Goodbye, Christ." Before class: On your website, publish a manifesto describing a contemporary issue that you think should be written about with this level of passion and commitment. Be careful to choose an issue that you are willing to spend significant time researching. Use hyperlinks to external sites to illustrate your manifesto. Extra credit: Write a poem (or make a digital artifact) imitating or engaging one of the selections and publish it to your website. Annotate your poem or artifact with internal links.

Tu Oct 21 At home: screen Sergei Eisenstein, The Battleship Potemkin and keep a diary as you watch that imagines the resolution of your contemporary issue in terms that somehow relate to the film. Who are the agents of change? What obstacles do they face? Who benefits from the status quo? Create a digital story of this diary with screenshots from the film or a Bitstrips comic, Voki, Goanimate or Animoto video sketch for a film you are imagining. Publish your creation to your website and add a link to the course blog before 6am Thursday.

Th Oct 23 Discussion of film. Introduction to research hypertext assignment and topic selection. Class discussion of the ethics of working with human subjects (journalistic values vs institional research protocols, eg)

Tu Oct 26: NO CLASS (lecture at Colgate). Read the Introduction and two other chapters of Passionate Politics. Revise your manifesto into a proposal for a research hypertext, citing your reading extensively. Include a clear proposal for an original research contribution, such as gathering material from social media, interviewing or surveying human subjects, etc.

Th Oct 30: Review manifestos and begin discussion of first 1/4 of Chris Bachelder, US! (If you have never read an Upton Sinclair novel, such as The Jungle, Oil! or King Coal, please spend 30 minutes skimming one at a free e-library.)

Tu Nov 4. Finish discussion Chris Bachelder, US! Before Monday noon: Publish a 500-word discussion of the relationship between Bachelder's novel and Upton Sinclair, and of each text to melodrama.

Th Nov 6. Perform short selections of Suzan-Lori Parks, The America Play and Raisin in the Sun. Annotated bibliography due.

Part 4 Melodramatic Art and Social Action

Tu Nov 11 NO CLASS (lecture at KSU). Literature review due in the form of a Bitstrips comic.

Th Nov 13 Discuss V for Vendetta. Six pages of research hypertext due; workshop.

Tu Nov 18 Complete research hypertext due; workshop & required conference.

Th Nov 20 Discuss Situationist International Anthology, selections. In class: Preparing for tactical media project: brainstorming, review issues with human subjects and use of a release form. View in class: Public Option Annie, together with examples of network coverage and related websites, both satirical and sincere, exploring the relationship between play, culture, and serious purpose. Special focus: the YesMen.

Also: selections from Agit-Pop, Tactical Media Files, Critical Art Ensemble, The Contagious Festival, Political Remix Video, the Bitfilm Politicool Awards, and Indymedia US, YesMen, Adbusters, smartmeme, memefest, rebelart, Total Recut, Republicorp and Brave New Films. Of possible interest for technique: School of Life continuing ed video style.

Tu Nov 25 Proposal for social-action YouTube video (or other tactical media with permission) due on blog before Monday noon. Workshop and introduction to scriptwriting resources.


Tu Dec 2 Shooting scripts and storyboards due

Th Dec 4 Production day/voluntary conferences

Tu Dec 9 Last class, screenings.

Tu Dec 16 Extended office hours: 2pm forward.

Th Dec 18 midnight: Digital Portfolios due, including revised research hypertext, tactical media project with printable white paper, and reflective learning essay.

The Emory Writing Center is located in Callaway N-212. It offers 45-minute individual conferences to Emory College and Laney Graduate School students. EWC tutors can talk with you about your purpose, organization, audience, design choices, or use of sources. They can also work with you on sentence-level concerns (including grammar and word choice), but they won’t proofread for you. Instead, they’ll discuss strategies and resources you can use to become a better editor of your own work. They encourage writers to schedule appointments in advance and encourage you to bring a laptop if you're working on a digital or multi-modal text.

Multilingual students are a tremendous asset to any classroom, bringing a wealth of knowledge, culture and perspective to their peers. If you speak more than one language, please feel encouraged to develop research projects in a language other than English. Multilingual students who consider themselves English learners have substantial support for English-language communication of all types through ESL Services, including free one-on-one tutoring.

Electronic Devices will commonly be part of the learning experience in this class. However, using a device for activities unrelated to the learning experience commonly distracts you, your neighbors, and me. It's often perceived as disrespectful by others. In many cases the quality of learning suffers. Acceptable technology use policies are a matter of everyone's wellbeing, not individual choice. To secure the integrity of the learning environment, I've adapted some policy language developed by the CU School of Education and other sources. These policies apply to but are not limited to: cell phones, tablets, voice recorders, cameras and laptops.

1) All electronic devices must be turned off until there is explicit direction to use them for learning activities. Notes should be taken on paper and digitally transferred at another time.

2) You may not record the voice or image of any member of the class without their explicit permission, including the instructor and guest speakers.

3) Students with disabilities or exceptional needs, who require electronic or assistive devices for their day-to-day functioning in the academic setting, may coordinate the use of electronics during class sessions with me.

4) Students using any electronic device in class for an activity not related to the learning experience, or without my permission, will receive a verbal warning on the first occasion. If a second occasion occurs, I'll email you a written warning, indicating that this activity affects my assessment of your participation in the class and will affect your final grade. A third event will result in an invitation to withdraw and/or additional serious penalties to your final grade.

5) In the event you face an urgent situation and expect emergency contact, please discuss the situation with me before class. We'll arrange for you to leave the class session in response to a silent notification on your cell phone.








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