Category Archives: Movies

Ted’s Movie List for 2012

Since the early 1990s, I’ve been rating every movie I see according to the DTMTBD system: how it compares to Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead. DTMTBD  is my movie equivalent of what sports statheads call a “replacement-level player” – what you could expect to pick up off the waiver wire if your starter went down.

Best Movies of the Year

  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Magic Mike
  • Chronicle

Much Better than Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead

  • The Hunger Games
  • Cloud Atlas
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • The Queen of Versailles
  • Haywire
  • Life of Pi
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Wreck-It Ralph

Better than Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead

  • Snow White and the Huntsman
  • Wanderlust
  • Ted
  • The Secret World of Arietty
  • Pitch Perfect
  • Django Unchained
  • Argo
  • Looper
  • The Man with the Iron Fists
  • The Five-Year Engagement
  • 21 Jump Street
  • Friends with Kids
  • The Campaign
  • Men in Black III

About as Good as Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead

  • Rock of Ages
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • The Avengers
  • Brave
  • Skyfall
  • The Dark Knight Rises
  • Prometheus

Worse than Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead

  • Celeste and Jesse Forever
  • Bachelorette

Convergence Culture, Fall 2012

Senior Seminar: Convergence Culture
Film 4910, Fall 2012
Section 4910-005: Tuesdays & Thursdays 11:00-12:15, Sparks 305
Section 4910-010: Tuesdays & Thursdays 2:30-3:45, Sparks 329

Ted Friedman
Office: 738 One Park Place South
Email: ted@tedfriedman.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/tedfriedman
Website: https://tedfriedman.com/teaching

Course Description
Media today are converging, as the boundaries that divide movies, TV, games, phones and the web blur. Likewise, the familiar categories of producer and consumer intermingle in Web 2.0 practices such as blogging, vidding, modding and tweeting. This senior seminar will examine the shifting roles of creators and audiences across a range of media practices, culminating in a capstone project that represents your own engagement with the changing media landscape.

Readings
Three books are required for the class:
Marcus Boon, In Praise of Copying (Harvard UP, 2010).
Bill Wasik, And Then There’s This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture (Penguin, 2009).
Laurence Lessig: Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy (Penguin, 2008).
In Praise of Copying can be downloaded for free at http://www.hup.harvard.edu/features/boon/. Remix can be read for free online at http://www.scribd.com/doc/47089238/Remix. And Then There’s This can be purchased online from http://amazon.com, http://bn.com, or http://powells.com, or ordered from the campus bookstore. Other assigned readings are available online at the URLs listed below. Supplementary links to media news and criticism will be distributed via the class Twitter hashtag #sensem.

Capstone Project
This seminar is structured to support the creation of an individual project (research or creative) addressing some aspect of authorship, audiences, and/or convergence.  This project may either be a research paper (10-15 pages), a website (15-20 pages), a fiction/nonfiction video (5-10 minutes), a comic book (24 pages), or a game (a board game with cards and rules, or a computer game), depending on your preference and previous technical experience. (Students will not receive technical training in the details of video production or multimedia development as part of this class. Support is available through the GSU Digital Aquarium, http://www.gsu.edu/aquarium/.)  The final submitted project will be the culmination of a series of assignments, as described below.

Critical Thinking through Writing
This course is a designated Critical Thinking through Writing (CTW) course. It is designed as the capstone course for students majoring in Film/Media. In film/media studies, “critical thinking” is defined as identifying, analyzing, and evaluating arguments and truth claims, then formulating and presenting convincing reasons in support of conclusions.  “Writing” refers to the skill of writing clear, well-organized, and grammatically correct English prose. The emphasis throughout the process of creating the capstone project will be on ensuring that your project achieves your rhetorical ends. All students, whether they write a paper or do a more “creative” project, must clearly articulate those rhetorical strategies in writing and will revise those strategies based on feedback. In addition, students will demonstrate their ability to think critically in discussing their peers’ work, evaluating each individual project’s structure and its persuasive impact.

Schedule

Introducing Convergence Culture

8/21    Introduction
    In-class screening: Star Wars fan films    

8/23    Read Henry Jenkins, “Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars? Digital Cinema,
    Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture”
    http://web.mit.edu/cms/People/henry3/starwars.html
    In-class screening: Barbie Nation

The Culture of the Copy

8/28    Read Marcus Boon, In Praise of Copying, Introduction, Chapter 1
    In-class screening: Rip! A Remix Manifesto
    
8/30     Read Boon, Chapters 2-3

9/4    Read Boon, Chapters 4-6
    In-class screening: Exit through the Gift Shop
    Project Proposal due

9/6    Read Boon, Chapter 7, Conclusion

Memetics

9/11     Read Bill Wasik, And Then There’s This, Introduction, Chapter 1
    In-class screening: memes

9/13    Read Wasik, Chapter 2

9/18    Read Wasik, Chapters 3-4
    Project Structure draft due

9/20    Read Wasik, Chapter 5, Conclusion

Source/Influence Presentations

9/25    Source/Influence Presentations

9/27    Source/Influence Presentations

10/2    Source/Influence Presentations
    Project Structure final draft due

10/4    Source/Influence Presentations

10/9    Source/Influence Presentations

Proposal Workshops

10/11    Proposal Workshops

10/16    Proposal Workshops

10/18    Proposal Workshops

10/23    Proposal Workshops

10/25    Proposal Workshops

10/30    Proposal Workshops

Remix Culture

11/1    Read Laurence Lessig, Remix, Part 1
    In-class screening: PressPausePlay

11/6    Read Lessig, Part 2

11/8    Read Lessig, Part 3

Final Project Presentations

11/13    Final Project Presentations

11/15    Final Project Presentations

11/27    Final Project Presentations

11/29    Final Project Presentations

Final project due December 6

Assignments

The class assignments add up to total of 100 possible points. Your final grade for the class is determined by adding up your grades for each assignment, adjusting for attendance, then applying the final number to the following scale:

A     100-93        B+    89-88        C+    79-78        D    70-65
A-    92-90        B    87-83        C    77-73        F    64-0
            B-    82-80        C-    72-70
                        
Project Proposal – 10 points
Write a 2-3 page proposal.  Students creating research papers, nonfiction videos, or websites will detail the questions to be investigated and the sources they will use (including bibliography).  Those creating fiction videos will present a story synopsis and a statement of their project’s intended meaning/purpose. The proposal is due in class on September 4.

Source/Influence Presentation – 10 points
Pick one or more texts that you expect to engage in your project. These may be sources you plan to write about, clips you plan to sample, or models for your own creative work. Present to the class (10-15 minutes) the background and context for the sources or influences, discussing how you plan to engage them in your own project. Presentations will be scheduled from September 25-October 9.

Project Structure – 30 points
Write a 6-10 page document including the following segments:

I. Outline or script: 3-5 pages, form depending on project. An essay project should include an expanded outline. A nonfiction video project should include a detailed segmentation breaking down scenes. A fiction video project or comic book should include a full script. A website project should include a site map.

II. Critical essay about the project: 3-5 pages. This paper should address three topics:
    – The goals for your project and how you plan to achieve them
    – How your project engages the ideas of the class, drawing on at least one of the assigned
        readings.
    – How you plan to engage the text or texts discussed in your Source/Influence
        Presentation

A rough draft of the Project Structure is due in class on September 18. After meetings to discuss revisions, the final version is due in class October 2.

Proposal Workshop – 10 points
Present your work in progress to the class. Workshops will be scheduled from October 11-30.

Final Project Presentation – 10 points
After incorporating the class’s feedback from the Proposal Workshop, you will present a final version to the class at the end of the semester, November 13-29.

Final Project – 30 points
After incorporating further class feedback and polishing any rough edges, the final version of the capstone project is due on December 6.

Attendance Adjustment
As Woody Allen put it, “80 percent of success is showing up.” It’s less than that in this formula, but the bottom line is that you can’t contribute to the class if you’re not there. You’re allowed one unexcused absence for the semester. After that, each unexcused absence subtracts one point from your grade total. Excused absences include medical and family emergencies. You will be expected to schedule any employment responsibilities around this class, or accept the consequences of missed classes on your grade. If you do need to miss a class, please contact me ahead of time, and make arrangements to catch up on missed material.

Policies

Late Assignments
Late assignments will be marked off by ½ point for every day overdue unless an extension is agreed upon before the due date. No work can be accepted after the deadline for the final project. Any unsubmitted work will receive a 0.

Withdrawals
Students withdrawing on or before the midsemester point will receive a W provided they are passing the course. Students who withdraw after the midsemester point will not be eligible for a W except in cases of hardship. If you withdraw after the midsemester point, you will be assigned a WF, except in those cases in which (1) hardship status is determined by the Office of the Dean of Students because of emergency, employment, or health reasons, and (2) you are passing the course.

Incompletes
Incompletes may be given only in special hardship cases. Incompletes will not be used merely for extending the time for completion of course requirements.

Changes to the Syllabus
This syllabus provides a general plan for the course. Deviations may be necessary.

Convergence Culture, Summer 2012

Film 4910, Summer 2012
Tuesdays & Thursdays 10:55-1:25, Classroom South 308

Ted Friedman
Office: 738 One Park Place South
Email: ted@tedfriedman.com     
Twitter: http://twitter.com/tedfriedman
Website: https://tedfriedman.com/teaching

Course Description
Media today are converging, as the boundaries that divide movies, TV, games, phones and the web blur. Likewise, the familiar categories of producer and consumer intermingle in Web 2.0 practices such as blogging, vidding, modding and tweeting. This senior seminar will examine the shifting roles of creators and audiences across a range of media practices, culminating in a capstone project that represents your own engagement with the changing media landscape.

Readings
Three books are required for the class:
Marcus Boon, In Praise of Copying (Harvard UP, 2010).
Bill Wasik, And Then There’s This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture (Penguin, 2009).
Laurence Lessig: Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy (Penguin, 2008).
In Praise of Copying can be downloaded for free at http://www.hup.harvard.edu/features/boon/. Remix can be read for free online at http://www.scribd.com/doc/47089238/Remix. And Then There’s This can be purchased from http://amazon.com, http//:bn.com, http://powells.com, and other retailers. Other assigned readings are available online at the URLs listed below. Supplementary links to media news and criticism will be distributed via the class Twitter hashtag #sensem.

Capstone Project
This seminar is structured to support the creation of an individual project (research or creative) addressing some aspect of authorship, audiences, and/or convergence.  This project may either be a research paper (10-15 pages), a website (15-20 pages), a fiction/nonfiction video (5-10 minutes), a comic book (24 pages) or a game (a board game with cards and rules, or a computer game) depending on your preference and previous technical experience. (Students will not receive technical training in the details of video production or multimedia development as part of this class. Support is available through the GSU Digital Aquarium, http://www.gsu.edu/aquarium/.)   The final submitted project will be the culmination of a series of assignments, as described below.

Critical Thinking through Writing
This course is a designated Critical Thinking through Writing (CTW) course. It is designed as the capstone course for students majoring in Film/Media. In film/media studies, “critical thinking” is defined as identifying, analyzing, and evaluating arguments and truth claims, then formulating and presenting convincing reasons in support of conclusions.  “Writing” refers to the skill of writing clear, well-organized, and grammatically correct English prose. The emphasis throughout the process of creating the capstone project will be on ensuring that your project achieves your rhetorical ends. All students, whether they write a paper or do a more “creative” project, must clearly articulate those rhetorical strategies in writing and will revise those strategies based on feedback. In addition, students will demonstrate their ability to think critically in discussing their peers’ work, evaluating each individual project’s structure and its persuasive impact.

Schedule

Introducing Convergence Culture

6/5    Introduction
    In-class screening: Barbie Nation

6/7    Read Henry Jenkins, “Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars? Digital Cinema,
    Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture”
    http://web.mit.edu/cms/People/henry3/starwars.html
    In-class screening: Star Wars fan films

The Culture of the Copy

6/12    Read Marcus Boon, In Praise of Copying, Introduction, Chapters 1-4
    In-class screening: Rip! A Remix Manifesto
    Project Proposal due

6/14    Read Boon, Chapter 5-7, Conclusion
    In-class screening: PressPausePlay

Memetics

6/19    Read Bill Wasik, And Then There’s This, Introduction, Chapters 1-2
    In-class screening: memes
    Project Structure draft due        

6/22     Read Wasik, Chapters 3-5, Conclusion
    In-class screening: memes
    

Source/Influence Presentations

6/26    Source/Influence Presentations
    Project Structure final draft due

6/28    Source/Influence Presentations

Proposal Workshops

7/3    Proposal Workshops

7/5    Proposal Workshops

Remix Culture

7/10    Read Laurence Lessig, Remix, Parts 1-2.
    In-class screening: Copyright Criminals

7/12    Read Lessig, Part 3.
    In-class screening: Exit through the Gift Shop

Final Project Presentations

7/17    Final Project Presentations

7/19    Final Project Presentations

Final project due July 26

Assignments

The class assignments add up to total of 100 possible points. Your final grade for the class is determined by adding up your grades for each assignment, adjusting for attendance, then applying the final number to the following scale:

A     100-93        B+    89-88        C+    79-78        D    70-65
A-    92-90        B    87-83        C    77-73        F    64-0
            B-    82-80        C-    72-70
                        
Project Proposal – 10 points
Write a 2-3 page proposal.  Students creating research papers, nonfiction videos, or websites will detail the questions to be investigated and the sources they will use (including bibliography).  Those creating fiction videos will present a story synopsis and a statement of their project’s intended meaning/purpose. The proposal is due in class on June 12.

Source/Influence Presentation – 10 points
Pick one or more texts that you expect to engage in your project. These may be sources you plan to write about, clips you plan to sample, or models for your own creative work. Present to the class (10-15 minutes) the background and context for the sources or influences, discussing how you plan to engage them in your own project. Source presentations will be June 26 and 28.

Project Structure – 30 points
Write a 6-10 page document including the following segments:

I. Outline or script: 3-5 pages, form depending on project. An essay project should include an expanded outline. A nonfiction video project should include a detailed segmentation breaking down scenes. A fiction video project or comic book should include a full script. A website project should include a site map.

II. Critical essay about the project: 3-5 pages. This paper should address three topics:
    – The goals for your project and how you plan to achieve them
    – How your project engages the ideas of the class, drawing on at least one of the assigned
        readings.
    – How you plan to engage the text or texts discussed in your source/influence
        presentation

A rough draft of the Project Structure is due in class on June 19. After meetings to discuss revisions, the final version is due in class June 26.

Proposal Workshop – 10 points
Present your work in progress to the class on July 3 or 5.

Final Project Presentation – 10 points
After incorporating the class’s feedback from the Proposal Workshop, you will present a final version to the class at the end of the semester, July 17 or 19.

Final Project – 30 points
After incorporating further class feedback and polishing any rough edges, the final version of the capstone project is due on July 26.

Attendance Adjustment
As Woody Allen put it, “80 percent of success is showing up.” It’s less than that in this formula, but the bottom line is that you can’t contribute to the class if you’re not there. You’re allowed one unexcused absence for the semester. After that, each unexcused absence subtracts one point from your grade total. Excused absences include medical and family emergencies. You will be expected to schedule any employment responsibilities around this class, or accept the consequences of missed classes on your grade. If you do need to miss a class, please contact me ahead of time, and make arrangements to catch up on missed material.

Policies

Late Assignments
Late assignments will be marked off by ½ point for every day overdue unless an extension is agreed upon before the due date. No work can be accepted after the deadline for the final project. Any unsubmitted work will receive a 0.

Withdrawals
Students withdrawing on or before the midsemester point will receive a W provided they are passing the course. Students who withdraw after the midsemester point will not be eligible for a W except in cases of hardship. If you withdraw after the midsemester point, you will be assigned a WF, except in those cases in which (1) hardship status is determined by the Office of the Dean of Students because of emergency, employment, or health reasons, and (2) you are passing the course.

Incompletes
Incompletes may be given only in special hardship cases. Incompletes will not be used merely for extending the time for completion of course requirements.

Changes to the Syllabus
This syllabus provides a general plan for the course. Deviations may be necessary.

Media and Cultural Studies, Spring 2012

COMM 6160/8690, Spring 2012
Thursdays 4:30-7:00 PM, Sparks 321

Ted Friedman
Office: 738 One Park Place South
ted@tedfriedman.com
http://twitter.com/tedfriedman
http://tedfriedman.com

Course Description
What are the political dimensions of popular culture? How does culture reflect, influence, and embody structures of power? Where does hegemony end and resistance begin? This class will engage the interdisciplinary field of Cultural Studies, which attempts to understand the relationship between culture and politics. We’ll be reading both founding theoretical texts and cutting-edge scholarship. We’ll address a range of media, from film and television to music, computer games and romance novels. We’ll look at multiple, intersecting structures of power, including class, nation, gender, and race.

Readings
Class readings will include books and a coursepack of articles. Here are the books you’ll need:

Graeme Turner, British Cultural Studies: An Introduction
Janice Radway, Reading the Romance
One romance novel of your choice
Susan Douglas, The Rise of Enlightened Sexism
Jodi Dean, Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies
Stephen Duncombe, Dream: Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy
Jane McGonigal, Reality Is Broken
Bruno Latour, On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods
Janice Hocker Rushing and Thomas Frentz, Projecting the Shadow
Jeffrey Kripal, Mutants and Mystics

Most course books should be available at the GSU bookstores. They can also be ordered through online retailers such as amazon.com/student, bn.com, and powells.com. The coursepack is sold by Bestway Copy Center, 18 Decatur Street SE (on the first floor of One Park Place South).

Podcasts, Screenings and Activities
In addition to readings, some weeks’ assignments will include listening to podcasts, screening films and TV shows, and visiting locations around Atlanta.

Twitter Feed
Relevant news and commentary will be shared with the class via the Twitter hashtag #cultstud. Feel free to respond to tweets or post your own.
Schedule

1/12    The Politics of Culture
In-class screening: Barbie Nation

1/19    Culture and Power
Graeme Tuner, British Cultural Studies: An Introduction: Introduction, Chapter 1
Karl Marx, excerpts from The German Ideology
http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch01a.htm;
http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch01b.htm
Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment
as Mass Deception”
http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/DATABASES/SWA/Some_writings_of_Adorno.shtml
Walter Benjamin, “On the Concept of History”
http://www.sfu.ca/~andrewf/CONCEPT2.html
Watch or listen to Reading Marx’s Capital with David Harvey, Class 1: “Introduction”
http://davidharvey.org/2008/06/marxs-capital-class-01/
Watch or listen to Paul Fry’s Literary Theory, Class 17: “The Frankfurt School of
Critical Theory”
http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/17-the-frankfurt-school-critical/id341652579?i=63753382

1/26    Hegemony and Resistance
Turner, Chapters 2-7, Conclusion
Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses”
http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/althusser/1970/ideology.htm
Antonio Gramsci, “Hegemony, Intellectuals and the State” (CP)
Stuart Hall, “Encoding/Decoding” (CP)

2/2    Cynicism and Utopia
Slavoj Zizek, excerpt from The Sublime Object of Ideology (CP)
Fredric Jameson, “Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture,” (CP)
Thomas Frank, “New Consensus for Old” (CP)
Richard Dyer, “Entertainment and Utopia” (CP)
Ted Friedman, “Introduction,” Electric Dreams
http://www.tedfriedman.com/electricdreams/2005/02/introduction.php
Michael Berube, “What’s the Matter with Cultural Studies,”
http://chronicle.com/article/Whats-the-Matter-With/48334/
Watch or listen to Paul Fry’s Literary Theory, Class 18: “The Political Unconscious”
http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/18-the-political-unconscious/id341652579?i=63753375

2/9    Audience and Gender
Janice Radway, Reading the Romance
Go to a bookstore, buy a romance novel, and read it.

2/16    Postfeminisms
Susan Douglas, The Rise of Enlighted Sexism

2/23    Communicative Capitalism
Jodi Dean, Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies

3/1    No class – spring break

3/8    Fantasy
Stephen Duncombe, Dream: Re-imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy

3/15    Play
Jane McGonigal, Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They
Can Change the World

3/22    Science
Bruno Latour, On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods

3/29    Myth
Janice Hocker Rushing & Thomas S. Frentz, Projecting the Shadow: The Cyborg Hero
in American Film
Watch Blade Runner

4/5    Mysticism
Jeffrey Kripal, Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics,
and the Paranormal

4/12    Research Presentations
No reading

4/19    Research Presentations/Party
No reading

Assignments

The class assignments add up to total of 100 possible points. Your final grade for the class is determined by adding up your grades for each assignment, adjusting for attendance, then applying the final number to the following scale:

A+    100-98        B+    89-88        C+    79-78        D    69-65
A     97-93        B    87-83        C    77-70        F    64-0
A-    92-90        B-    82-80

I. Theorist Discussion – Comm 6160: 15% of final grade; Comm 8690: 10% of final grade
You will lead, with a group, a 30-45 minute discussion of one of the theorists covered in the opening weeks of class. One group member should present a brief (5 minute) biographical introduction, incorporating video clips of the author if available. Each other member should introduce a contemporary media example and suggest how the author’s ideas could be applied to the text. Note: it is not necessary to summarize the reading beyond a brief 1-2 sentence statement of its key arguments. Further exegesis will be developed in lecture and class discussion. The choice of theorists includes: Adorno, Benjamin, Althusser, Gramsci, Hall, Zizek, Jameson and Frank.

II. Book Discussion – 6160: 25% of final grade; 8690: 20% of final grade
You will lead, with a group, discussion of one assigned book. To prepare for the discussion of the reading, research these questions to put the reading in a broader context:

What is the author’s background? What discipline is the author trained in? What else has s/he written? In which journals has s/he published?

What was the reception of the book? How was the book reviewed? What criticisms have been made of the author’s work? How has the author responded? Whom has the author influenced?

Then, meet with your group to prepare for a class discussion. Don’t bother summarizing the work. Rather, concentrate on how the work relates to the key questions we’ll be asking all semester. In addition to the research topics, other subjects for discussion should include:

Methodology: What research methods does the author use? (Possibilities include textual analysis, ethnography, historical research, quantitative social science, etc.) How does the author approach and justify this methodology? What are the advantages and limitations of this methodology?

Theoretical debates: In what theoretical debates does the work intervene? Where does the author stand? Whom does the author criticize? How does this work move the debate forward?

Example of Analysis: Pick one media example that’s either directly addressed by the author, or that can be illuminated by applying the author’s ideas. Show a representative sample from the text (any clip should be no more than 5 minutes). Discuss how the author would (or does) interpret the example. What are the strengths and limitations of this interpretation? What alternate interpretations are possible?

(You don’t need to organize your discussion in the order listed above. It may help to present the example up front, to ground your discussion of methodology and theory. It’s often also a good icebreaker to begin discussion by going around the room, asking everybody to answer a specific question related to their response to the book.)

III. Outside reading presentation – 8690 only: 10% of grade
Doctoral students will read one additional book and give a short (10-15 minute) presentation on the work to the class, summarizing the book’s key arguments, the critical response to the book, and how its ideas relate to the themes of the course. A list of suggested readings will be distributed separately.

IV. Final Project – 50% of final grade
Option 1: Write a paper on a subject relating to the politics of popular culture. 6160: 12-15 pages. 8690: 18-25 pages. Doctoral work will be expected to meet a higher standard of theoretical sophistication.

Option 2: Produce a creative work which engages some of the ideas of the class. The project can be a short film, a screenplay, or a new media work. Along with the project, include a short paper relating your work to ideas from the class. 6160: 3-5 pages; 8690: 8-10 pages. Doctoral work will be expected to meet a higher standard of theoretical sophistication.

For either option, the deadlines are the same:
A one-page prospectus is due February 23. I will schedule individual meetings with you to discuss the prospectus.
You will give a short (10 minute) presentation of your research project on either April 12 or April 19.
The final project is due April 26.

V. Attendance Adjustment
As Woody Allen put it, “80 percent of success is showing up.” It’s less than that in this formula, but the bottom line is that you can’t contribute to the class if you’re not there. You’re allowed one unexcused absence for the semester. After that, each unexcused absence subtracts one point from your grade total. Excused absences include medical and family emergencies. You will be expected to schedule any employment responsibilities around this class, or accept the consequences of missed classes for your grade. If you do need to miss a class, please contact me ahead of time, and make arrangements to catch up on missed material.

Policies

Office Hours
Office hours are by appointment. I’m usually available to meet before and after every class.

Incompletes
Incompletes may be given only in special hardship cases. Incompletes will not be used merely for extending the time for completion of course requirements.

Assessment
Your constructive assessment of this course plays an indispensable role in shaping education at Georgia State. Upon completing the course, please take time to fill out the online course evaluation.

Disability
Students who wish to request accommodation for a disability may do so by registering with the Office of Disability Services. Students may only be accommodated upon issuance by the Office of Disability Services of a signed Accommodation Plan and are responsible for providing a copy of that plan to instructors of all classes in which accommodations are sought.

Changes to the Syllabus
This syllabus provides a general plan for the course. Deviations may be necessary.

Ted’s Top Movies of 2011

As longtime readers of my blog know, I rate every movie I see according to the DTMTBD scale: how it compares to Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, which I established twenty years ago as the baseline for all films. Better than Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter‘s Dead means the movie was a rewarding experience; worse means you wasted your time. About as good as means it all depends on the popcorn.

Top Ten
1 – Cave of Forgotten Dreams
2 – Rise of the Planet of the Apes
3 – War Horse
4 – Young Adult
5 – A Dangerous Method
6 – 50/50
7 – The Artist
8 – Attack the Block
9 – Source Code
10 – Fast Five

Better Than Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead

The Muppets
Tree of Life
The Descendants
Contagion
Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Drive
Tower Heist
Mission Impossible 4
Rango
Cedar Rapids
Hot Coffee
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II
Captain America
Horrible Bosses

About As Good As Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead
Moneyball
Crazy, Stupid Love
Bad Teacher
Adjustment Bureau
Thor
The Lincoln Lawyer
The Hangover 2
Our Idiot Brother
Hugo
Super 8

Worse Than Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead
Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows
Midnight in Paris

Marx, Jung & Yoda: The Dialectics of The Force

Here’s a talk about Star Wars and myth that I gave last month  at the Academy of Religious Studies conference in San Francisco. Feedback is welcome – I’m in the process of turning this into the introduction to my book, Centaur Manifesto.

I’m really thrilled to be here at the AAR conference. This is the first time I have been to a conference in religious studies, and I want to admit right off the bat that I’m not a trained scholar in religious studies. My own background is in cultural studies, new media, and critical theory. But I have found more and more that in trying to understand contemporary American culture, it’s impossible to ignore spiritual themes, and that the theoretical models of cultural studies really don’t offer a lot of space to think through questions of spirituality. There are some good and legitimate reasons for this. The Marxist and Freudian hermaneutics of suspicion have been incredibly valuable in uncovering the ideological underpinnings of religious discourses, along with all other discourses. But I’ve come to conclude that they’re not enough to tell the whole story.  I’ve come to this conference because I think a theological turn – or, in psychoanalytic terms, a Jungian turn – can help cultural studies develop a richer vocabulary to talk about the numinous. And at the same time, I do have some hope that some of the ideas that have come out of my own field might be of use to religious studies as well.

I’d like to begin by giving a little context for how I came to this topic. My first book, Electric Dreams, looked at the cultural history of personal computers, and what I argue is that cyberculture in the 1980s and 90s became what I call a utopian sphere: a space to imagine different visions of the future beyond the boundaries of late capitalist ideology. I was inspired by the work of Fredric Jameson, particularly his groundbreaking essay “Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture.” Jameson argues that for popular culture texts to capture the imaginations of large audiences, they must include at least glimpses of a better world. But capitalist ideology represses and recontains these utopian impulses, channelling them into consumerism, cynicism, and alienated individualism. For Jameson, the goal of the critic is to rescue and expand upon the utopian visions that have been buried within what he calls The Political Unconscious.

After finishing my first book a few years ago, I began to look more closely at the popular culture of this past decade, and was surprised by what I found. Electric Dreams argued that science fiction was the most influential genre of the 1980s and 1990s, helping to invent and make sense of the transmediated universe that we all live in now. But in this past decade, there’s been a cultural shift that has paralleled the growth of transmedia. These days, I’d argue that it’s the genre of fantasy that has been the most influential to our culture, producing the biggest blockbusters (Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings), the most popular gamespaces (World of Warcraft), and, to my mind, the most interesting genre authors

Fantasy works differently than science fiction. Science fiction speaks in the register of science and technology. But the central trope of fantasy is magic – a mystical force beyond the boundraries of Englightenment rationality. If science fiction celebrates logos, fantasy is the genre of mythos. As Arthur C. Clarke points out, any technology sufficiently advanced beyond our own is indistinguishable from magic. In this sense, all science fiction is part of the larger fantastical, mythological tradition. It’s just that the technological gloss of SF provides a cover of rationality over its magical, mystical core. Lately, that cover seems to be slipping. The rise of popular fantasy, I’d suggest, reflects what Christopher Partridge calls The Re-Enchantment of the West, in a play on Max Weber’s famous description of modernity as “The Dis-Enchantment of the World.” The desires underlying many fantasy texts, then, are not only the visions of a more just and egalitarian post-capitalist society that Jameson identifies, but also repressed visions of the spiritual – of mytical, gnostic experience.

Now, it may seem strange to describe spirituality as a repressed subtext in American popular culture. After all, the US remains one of the most religious societies in the world, an ongoing repudiation of the secularization thesis. But I’d suggest that the mystical, gnostic sensiblity of popular fantasy is not prominently represented in the American public sphere. This is the argument religious studies scholar Jeffrey Kripal makes in his fascinating new study of comic books, Mutants and Mystics. Furthermore, the core audience for these texts – the kinds of geeks and techies like myself who attend the San Diego Comic Con and play MMORPGs – are exactly those whose everyday worlds are most structured by the capitalist technocratic rationality of binary codes and spreadsheets. In this context, the mystical vision of fantasy represents what Jung would call a compensatory myth – not, as classical ideology theory would have it, because it mystifies and justifies capitalism, but rather because, like a recurring dream, it points to a psychological need that is not being met – a potential transformation of the self, and of society, that challenges the illusion of a stable, complete ego.

In other words, there is a spiritual impulse that is repressed in technocratic postmodern American culture. But that human need does not go away. The return of the repressed shows up in our shared fantasies. Jorge Louis Borges suggested that the theological is a part of the fantastical genre.  I’d like to suggest the converse: that we consider popular fantasy as a form of folk theology.

Another inspiriation for my work, and for much of transmedia studies in general, has been Donna Haraway’s hugely influential 1986 essay, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs.” Haraway turned to the figure of the cyborg to argue that it offered a way to reimagine the intersection between the human and the machine, between nature and technology. She saw the cyborg as a figure who could challenge the presumptions of many on the Left at the time who saw technology as the enemy. Instead, she suggested that films like Blade Runner offerred ways to imagine reappropriating technological tools to empower the disnenfranchised. Haraway’s ideas, controversial in their time, have become a kind of common sense today; I don’t think technophobia on the Left is nearly the problem it was when she was discussing it. Instead, just as science fiction was dismissed by most of Haraway’s peers in the 1980s as escapism, today it is fantasy that is often dismissed as reactionary nostalgia. In fact, both the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies first came out in the fall of 2001, shortly after 9/11, and many critics  argued that these films were so popular at this moment because they offer a safe, reassuring retreat into a fantasy world. I don’t think that’s completely wrong, but I don’t think it tells nearly the whole story. If in the 1980s what was needed was a cyborg manifesto, today what’s needed is what I call a centaur manifesto, a similar embrace of a liminal figure. The centaur is on the boundary between human and animal, between nature and culture, and even on the boundary between reality and fantasy, between the scientific world of everyday life and the fantastical world of mythology. Just as Haraway saw the cyborg as an inspiring figure to imagine how we could rework science fiction in new, more empowered ways, I think the centaur similarly can be that type of fantasy figure.

To flesh out the implications of this centaur manifesto, I’ll be turning now to a specific text. The movie I want to talk about might be a little surprising because at first glance we might presume it’s science fiction: Star Wars. Star Wars is on the precipice of science fiction and fantasy. It has spaceships and light sabers, but it’s also a story of a knight who rescues a princess. It begins like a fairy tale: “Long ago in a galaxy far, far away.” And most of all, it’s a world in which magic overcomes technology, as Luke turns off his computer and destroys the Death Star by trusting instead in the Force.

The formative religious experience of my childhood was Star Wars – certainly more so, I have to admit, than Hebrew School or my Bar Mitzvah. When Obi-Wan Kenobi told Luke, “The Force . . . is an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together,” I could feel The Force tingle in my own fingertips. More than once I attempted to move objects with only the power of my mind. They never moved, but I can’t say I was ever disappointed – I think something in me moved, as I recognized that my mind and the outside world in were in some ways part of an indivisible whole. Years later, I would rediscover the flavor of those experiences when I began meditating regularly.

The power of The Force, I think, has a lot to do with the endurance of the Star Wars mythos, over three decades past the release of the first film. Star Wars was one of the first transmedia blockbusters, spawning books, comics, videogames, lunchboxes, and most lucratively, toys. All of these spinoffs meant that watching the movie was only the beginning of the experience – kids like me could move on to tell our own stories, as we did for all the years between 198tk and 1999 when no new films were being made.

The Force is a fictional construction, but at the same time it is a very powerful model for thinking about the numinous in our lives. In fact, its very fictional nature may be part of what has made it so resonant and lasting. In Jungian terms, we could say that for Star Wars fans, The Force is an archetypal image rather than the archetype itself. While there are a few people who mark ‘Jedi’ under religion on their census forms, most people don’t explicitly believe in the theology of Star Wars. Rather, they find Star Wars a set of metaphors that can help them conceive of their own sense of the spiritual or the numinous without feeling constrained by the doctrines of traditional religions. In this sense, Star Wars is one example of what Paul Heelas and Linda Woodhead call The Spiritual Revolution, in which more and more Westerners define themselves as spiritual rather than religious.

So, how does cultural studies theorize texts like Star Wars? In Convergence Culture, Henry Jenkins’ agenda-setting work on transmedia, Jenkins recognizes the influence of Joseph Campbell’s ideas about myth not only on Star Wars, but on the many other screenplays that have been inspired by Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces. But Jenkins characterizes Campbell’s ideas in a very distinctive way. He writes: “Audience familiarity with this basic plot structure allows scriptwriters to skip over transitional or expository sequences, throwing us directly in the action.” In other words, Jenkins finds Campbell important as a structuralist who codified the generic expectations that make these heroic narratives easier to parse. But Jenkins passes over exactly what’s most important about myth to Campbell: the mystical. As Campbell put it: “Without the mystical, myth is just ideology.” For Campbell, as a Jungian, the hero’s journey is fundamentally about the descent into the unconscious to engage the numinous – what he calls “the mystery which is the ground of our being.”

So what would it mean to take the numinous more seriously in cultural studies? Is there a way to articulate spirituality within the set of ideas that have been so influential in cultural studies?

The circuit of culture is Paul du Gay’s very influential model of the five nodes through which every culural object passes. Where does the numinous fit in this model? Spirituality is certainly an aspect of personal identity. It’s also, as I’ve been arguing, a key theme of textual representation, even if remains as subtext. But I’d suggest the numinous – a vision of the transcendental – also informs the activities of production, consumption, and regulation. Another way to rework the circuit of culture is this:

[To come: image of a Mandala of Culture. Submissions welcome.]

Here is a Mandala of Culture, which transforms Du Gay’s two-dimentional circle into a three-dimensional sphere. It conceives of the numinous as the ground, the context in which all the circuit goes around. The numinous in itself is not directly accessible. In Jung’s terms, it is the realm of archetypes. It enters our world through the circuit of culture, where it becomes an object of representation, redefinition, and struggle. The circuit of culture is where archetype meets ideology.

I like Jung’s term “the numinous” because it locates the spiritual in the unconscious, the unrepresentable. We could also call this axis the sublime, or even Lacan’s Real – in some sense, I’d argue that all these terms are pointing to the same thing: that part of the humand experience beyond Enlightenment rationality.

[Note – this is the fuzziest, most speculative part of the talk. More to come in Centaur Manifesto.]

With this model in place, let’s turn back to Star Wars and ask how we might integrate the numinous into cultural studies. One place to start is to point out that Joseph Campbell was not George Lucas’s only guru. As I was doing research for this paper, I came across a series of fascinating talks by Alan Watts, who was a very influential popularizer of Zen Buddhism and Taoism in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. During the period that George Lucas was writing Star Wars, Watts lived in the Bay area, speaking often at places like the Esalen Institute and on his weekly public radio show. The vocal, physical, and philosphical resemblance between Watts and Alec Guinness’s portrayal of Obi-Wan Kenobi is so unmistakeable that many fans have concluded that Watts was “the real Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

In this context, then, we can see the Force not only as a generalized religious metaphor, but also more specifically as an example of the popular transmission of Eastern spiritual ideas to the West in the second half of the Twentieth Century. But Lucas’s Force is not quite the same thing as the Tao. In Taoism, the model of yin and yang reflects the interdependence and interpenetration of all things. Dark and light depend on and need each other. One cannot exist without the other, just as any figure depends on the negative space of its background. In George Lucas’s version of the Force, while the language of dark and light remains, it’s reincorporated into a much more Western, Manichean vision of absolute good and evil. There is the light side of Obi-Wan and Luke, and there is the dark side of Darth Vader and The Emperor. So while on the one hand George Lucas brought a Taoist vision to the United States, on the other hand, in the process he robbed it of much of what makes it distinctive, complex and resonant. For this, it’s been justly criticized for validating Ronald Reagan’s attack on the Soviet Union as an “Evil Empire” in the 1980s, and George W. Bush’s similar demonization of an “Axis of Evil” two decades later.

Having said that, however, if we then begin to think about Star Wars as a transmediated text, what is significant not only its original texual representation, but also its reappropriation and reworking by its audiences. If we think of the cultural studies model of an active audience negotiating and resisting dominant codes, then we can see George Lucas’s original vision of the Force as only a first step towards a more complex, collectively produced theological vision.

I work in downtown Atlanta. Just up the block once a year is the Dragon Con annual convention where science fiction and fantasy fans come from all over the world to dress up as their favorite characters. The most popular characters, by far, are the Star Wars Storm Troopers. Every year the Storm Troopers parade down Peachtree Street. This may seem surprising: why, we may wonder, would so many fans want to dress up, not as heroes like Luke Skywalker or Obi-Wan Kenobi, but instead as part of the forces of darkness? The answer, I think, is that for Star Wars fans, the metaphysics of Star Wars are more complex than it is in Lucas’s original formulation. The dark side represents not simply evil, but the shadow side of our own personalities – the attraction towards violence, aggression, and power that we repress in our daily lives. The play space of the Dragon Con convention and the Star Wars transmedia universe provides a safe, delineated way to engage with that shadow side. And in the process, to create a more complex moral vision: to embrace and show sympathy for the devil.

What Star Wars fans are doing is what we could call vernacular theology: challenging Lucas’s dilution of Alan Watts’s Taoist vision, returning it to a more complex model that has kept the power of the Force alive after 35 years.

Issues & Perspectives in Communication Theory, Fall 2011

Comm 6010, Fall 2011
Class: Tuesdays 4:30-7:00 PM, 1020 One Park Place South
Office: 738 One Park Place South
email: ted@tedfriedman.com
website: http://www.tedfriedman.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/tedfriedman

Course Description

Communication is a wide-ranging field encompassing the study of speech, journalism, film, television, video games, the internet, and every other medium through which people exchange information. Scholars bring an array of approaches to their work, from historical digging to quantitative data collection to ethnographic interviews to textual analysis. And they address a broad range of issues, from aesthetics to psychology to politics and beyond.

Communication is less a single discipline than an interdisciplinary meeting ground. At the same time, a series of key conversations runs across all these varied areas of study. This course is designed to help new Communication M.A. students get their bearings in this rich, complex field, as you begin your graduate study. It will introduce you to the ideas, arguments, and ongoing questions which organize our field.

Readings

The course-pack for this class is sold by Bestway Copy Center, 18 Decatur Street SE (on the first floor of One Park Place South).  Additional optional readings will be shared via the Twitter hashtag #commtheory.

Class Schedule

8/23    Introduction

8/30    Communication and Culture
James Carey, “A Cultural Approach to Communication,” Communication as Culture (London: Routledge, 1992): 13-36:
http://www3.niu.edu/acad/gunkel/coms465/carey.html
Clifford Geertz, “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight”:
http://hypergeertz.jku.at/HyperGeertz-1970-1979.htm
Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”:
http://godsaveprint.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/mechanicalrepro1.pdf
Ted Friedman, “Introduction,” Electric Dreams: Computers and American Culture (NYU, 2005): http://www.tedfriedman.com/electricdreams/2005/02/introduction.php

9/6    New Media
Henry Jenkins, “Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars? Digital Cinema, Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture”: http://web.mit.edu/cms/People/henry3/starwars.html
Chris Anderson, “The Long Tail,” Wired 12.10 (October 2004):
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html
Marcus Boon, “Introduction” and “What Is Copying?” In Praise of Copying (Harvard UP, 2010), 1-40: http://www.hup.harvard.edu/features/boon/
Ted Friedman, “The Rise of the Simulation Game,” Electric Dreams: Computers and American Culture (NYU, 20005): https://tedfriedman.com/electric-dreams/electric-dreams-chapter-six-the-rise-of-the-simulation-game/

9/13    Narrative and Genre
Walter R. Fisher, “Narrative as a Human Communication Paradigm: The Case of Public Moral Argument,” Communication Monographs 51 (1984): 1-23.
Hayden White, “The Question of Narrative in Contemporary Historical Theory,” The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987): 26-57.
Thomas Schatz, “Film Genre and the Genre Film,” Hollywood Genres: Formulas, Filmmaking, and the Studio System (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981): 14-41.

9/20    Semiotics
Kaja Silverman, “From Sign to Subject, A Short History,” The Subject of Semiotics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983): 3-53.
Jonathan Culler, “Saussure’s Theory of Language,” Ferdinand de Saussure, rev. ed. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986): 27-64.
Christian Metz, “Some Points in the Semiotics of the Cinema,” in Gerald Mast, Marshall Cohen, and Leo Braudy (eds.), Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, 4th ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 168-178.

9/27    Ideology
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “The Ruling Class and the Ruling Ideas,” in Durham and Kellner (eds.), Media and Cultural Studies: Key Works (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2001): 39-42.
Raymond WIlliams, “Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory,” in Durham and Kellner (eds.), Media and Cultural Studies: Key Works (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2001), 152-165.
Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception”:
http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/DATABASES/SWA/Some_writings_of_Adorno.shtml
Roland Barthes, “Myth Today,” Mythologies (New York: Hill and Wang, 1972), 109-159.

10/4    Hegemony and Resistance
Stuart Hall, “Encoding, Decoding,” in Simon During (ed.), The Cultural Studies Reader (New York: Routledge, 2007), 90-103.
Celeste Condit, “Hegemony in a Mass-Mediated Society: Condordance About Reproductive Technologies,” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 11 (1994): 205-230.
Dana Cloud, “Hegemony or Concordance? The Rhetoric of Tokenism in ‘Oprah’ Winfrey’s Rags-to-Riches Biography,” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 13 (1996): 115-137.
Celeste Condit, “Hegemony, Condordance and Capitalism: Reply to Cloud,” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 13 (1996): 382-384.
Dana Cloud, “Concordance, Complexity and Conservatism: Rejoinder to Condit,” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 14 (1997): 193-97.
Celeste Condit, “Clouding the Issues? The Ideal and the Material in Human Communication,” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 14 (1997): 197-200.
Research proposals due

10/11    The Public Sphere
Jurgen Habermas, “The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article,” in Durham and Kellner (eds.), Media and Cultural Studies: Key Works (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2001): 102-107.
Phaedra Pezzulo, “Resisting ‘National Breast Cancer Awareness Month’: The Rhetoric of Counterpublics and their Cultural Performances,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 89 (2003): 345-365
Bent Flyvbjerg, “Habermas and Foucault: Thinkers for Civil Society?” British Journal of Sociology 49.2 (June 1998): 210-233:
http://flyvbjerg.plan.aau.dk/CIVSOC5%200PRINTBJS.pdf

10/18    Psychoanalysis
Kaja Silverman, “The [Semiotic] Subject in Freud and Lacan,” The Subject of Semiotics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983), 126-193.
Barbara Creed, “Film and Psychoanalysis,” in John Hill and Pamela Gibson (eds.), The Oxford Guide to Film Studies (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 77-90.
Janice Hocker Rushing and Thomas S. Frentz, “Integrating Ideology and Archetype in Rhetorical Criticism,” The Quarterly Journal of Speech 77 (1991): 385-406.
Ted Friedman, “Jung and Lost,” Flow 9.12 (May 2009):
http://flowtv.org/2009/05/jung-and-lost-ted-friedman%C2%A0%C2%A0georgia-state-university-atlanta%C2%A0%C2%A0/

10/25    Gender
Ann Brooks, “Postfeminist Variations within Media and Film Theory,” Postfeminisms: Feminism, Cultural Theory and Cultural Forms (London: Routledge, 1997): 163-188.
Judith Butler, “Preface (1999)” and “Preface (1990),” Gender Trouble (New York: Routledge, 1999), vii-xxxiii.
Alexander Doty, “There’s Something Queer Here,” Making Things Perfectly Queer (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993): 1-16.

11/1    Race and National Identity
Michael Omi & Howard Winant, “Racial Formation,” Racial Formation in the United States (New York: Routledge, 1994): 53-76.
Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities chapters 1-3 (New York: Verso, 1983), 1-46.
Arjun Appadurai, “Disjunctures and Difference in the Global Cultual Economy,” Modernity at Large (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 27-47.

11/8    Postmodernity, Posthumanism and Transhumanism
Fredric Jameson, “The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism,” Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Duke UP, 1990), 1-52.
Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology , and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” Simians, Cyborgs and Women (Routledge, 1990), 149-181, 243-249.
David Abram, “The Ecology of Magic,” The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than Human World (Vintage, 1997):
http://www.primitivism.com/ecology-magic.htm
David Abram, “Language and the Ecology of Sensuous Experience: An Essay with an Unconstructive Footnote”: http://www.aislingmagazine.com/aislingmagazine/articles/TAM33/monotheism/DavidAbram.html
Ted Friedman, “The Politics of Magic,” Scope 14 (June 2009):
http://www.scope.nottingham.ac.uk/article.php?issue=14&id=1138
Ted Friedman, “Vertigo,” Flow 10.08 (September 19, 2009):
http://flowtv.org/2009/09/vertigoted-friedman-georgia-state-university/

11/15    No reading – research presentations begin

11/22    Thanksgiving Break – no class

11/29    No reading – research presentations continue/party at Ted’s house

Final papers due 12/6

Assignments

The class assignments add up to total of 100 possible points. Your final grade for the class is determined by adding up your grades for each assignment, adjusting for attendance, then applying the final number to the following scale:

A+    100-98        B+    89-88        C+    79-78        D    69-65
A     97-93        B    87-83        C    77-70        F    64-0
A-    92-90        B-    82-80

I. Co-lead discussions of three readings– 15% of final grade for each reading (45% total)
You will sign up to co-lead discussions of three readings over the course of the semester. The discussion of each reading will be co-led by two students. One leader is responsible for presenting background information on the author(s) and the article. For that presentation, you should research the author’s background, and survey the influence of the essay via http://scholar.google.com. If available, incorporate a short video clip of the author speaking. The second leader is responsible for introducing a contemporary media example, and suggesting how the article’s ideas might be applied to the example. Together, the leaders should prepare a short 1-page summary of the key facts about the author(s), article, and media example. Note: it is not necessary to summarize the article beyond brief 1-2 sentence statements of its key arguments. Further exegesis will be developed in lecture and class discussion.

II. Final Paper – 55% of final grade
Write a 15-20 page paper applying one or more theoretical approaches from the class to an object of study in your area. For example, you might develop a semiotic analysis of a news program, a psychoanalytic reading of a film, or a Marxist analysis of a political speech. You should demonstrate your understanding of important concepts and terms, and you should use the concepts to provide new insight into the object you’re examining.

• A one-page proposal is due October 11. I will schedule individual meetings
with you to discuss the proposal.
• You will give a short (10 minute) presentation of your research project on November 15 or 29.
• The final project is due December 6.

III. Attendance Adjustment
As Woody Allen put it, “80 percent of success is showing up.” It’s less than that in this formula, but the bottom line is that you can’t contribute to the class if you’re not there. You’re allowed one unexcused absence for the semester. After that, each unexcused absence subtracts one point from your grade total. Excused absences include medical and family emergencies. You will be expected to schedule any employment responsibilities around this class, or accept the consequences of missed classes for your grade. If you do need to miss a class, please contact me ahead of time, and make arrangements to catch up on missed material.

Policies

Academic Honesty
The university’s policy on academic honesty is published in On Campus: The Undergraduate Co-Curricular Affairs Handbook, available online at http://www.gsu.edu/~wwwcam. The policy prohibits plagiarism, cheating on examinations, unauthorized collaboration, falsification, and multiple submissions. Violation of the policy will result in failing the class, in addition to disciplinary sanctions.

The Internet makes it easy to plagiarize, but also easy to track down plagiarism. Bottom line: Don’t plagiarize. It’s wrong, and it’s not worth it. There’s always a better way. Cite all your sources, put all direct quotations in quotation marks, and clearly note when you are paraphrasing other authors’ work.

Incompletes
Incompletes may be given only in special hardship cases. Incompletes will not be used merely for extending the time for completion of course requirements.

Changes to the Syllabus
This syllabus provides a general plan for the course. Deviations may be necessary.

Course Evaluation
Your constructive assessment of this course plays an indispensable role in shaping education at Georgia State University.  Upon completing the course, please take the time to fill out the online course evaluation.