The following is a draft only. The final version will be ready the first day of class, in May.

Schedule: Week 1-5

CP = course pack

————— = separation between Tuesday and Thursday classes

(if there’s no line, read all the material for the Tuesday class)

Reading or Viewing in bold = text to read or video to view — before class!


Make Time for This Course

Try to reserve an hour or two of distraction-free time every day to work on this course.

Do the Assigned Reading & Viewing

Acquaint yourself early with all the assigned readings and viewings. Make sure to look at the Schedule at least four days before each class, and give yourself time to get the work done.

Spend Extra Time on Three Key Readings

Make sure to read very carefully 1) “The Last Channel,” 2) “Is Google Making Us Stupid?,” and 3) Cox’s “So Much Woman.” We’ll be looking at these three texts on numerous occasions throughout the course.

Take Group Work Seriously

Group work is crucial to the classroom learning process and to your participation mark. Students who read the assigned material for the first time in class will lower their participation mark.

Think Ahead

1. Your rhetorical analysis is due at the start of class, Week 5. Get on it right away.

2. Your evaluative analysis will be written in class, Week 10. Start ASAP watching Mad Men and reading Cox. As you watch the show, ask yourself, Is Cox right? Why or why not? Viewing requirements: Season 1 plus “The Gold Violin” (S2 E7), “The Mountain King” (S2 E12), and “The Summer Man” (S4 E8).

3. Your research paper is due Week 14. Look ASAP at the topics under Week 14 and at Research, especially the sub-section, “Things to Remember for Essay #3." Feel free to discuss your topic with me at any time. Do as much preliminary research as you can.

Avoid Summary and Observation 

The biggest problem students have is summarizing or making observations when they should be analyzing and making arguments. If you’re repeating content, or if you’re explaining something that’s obvious to an educated reader, then you’re not making an argument.

WEEK 1: Rhetoric

There are no required readings for the first class. We’ll go over the course site and practice rhetorical analysis.

During the first several weeks, look closely at the following:

1. Outline

2. The Academic Essay 

3. Rhetoric and Rhetorical Analysis Samples  

I suggest looking at the following analyses of a Proctor & Gamble ad, a Taylor Swift video, a Coke ad, a Budweiser ad, and a Macklemore & Ryan Lewis video and these videos: How to Write Essays and Research Papers More Quickly - rhetorical analysis - strategies - 7 strategies - devices - analysis. At some point in the first several weeks, practice writing a rhetorical analysis on Atwood’s use of comparison in CP “Canadians: What Do They Want?” Compare your analysis with the sample essay “The Bristling North,” in Rhetorical Analysis Samples.

Douglas College has all sorts of help for writing. I suggest starting with the Learning Centre, especially: — tutorial helpgrammar resources and handoutsPDF on the academic essay. For citation and bibliographical information, see Purdue University’s OWL (Online Writing Lab). You could start at “Research and Citation Resources.” The University of Richmond has a very extensive and user-friendly site, which covers a wide range of topics, including writing in other disciplines. The University of Wisconsin at Madison has an excellent handbook.


Reading #1 - "A Wonderful Book" (Mark Twain, in Texts). You’ll work briefly in groups on a scrath outline that explains the structure of Twain’s text.

Reading #2 + Group work on "The Farthest Channel" (Italo Calvino, in Texts). You’ll work in groups on a full outline that explains the structure of Twain’s text. This is a challenging text, with several layers that are relevant to this course. I suggest reading it once before looking at the notes and questions below (see the blue sub-titles), and then once after that, keeping the notes and questions in mind.


Continued work on “The Last Channel” + Mad Men opening credits, Simpson's parody, split-screen comparative version, the sample essay on the opening credits (in Rhetorical Analysis Samples), and the final scene of "The Phantom" (S5 E13), which contains the song "You Only Live Twice" (lyrics for the song are in Mad Men Notes).


We’ll be using Calvino’s text in numerous ways. First, we’ll see how it works structurally — that is in terms of rhetoric. Second, we’ll use it to compare the effect of pre-Net media with the effect of the Net. Keep in mind that your second essay deals with TV (see Migglebrink’s article on the structure of TV serials) and your third essay requires you to think about the difference between the Net and previous media (TV, books, newspapers, etc.).

On the surface, Calvino is writing about addiction to television, yet he’s also suggesting a number of things about living in the real world versus living in an ideal world. He applies his points directly to media, psychology, politics, and romance, yet they can also be applied to religion and philosophy.

Style & Structure

Calvino’s unstable narrator follows in the tradition of “Diary of a Madman” (Gogol, 1835), “The Tell-Tale Heart” (Poe, 1843), and “The Diary of a Madman” (Lu Xun, 1918). Why does Calvino use a narrator who is psychologically unstable? Why does he initially hint that his narrator may be criminally insane? How does his remote resemble a gun?

Looking at the text as a long block structure (see “Block & Splice” in The Academic Essay), notice how the love story enters very late — in paragraph 8. Why?

Where does the narrator shift from concrete detail to abstraction? Where does he go from abstract (theoretical or detached) to abstruse (obscure or confusing)? Why? Where does he shift from being reasonable to being unreasonable? What insight can be gleaned from even his strangest, most abstruse points?

TV & the Net

Next week we’ll examine Carr’s article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Carr begins by noting that he gets distracted when reading a longer text. He says, “my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages … what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation” (paras. 2, 4). How does this relate to what the narrator says in paragraph 3?

The first wrong idea they fabricated about me is that my concentration can’t follow for more than a few minutes a coherent flow of images, and that my mind is only capable of grasping fragments of stories or arguments, as if they had no beginnings or endings. In brief, as if the thread in my mind that connected the fabric of the world had snapped.

What happens when in reading the story you switch channel to website, channel-changing to surfing the Net, and remote to keyboard or mouse? When he talks about a perfect version of romance with Volumnia (from paras. 8-10), how close is this to searching for that perfect match on Badoo, Plenty of Fish,, Tinder, OkCupid, Ashley Madison, Adult FriendFinder, eharmony, etc.?

How does the narrator use print and TV to frame his understanding and communication — especially in sentences such as, “I’m convinced that there’s a meaning to the events of this world, that there’s a coherent story, justified in all of its series of causes and effects” (para. 3)? Note that two of the meanings of the Italian word serie are the same as for the English word series: 1) a sequence and 2) a TV series.

McLuhen & the Surfboard

The term for electronic surfing may have been anticipated by Marshall McLuhen, who wrote in 1962 that “Heidegger surf-boards along on the electronic wave as triumphantly as Descartes rode the mechanical wave” (The Gutenberg Galaxy). In 1964, he coined the phrase “the medium is the message” to suggest that the medium we use affects us more than any particular message we get or give in that medium.

McLuhen may be right, yet on the other hand the effect of media may be to show us the world in different ways, rather than 1) to change the world or 2) to change our fundamental perception and understanding of the world. Media may appear to change our view of the world with its powerful lens, yet the real power may reside in the structures of the world around us, which are biological, geographical, historical, economic, parental, familial, linguistic, ethnic, cultural, religious, social, political, etc. Calvino refers to these larger — and perhaps more powerful — structures toward the end of the story:

it’s fine to change channels, but the programme is always the same — or it might as well be. Whether it’s a film or news or an ad that gets transmitted, the message from all the stations is the same because everything and everybody are part of the same system. Even outside the screen, the system invades everything and only leaves space for apparent change. (para. 7)

The ideas of Calvino’s protagonist apply most obviously to media, psychology, politics, and romance, yet they can also be applied philosophically and religiously. For instance, he hints at alternate dimensions, parallel universes, and even Augustine’s famous fifth-century City of God when he says, “I know that our city could be the happiest in the world, I know that it already is — not here on the wavelength where I operate, but on another band of frequency.”

WEEK 3   

In class we’ll compare the rhetoric in two trailers for Men, Women, and Children - MWC 1 - MWC 2. We’ll also analyze rhetoric in the 10-minute Amritsar Massacre sequence in Gandhi, and then look at the sample rhetorical analysis essay in Gandhi (rhetorical sample). If time permits, we'll also practice rhetorical analysis on various clips.

As an introduction to the Gandhi clip, I’ll touch on the larger theme of democratization. I also want to stress that the structure we focus on in rhetorical analysis can be seen in most things — even in the historical context of an English course. Chronological charts are particularly helpful at visualizing complex structures:

1130 timeline democ.jpeg


Reading + Group Work on “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” (Carr, CP). You’ll construct an argument explaining Carr's use of time and metaphor. How does Carr connect his historical references to the present? How does he use metaphor to make his point?

Here's a chart that gets at some key moments in the history of human communication technology. What would you add to this chart? What did Carr include and what did he leave out? Why?

ryc com grab.jpeg


Viewing + Group Work on "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (S1 E1), written by Matthew Weiner, directed by Alan Taylor. In groups, you’ll construct an argument about this episode based on its structure. Your thesis should go something like, “Taylor suggests ___ by ___________ .” The trick here is to express the director’s aim in a brief way, so that you can focus in more detail on the way he uses a strategy or a combination of strategies. The goal is to fill the second blank with a strategy or a combination of strategies, a large number of which you can find in the 16 Categories in Rhetoric. I suggest watching the episode once for overall understanding, and then watching it again to understand its rhetoric.

smoke line.jpeg

You can come up with whatever argument you want, or you can come up with an argument on 1) the relation of the opening credits to the first episode, 2) the way space or setting determines or reflects the predicament of a character or the complexity of an issue, 3) feminism, 4) the way the director makes us aware of the historical situation in 1960.


Work hard on your outline

The outline is a requirement of this essay, yet it should also help you see the structure of your argument — especially how your thesis statement is connected to your topic sentences.

Make arguments, rather than summaries or observations

- Make arguments that are structured according to the standard academic essay format – that is, with a thesis statement and topic sentences. To do this well, you must understand what an outline is.

- Make arguments that aren’t summaries or observations.

- Make arguments that don't confuse summary with rhetoric, or rhetoric with evaluation.

Become familiar with the Purdue OWL website

This site will help you cite sources and create bibliographies — which will become increasingly important in this course. Remember that you don't need to cite the Youtube video itself.

WEEK 5: Rhetorical analysis due (25%)

After you hand in your papers, I'll give an introduction to the evaluation section of the course. Because you have an essay due, you don't have to have any of the evaluation readings done for this class. Note, however, that the readings and the assignment for Week 6 will require a fair amount of your time. If you get your first essay done ahead of schedule, start in on next week’s readings.

Essay # 1 is due at the start of class.

The essay must be typed, double-spaced, and no more than 650 words. Late essays will be docked 5% per day. Essays longer than 650 words will be marked down.

Write a rhetorical analysis on one of the choices below. For several of these, you can opt to compare trailers. This option is indicated by “and/or.” Check to make sure you’re watching the trailer that is listed below; often there are different versions, and you want to be sure that the item you wrote on is the one I’m thinking of when I mark your paper. For this reason I’ve included the full address.

You must include a skeletal outline (125-225 words) at the start of the paper. See the skeletal outline samples on the opening credits of Mad Men (in Rhetorical Analysis Samples) and Lord of War (rhetoric sample).

Don’t use a cover page or folder. Simply put your full name in the top right hand corner of all pages (i.e. Roger Clark – 1) and staple the pages together. Provide word counts for both the outline and the essay (as in the Mad Men sample). 

You’ll write in two sessions, for a total of 3 full hours (180 minutes). I will collect your paper (plus outline, etc.) after 90 minutes of the first class, and give it back to you at the start of the second class. This can work to your advantage, since it gives you three hours to write, allows you to get some distance from your first writing session, and gives your hand a break.

Items currently on Netflix are marked with an N, Amazon Prime with AP.

Avengers: Infinity War (trailer 1—N)

          and/or (trailer 2—N)

Call My Agent (trailer—N)

The Crown (season 1 trailer—N)

and /or (season 2 trailer—N)

Dear White People (opening credits—N)

The Fellowship of the Ring (trailer—N)

Greenleaf (opening credits—N)

The Lunchbox (trailer)

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (season 1 trailer—AP)

and / or (season 2 trailer—N)

Neerja (trailer)

The Night Manager (trailer—AP)

Piku (trailer—N)

Roma (trailer—N)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (trailer)

Vice (trailer) -

The essay is short, so I suggest writing a very short introduction and don’t repeat yourself in your conclusion. If you end the body of your essay on a final or concluding note, you don’t need a conclusion. The sample essays on Mad Men and Moulin Rouge! both end this way.

You don’t need to provide a bibliography or cite the credits or trailers. You’re not required to use other sources (articles, books, etc.), yet if you do, cite them according to MLA or APA format. For bibliographical information and format, see Purdue University’s OWL site and “Research and Citation” (screen grab below).

owl lab .jpeg

Tuyo (Rodrigo Amarante, 2015) / Yours (trans. RYC)

Soy el fuego que arde tu piel / I'm the fire that burns your skin
Soy el agua que mata tu sed / I'm the water that kills your thirst
El castillo, la torre yo soy / Of the castle, the tower am I
La espada que guarda el caudal / The sword that guards the treasure

Tú, el aire que respiro yo / You, the air that I breathe
Y la luz de la luna en el mar / And the light of the moon in the sea
La garganta que ansío mojar / The throat that I yearn to moisten
Que temo ahogar de amor / That I fear to drown with love

Y cuáles deseos me vas a dar, oh / And which desires are you going to give me, oh
Dices tu, mi tesoro basta con mirarlo / You say, my treasure it's enough to look at it
Y tuyo será, y tuyo será / And it will be yours, and it will be yours