Course Syllabus

Tu, Th   2:20-3:35PM   Maura 237

Dennis G. Jerz (
403 St. Joseph, Box 461

E-mail: My last name, at the domain.

I check my e-mail throughout the work day, and usually once more at around 11pm. I am always happy to help with quick answers.

Office Phone: 724-830-1909 (but you will usually get a faster response if you e-mail)

Office Hours
: Spring 2010 (in St. Joseph 403)
  • MWF 11:15-noon
  • Th 1-2pm
  • and also by appointment.
From the catalog description of EL 336: Topics in Media and Culture
Examines one or more issues in depth that result from the interplay of cultural forces and contemporary media. The course may focus on specific media, tracing their development and interaction in contemporary society, or it may begin with an issue and deal with the ways in which media treat and shape issues.
Our topic:
The History and Future of the Book

Your objectives for this course are to

  • gain a broader understanding of the history and future of the book a cultural force
  • develop the ability to analyze complex issues relating to knowledge, thought, and literacy; and to evaluate diverse critical perspectives on those issues
  • learn the fundamental principles and current theories associated with media studies (as applied to the book)
  • strengthen your critical thinking and writing skills

To that end, the course asks you to

  • read a wide range of texts (including fiction, scholarly, and popular works)
  • discuss the assigned readings (both online and in class)
  • write informal responses (several times a week), slightly more involved exercises (about every other week), and academic research papers (a midterm paper of 6-8 pages, and a final paper of 12-15 pages)
  • lead class discussions (on two out of four planned classroom forum dates)

This course can meet any and all of the major learning objectives.

  1. Examine a wide range of genres, styles and cultural literatures.
  2. Examine the traditional canon and innovative nontraditional writers and writing.
  3. Demonstrate analytical skills of reading literature.
  4. Demonstrate a high level of research and writing skills.
  5. Write and speak in a wide range of formats appropriate to major emphasis... 
  6. Speak and write about issues in the discipline and how they interact with the culture at large.
  7. Articulate the ongoing relation between personal habits of reading and writing and the evolving study of English.
  8. Produce a professional portfolio that demonstrates an awareness of and engagement with vital issues in an appropriate professional field relating to new media journalism.
(The CW version of goal 8 is a little different from the NMJ version. The LIt concentration does not have a goal 8.)
The class format will be mostly discussion, with some lecture.

Critical thinking is a skill; like most things of value, it is not easy to learn (or teach), and meaningful progress comes only with practice. One of the benefits of the small class sizes we have at Seton Hill is that all students can participate meaningfully in every class discussion..

Please keep copies of rough drafts; that is, instead of saving overtop of your old files, save each new version with a new name ("Exercise 1.1" "Exercise 1.2").  I may want to talk with you about your rough drafts before recording a grade.

I will often send out bulk e-mails to the address on file for you in the J-Web system. If you check a different address more regularly, please use SHU's e-mail forwarding service so that you don't miss important updates.

Students are expected to attend every class, and they are expected to take the initiative to make and support requests for excused absences (see Seton Hill University Catalog, p. 24, "Academic Engagement and Class Attendance"). 

Requesting Excused Absences

To request an excused absence, print out and complete a copy of my "Absence Form" (available at and hand it to me (or complete it electronically and e-mail it, if you are unable to make it to campus).

I am happy to excuse students who have legitimate reasons, but no matter the reason:

  • Students are responsible for all material covered during their absence (arrange to get notes from a classmate).
  • An excused absence does not automatically grant an extension for any work collected or assigned that day.

For some classroom activities, such as listening to peer oral presentations, there may be no appropriate make-up assignment. (See 5.2 Participation.)

5.1.1. Emergency Excused Absences
Those who miss class due to an unplanned emergency should submit an "Absence Form," with appropriate documentation, as soon as the immediate crisis has passed. This simple one-page form is designed to give me the information I need in order to help you stay on track. (A note from a doctor or a photocopy of a court summons only gives me part of the information I need.)

If you miss class, I request that you resist the impulse to ask me to e-mail you a summary of what happened. I welcome the chance to help you get caught up, but please consult the syllabus and a classmate's notes first, and then bring any specific questions to me.

5.1.2. Scheduled Excused Absences
I expect that students who miss class due to a scheduled activity (a game, performance, medical appointment, etc.) will complete all make-up assignments before the missed class. Submit a complete, acceptable "Absence Form" (see above) at least a week before the missed class.

  • If there is insufficient time to plan an acceptable make-up assignment, or if an approved make-up assignment is late or unsatisfactory, then I may still record the absence as unexcused.
  • When I sign a roster of away games, my policy is that the student should also, at that time, hand me completed copies of all the necessary "Absence Forms."

5.1.3. Unexcused Absences

Repeated late arrivals, early departures, inattentiveness or unpreparedness may accumulate to count as unexcused absences.

If you are absent from class without a legitimate excuse on a day when a major assignment is due, the assignment will be counted an extra day late. (Rather than stay up all night and sleep through class, please get at least a little sleep, come to class so you won't fall farther behind, and turn in your assignment later in the day.)

5.1.4. Notes for Once-A-Week Courses

  • Each meeting is very important. Provided you can make arrangements to catch up on missed work, I will permit one absence without penalty.
  • Each additional absence lowers your final grade by two-thirds of a letter grade.
  • After two consecutive unexcused absences, or three total absences (excused or unexcused), I will assume your intention is to drop the course, and may stop returning or accepting new work from you.  (I will of course be flexible in the event of extenuating circumstances, but it may not be possible to recover after missing that much of the course.)

Students are expected to contribute actively to a positive classroom environment, both in person and online. Simply "being present" is a good first step, but earning full marks requires more than that.

Common sense and common courtesy tell us that absences, late arrivals and early departures, lack of preparation, or attention, or manners (such as using electronic devices when you should be focusing on something else, or eating more than a discreet snack) will impact your participation grade. Those who contribute above and beyond the call of duty will receive a bonus.

Students who dislike public speaking may wish to invest more effort in their online writing, and vice-versa.

Class participation may raise a student's final grade by up to 1/3 of a letter grade, or lower it by up to a full letter grade.  Having above-average class participation will earn you a slight boost if your final grade falls near a border (e.g. I will have a reason to report a 2.95 as a B).

This course expects you to use the internet regularly. I'm not expecting you to have 24/7 internet access, but just as students in generations past learned to carry an extra inkhorn and spare lamp wicks, there are certain common-sense strategies that will help you do the necessary work.

  • Print out a copy of the course syllabus, and print out online readings in advance, so that you can work on the readings if the internet happens to be down.
  • Get in the habit of e-mailing drafts to yourself, so that you can retrieve them from your archives if you lose your thumb drive or your hard drive crashes. (The website will let you store your word-processor files in a format you can edit online.)
  • Unless the homework assignment specifically mentions a printout, you should assume that I don't want a hard copy. (Most homework will be submitted via, though some assignments will ask you to use other services. We will spend some class time familiarizing ourselves with the various tools.)

Getting Credit for Late Work

By default, late assignments automatically lose one letter grade if they are not submitted on time, and another letter grade for each additional day late. This means that no assignment will earn any credit if it is more than four days late (unless there are extenuating circumstances).

If you are asking that I waive a late penalty, e-mail me a copy of your completed Absence Form (see section 5.1, above) with a subject line that follows this pattern: "Smith EL336 Ex 1-2 Absence Form". (Make sure your absence form specifies the assignment in question.)

Deadlines for the submission of assignments are typically 15 minutes before class starts. (This is to discourage you from being late for class because you were working on your homework, and it also permits me to scan submissions briefly before class begins.) If your assignment is late by a few minutes, but you are still on time to class, your paper won't count as late.

Please note that late submissions always go to the bottom of my to-do list. If I have already marked and returned a set of assignments, chances are I won't even notice when you submit your late work.  Call my attention to late submissions by e-mailing me a note.

If you are concerned about not getting a late paper back soon enough to help you complete the next step in a multi-stage assignment, please make an appointment during my office hours, so that I can go over it with you orally.

Special Cases

  • Preparation and In-Class Activities: Some assignments are designed to get you ready for a particular day's class, to give you the skills you'll need to tackle a pending assignment, or to help you process something we did during class. For that reason, some time-sensitive assignments can't be made up. (I am willing to make an exception in extenuating circumstances, with proper documentation and follow-through from you.)
  • Reading Response Items: These time-sensitive online assignments are designed to prepare you for in-class discussion of assigned readings. If you miss these assignments, your class participation will be affected. (You should still complete any items you missed in order to get full credit for your class portfolio.)
  • Class Participation: The ideal way to get credit for a missed in-class activity is to contribute substantially to the online discussion. In a timely fashion (within a few days of the missed activity), post thoughtful comments on the course website, your peers' websites, and/or your own. To make sure that I see and record credit for this alternative work, describe it in a detailed e-mail.
  • Make-up/Extra Credit Assignments: I do not have a policy of inventing make-up or extra-credit assignments to enable you to pull your grade up in the last few weeks of the term.
  • Aarseth, Cybertext (0801855799)
  • Calvino, If on a Winter's Night a Traveler... (0679420258)
  • Darton, The Case for Books  (1586488260)
  • Havelock, The Muse Learns to Write (0300043821)
  • Tribble & Trubeck, Writing Material (0321077172)
  • Various online readings.
  • Kindle (e-book; loan from Reeves... also "Kindle for PC" free downloads)

This section contains important official statements, using language provided by the SHU administration.

Disability Statement
If you have a disability that requires instructor consideration please contact the Director of Disability Services at 724-838-4295. It is recommended that this be accomplished by the second week of class.

If you need accommodations for successful participation in class activities prior to your appointment at the Disability Services Office, you should offer information in writing that includes suggestions for assistance in participating in and completing class assignments. It is not necessary to disclose the nature of your disability.

Academic Honesty and Ethical Conduct

Seton Hill University expects that all its students will practice academic honesty and ethical conduct.

The University regards plagiarism, cheating on examinations, falsification of papers, non-sanctioned collaboration, and misuse of library material, computer material, or any other material, published or unpublished, as violations of academic honesty. Violators of the code may expect disciplinary sanctions, which are discussed in the Seton Hill University Catalog, page 30, Code of Academic Conduct.

Many of your college assignments will involve quoting from or responding to other people's words and ideas. However, using those words or ideas without properly citing them, or resubmitting your own work for a different class, constitutes plagiarism.

Paraphrasing the thoughts or written work of another without reference -- even with permission from the source -- is also plagiarism.

Helpful information is available at What It Is and How to Recognize and Avoid It.

Any plagiarism or other form of academic dishonesty will result in a zero for that assignment. Any plagiarism or other form of academic dishonesty on a draft will result in a zero for the final grade on that assignment. All academic dishonesty will be reported to the dean's office.

There are 1000 points of work in the class.

  • Participation Portfolios (300 points)
  • Exercises (200) points)
    • Ex1: Of Memory and Knowledge in the Classical Era
    • Ex2: Of Scarcity and Knowledge in the Medieval Era
    • Ex3: Of Accuracy and Knowledge in the Mechanical Era
    • Ex4: Of Interaction and Knowledge in the Amazon/Google Era
    • Ex5: Of Emergence and Knowledge in the [??] Era
  • Creative Presentations (200)
    • CP1: In Defense of Oral Culture
    • CP2: In Defense of Manuscript Culture
    • CP3: In Defense of Print Culture
    • CP4: In Defense of Digital Digital
  • Papers (300 points)
    • P1: 5-6 pages
    • P2: at least 15 pages

There is no final exam.

I will grade all assignments on a four-point scale.

The portfolio assignments ask you to compile your contributions to the most productive online conversations, as well as selected thoughtful expansions of contributions that you made earlier. The portfolios are your opportunity to demonstrate your developing understanding of key concepts and issues that we have been discussing.

The participation portfolios are your chance to call to my attention the online contributions that you feel are the most valuable. The most important component of the portfolio is your reflection on your online participation.

Everyone signed up for this class has blogged for me before, so you know what to expect. If you keep up with your online postings, the portfolio assignment will be easy.

  1. Portfolio 1 (100)
  2. Portfolio 2 (100)
  3. Portfolio 3 (100)

Short essays (2-3 pages), more formal than an in-class response paper, but not as formal as a research paper.

You are welcome to use "I" and refer informally to things we have discussed in class, but

  • choose a specific thesis to defend
  • quote assigned readings directly and usefully
  • outside research is welcome, but optional
  • follow MLA style (including a Works Cited list)
Upload these to

Check the course outline page for the due dates.

  • Ex1: Of Memory and Knowledge in the Classical Era
  • Ex2: Of Scarcity and Knowledge in the Medieval Era
  • Ex3: Of Accuracy and Knowledge in the Mechanical Era
  • Ex4: Of Interaction and Knowledge in the Amazon/Google Era
  • Ex5: Of Emergence and Knowledge in the [??] Era
On each creative presentation day, students will have about six minutes to present a creative response to the issues we have been discussing. Students may choose to work in pairs, in which case they will have 12 minutes.

  • CP1: In Defense of Oral Culture
    (a formal oral presentation -- no PowerPoint, just your voice and body language)
  • CP2: In Defense of Manuscript Culture
    (use hand-drawn materials; no computers or photocopying)
  • CP3: In Defense of Print Culture
    (use analog tools; rubber stamps, typewriter, cut-and-paste, etc.; no computers)
  • CP4: In Defense of Digital Culture
    (use digital tools)
Paper 1, minimum 5p (100)
Paper 2, minimum 15p (200)

Recent Comments

Shellie Polly on Portfolio 3: The last one!
Jessie Krehlik on Portfolio 3: I can't believe it's over already :-) http://blog
Chelsea Oliver on Portfolio 3: LAST ONE!!! :)
Megan Seigh on Portfolio 3: Oh what a feeling...
Maddie Gillespie on Portfolio 3: It's that time of year again! (And No, I don't mea
Erica Gearhart on Portfolio 3: Last blogging portfolio ever!
Tiffany Gilbert on Portfolio 3:
Erica Gearhart on Ex 5: Of Emergence and Knowledge in the [??] Era: I know this isn't due for a few days still, but co
Erica Gearhart on CP4: In Defense of Digital Culture: For my last creative project, my medium is not so
Maddie Gillespie on Darnton (Ch 2-4): Technology leaps and news follows http://blogs.set
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