Course Syllabus

WRITING ABOUT THE ARTS & CULTURE

COURSE SYLLABUS AND CLASS POLICIES, FALL 2013

INSTRUCTOR: W. JOHN SCHACHT

Topics in Journalism: 16985—JOUR 3050 – A01

Architecture Elective: 17107—ARCH 4050 – A01

Topics in Art: 17092—ARTA 3000-01

CLASS: Thursdays, 6-8:45 p.m.    ROOM: Colvard 4103      OFFICE HOURS: 245A Fretwell/Thurs., 5-6 p.m. E-MAIL: wschacht@UNCC.edu

REQUIRED TEXTS:  The New York Times Reader: Arts & Culture, Edited by Don McCleese (Available at campus bookstore); William Zinsser, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Non-Fiction, 30th Anniversary Edition, Harper, 2006 (Available at campus bookstore).

SUGGESTED TEXTS: The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law 2011, Associated Press; Strunk & White, The Elements of Style (any edition)

ADDITIONAL READINGS: We will be reading several on-line articles (see course reading links) as well as some E-reserve articles available via the Atkins Library website (instructor-supplied password). See the weekly assignments for specific text, on-line, and E-reserve readings.

Course Description and Goals:  In this course, students will learn to identify what constitutes successful arts writing and compelling criticism, and employ those same standards while writing about a variety of arts and their place in our culture. They’ll pen straightforward consumer-guide reviews — should you spend money on this event or not, and why or why not? — and write longer pieces of criticism that put an exhibition, concert, recording or theatrical production in greater historical and cultural context. Students will also compose a multiple-source profile of an artist or member of the arts community that will be considered for publication through participating Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance publications and networks. (For a list of CAJA publications and networks, click here.) Students will turn in their reviews and stories via Moodle for initial editing, and follow-up drafts via the course blog for publication. Students will also comment, politely and constructively, on each other’s work, both on the course blog and in class. As this is a writing intensive course, another consistent goal will be to improve the student’s writing skills primarily through the necessary art of rewriting. Finally, you’ll be exposed to various art forms and cultural trends in this class you may not be familiar with; some will appeal, some may not. Keeping an open mind and appreciating the great diversity of American arts will be essential to making this class something more than just a letter grade on your transcript.

WEEK-BY-WEEK TOPICS

Week 1                THURSDAY, AUG. 22 — Fundamentals of Arts & Culture Writing

Week 2                THURSDAY, AUG. 29— Popular Music Criticism

Week 3                THURSDAY, SEPT. 5 — Writing About Television

Week 4                THURSDAY, SEPT. 12— How to Put Stories Together

Week 5                THURSDAY, SEPT. 19— Film Criticism

Week 6                THURSDAY, SEPT. 26—Non-Popular Music Forms/Theater

Week 7                THURSDAY, OCT. 3— Field Trip: Visual Arts (Rowe Gallery)

Week 8                THURSDAY, OCT. 10 — Field Trip: Concert by University Chorale

Week 9                THURSDAY, OCT. 17 — Field Trip: Othello by Actors from the London Stage

Week 10              THURSDAY, OCT. 24 — Architecture

Week 11              THURSDAY, OCT. 31 — Trend & Enterprise Pieces

Week 12              THURSDAY, NOV. 7 — Profiles

Week 13              THURSDAY, NOV. 14—Profiles

Week 14              THURSDAY, NOV. 21 — Freelance Pitches & Writing Gigs

 

WEEKLY OUTLINE

 

THURSDAY, AUG. 22 —1ST CLASS – The Fundamentals of Arts & Culture Writing

TOPICS TO BE DISCUSSED:

*Introductions: Syllabus, Attendance and Grading policies

*Central Themes and Required Texts

*Student Surveys

*Criticism: The Four Keys—Description, Context, Interpretation, Evaluation

*The Critic as Cultural Arbiter

*READINGS to be discussed 1ST & 2nd class: 1) Arts & Culture Reader, Intro & Chapter 1, “Keys to Quality Criticism” (pgs. 1-16); Chapter 2, “Popular Music” (pgs. 17-41); 2) Zinsser, On Writing Well, The Transaction, Simplicity, Clutter (pgs. 1-16); Writing About the Arts/Critics and Columnists (pgs. 193-206); 3) Read Pat Moran reviews/features (see Moodle for links).

*ASSIGNMENTS for 2nd class: 1) Set up wordpress.com account by accepting Instructor invitation; 2) Choose CD review topic from Instructor approved list; 3) Apply Story Scan to one of Pat Moran stories (bring to class); come up with 3-5 questions for Pat Moran, turn in via UNCC email to instructor by Thursday, Aug. 29 at noon.

THURSDAY, AUG. 29 – 2nd CLASS – Music Criticism

 TOPICS TO BE DISCUSSED:

***The Successful Music Journalist: Lecture and Q&A with Pat Moran of Creative Loafing***

*Music Criticism: “Dancing About Architecture”

*Group-Think vs. Individual Voice; Cheerleading vs. Honest Praise; Thoughtful Critiques vs. Snark and Player Hate

*In-class assignment: Applying the Four Keys to a YouTube video/song.

*READINGS to be discussed in 3rd class: 1) Arts & Culture Reader, Chapter 7, “Television” (pgs. 150-170); 2) Zinsser, On Writing Well: Style, The Audience, Words, Usage (pgs. 17-45); 3) Emily Nussbaum, The New Yorker’s TV critic, on: Breaking Bad (New York Magazine);  Q&A with Nussbaum (The Verge)

*ASSIGNMENTS for 3rd class: 1) Write a 500-word CD review chosen from Instructor-approved list and turn in via Instructor e-mail by Sunday, Sept. 1 at midnight

THURSDAY, SEPT. 5 – 3RD CLASS – Writing About Television/Serial Coverage

TOPICS TO BE DISCUSSED:

*Writing for Two Audiences: The Obsessed and the Casual Viewer

*Episode as Microcosm

*How to Write Compelling Synopses

*Covering Populist Fare (Or, How to Write About Snooki Without Sounding Like Snooki)

*In-class screening: Serial TV show TBD

*READINGS to be discussed 4th class: 1) Zinsser, On Writing Well: Unity, The Lead & The Ending (pgs. 49-66); The Sound of Your Voice, Enjoyment/Fear & Confidence (pgs. 231-252);

*ASSIGNMENTS for 4th class: 1) Turn in CD review re-write via Moodle by Sunday, Sept. 8 at midnight; include first-draft and edits at bottom of document — See Assignment Template in Course Material on Moodle for example;2) Watch follow-up episodes (2 minimum) of television serial through www.hulu.com and take notes for Television review assignment

THURSDAY, SEPT. 12 – 4th CLASS – How to Put Together Stories

TOPICS TO BE DISCUSSED:

*Zinsser: Reading to Write; The Role of Editing; Show Us, Don’t Tell Us

*Zinsser: The Transaction — Selling the Reader; Simplicity: Every Word Matters; Clutter: How to Trim the Fat; Analogies and Clichés

*Zinsser: Determining your own style

*Zinsser: Unity & Outlines; The Hook and the Walk-Off; Transitions

*READINGS to be discussed 5th class: 1) Arts & Culture Reader, Chapter 6, “Film” (pgs. 116-149); 2) Zinsser, On Writing Well, Bits & Pieces (pgs. 67-91); 3) Read Lawrence Toppman film reviews (via Moodle) in preparation for class Q&A next week.

*ASSIGNMENTS for 5th class: 1) Turn in via Instructor e-mail a 700-word review of serial TV show by Sunday, Sept. 15; 2) Come up with 3-5 questions for Lawrence Toppman based on readings (see Moodle links) and turn in via instructor e-mail by Thursday, Sept. 19 at noon

THURSDAY, SEPT. 19 – 5TH CLASS – FILM

TOPICS TO BE DISCUSSED:

****The Successful Movie Critic — Lecture and Q&A with Lawrence Toppman, Film Reviewer and Arts & Entertainment Editor at the Charlotte Observer****

*Avoiding plot summary reviews

*Art Films vs. Blockbusters: Citizen Kane and (or?) Star Wars

*The Effect of Time: Today’s Bomb, Tomorrow’s Masterpiece

*Criticism as Ongoing Dialog (blogging’s role)

*Director’s Medium; Broad Knowledge vs. Specialization (technical and contextual)

*Source Material as Story Fodder; DVDs; Star Power & Celebrity

*Zinsser: Bits & Pieces, i.e., The Joys of Line Editing; AP Style issues

*READINGS to be discussed 6th class: 1) Arts & Culture Reader, Chapter 3, “Classical Music, Opera & Dance” (pgs. 42-64);

*ASSIGNMENTS for 6th class: 1) Turn in via Moodle the serial TV show re-write by Sunday, Sept. 22, at midnight; 2) Watch film TBD and take notes for film review assignment.

THURSDAY, SEPT. 26 – 6TH CLASS – CLASSICAL MUSIC/DANCE/THEATER

TOPICS TO BE DISCUSSED:

***Lecture and Q&A with Meg Whalen, Freelance Critic and Writer for Charlotte Magazine, Charlotte Viewpoint***

*The role of research in criticism—limiting the legwork by knowing what to write about

*Basic knowledge vs. Expertise

*Overcoming your shortcomings

*Classic Rock-ism in the classical music world

THEATRE TOPICS

*The Power of the Theater Critic vs. Other Critics

*The Actor’s Medium

*Other Ways Theater and Film Criticism Differs; The Live Performance Variable

*READINGS to be discussed 7th class: 1) Arts & Culture Reader, “Visual Arts” (pgs. 65-90); 2) Zinsser, On Writing Well, “The Tyranny of the Final Product” (pgs. 253-260);

*ASSIGNMENT for 7th class: 1) Turn in via Instructor e-mail a 700-word critical review of film seen in class focusing on a cinematic trend or cultural context. Due by midnight Sunday, Sept. 29.

THURSDAY, OCT. 3 – 7TH CLASS – VISUAL ARTS

TOPICS TO BE DISCUSSED:

***Field trip to UNCC’s Rowe Gallery for lecture/tour with gallery director Sharon Dowell on visiting exhibits by Liz Miller and Shannon Collis; meet at Rowe at 6 p.m.***

*Art as a language; critic as translator to understanding, i.e., technical and contextual

*The shift from 19th century to 20th century = from understanding to incomprehension

*The role of Connotation; how memory and imagination process what we see

*Reviewing the Image: In-class review of Wayne Thiebaud painting

*READINGS for 8th class: 1) Zinsser, On Writing Well, A Writer’s Decisions (pgs. 261-280)

*ASSIGNMENT for 8th class: 1) Turn in via Moodle final re-write of film criticism by Sunday, Oct. 6 at midnight; 2) Turn in 300-word snap review on art exhibit started in class via Moodle by Thursday, Oct. 10 at noon.

THURSDAY, OCT. 10 – 8TH CLASS – CHORALE CONCERT

FIELD TRIP: ***Attend concert by University Chorale group, 7:30 p.m. @ Robinson Hall, Anne R. Belk Theater; meet at 6:30 p.m. in lobby for pre-concert lecture***

*READINGS for 9th class: Arts & Culture Reader, Chapter 5, “Theater” (pgs. 91-115)

*ASSIGNMENTS for 9th class: 1) Turn in 350-word review of Chorale Concert via Instructor e-mail by Sunday, Oct. 13 by midnight; turn in re-write via Moodle by Thursday, Oct. 17 @ 6 p.m.

THURSDAY, OCT. 17 – 9TH CLASS: THEATER — OTHELLO

FIELD TRIP: ***Attend Shakespeare’s Othello by acclaimed Actors from the London Stage troupe, 7:30 p.m. at Belk Theater, Robinson Hall; meet at 6:30 p.m. in lobby for pre-event lecture***

*READINGS to be discussed in 10th class: Emily Makas readings TBD…

*ASSIGNMENTS for 10th class: Turn in 500-word review of Othello via Instructor e-mail by Sunday, Oct. 20 at midnight

THURSDAY, OCT. 24 – 10TH CLASS – ARCHITECTURE

TOPICS TO BE DISCUSSED:

***Lecture by Associate Professor of Architectural and Urban History Emily Makas***

* Issues of ethics, housing, sustainability and urbanism

*READINGS to be discussed in 11th class: 1) Arts & Culture Reader, “Trend & Enterprise Pieces” (pgs. 236-259).

*ASSIGNMENTS for 11th class: 1) Turn in via Moodle re-write of Othello review by Sunday, Oct. 27 at midnight; 2) Choose 2-3 possible subjects for your final profile with short explanation why they’re newsworthy and forward list via email to instructor by Thursday, Oct. 31, at noon.

THURSDAY, OCT. 31 – 11TH CLASS – TREND & ENTERPRISE PIECES

TOPICS TO BE DISCUSSED:

*Critic as Reporter: Tips, Sources and ‘Collecting String’

*Beyond criticism, the arbiter of significance (trends)

*Beyond the consumer guide; how artistic parts fit cultural whole

*Journo 101 elements: Contextual background, expert perspective, anecdotal examples, cultural significance…and evaluation.

*READINGS to be discussed 12th class: 1) Arts & Culture Reader, “Profiles” (pgs. 205-235) 2) Zinsser, On Writing Well, “Writing About People” (pgs 100-111); 2) Profile #1: Tom Waits: “Play It Like Your Hair’s on Fire” (scroll down left side to 2002 articles), by Elizabeth Gilbert (GQ Magazine, 2002); Profile #2: “The James Franco Project,” by Sam Anderson ( New York Magazine, 2010); Profile #3: “Kanye West Has a Goblet,” by Jonah Weiner (Slate.com, 2010)

*ASSIGNMENTS for 12th class: 1) Turn in via Instructor e-maila 350-word review of Architecture discussion due Sunday, Nov. 3 by midnight; 2) Take notes on one of three assigned profiles to discuss in class #12; 3) Begin reporting/writing for profiles

THURSDAY, NOV. 7 – 12TH CLASS – PROFILES I

TOPICS TO BE DISCUSSED:

*Finding an Angle and Giving the Story Focus

*Profile Components: Facts, Color, Quotes, Detail

*Bringing your subject to life with literary techniques: the telling detail, scene setting, description, dialogue, character development, narrative momentum

*Interview, secondary sources, biographical and critical background

*Profile Pitch letter/contact list

*ASSIGNMENTS for 13th class: 1) Turn in via Moodle final draft of Architecture review by Sunday, Nov. 10 at Midnight; 2) E-mail Instructor profile pitch and contact list for 1.5K-2K profile by Thursday, Nov. 14 @ noon.

THURSDAY, NOV. 14 – 13TH CLASS – PROFILES II

TOPICS TO BE DISCUSSED:

*Work on profiles, mandatory one-on-one writer/editor meetings.

*ASSIGNMENTS for 14th class: 1) Turn in lede, nutgraph and five paragraphs of story via Instructor e-mail by midnight, Sunday, Nov. 17.

THURSDAY, NOV. 21 – 14th CLASS – PROFILES & PITCHES

TOPICS TO BE DISCUSSED:

*Determining Your Audience

* How to Pitch An Editor

*How to Make Freelancing Pay the Bills

*FINAL ASSIGNMENTS: Turn in first draft of profile via Instructor e-mail by Sunday, Nov. 31 @ midnight; Final draft due via Moodle on or before Thursday, Dec. 12 @ 6 p.m.

Grading and Attendance Policies

Grading:   Attendance/Participation/Blogging: 20%

Reviews/Criticism: 50%

 Final Profile: 30%

Reviews & Criticism: Students will be required to turn in regular reviews and longer critical pieces on time via Instructor e-mail (drafts) and Moodle (final drafts) at the assigned dates, using Word.doc or Word.docx documents. Each assignment should be double-spaced in 12pt type with paragraphs clearly defined; each emailed assignment should include the number of the assignment in the subject line. Each finished piece requires a succinct headline and the author’s byline at the top; please separate final drafts from Instructor-edited first drafts with a row of hash-marks (#####). After mandatory re-writes are completed, they will be turned in via Moodle for publication on the course website (www.unccartswriting.wordpress.com). Any second drafts that do not include instructor edits will not be published, and only final drafts will be graded. ***Final drafts must include first drafts with Instructor edits at the bottom of the document*** (see sample on Moodle) and 3 to 5 Internet tags.

Students will also be required to blog about two fellow students’ stories each time assignments are put on the website; those comments are due within a week. That can include offering kudos (citing why, of course), honest critiques and suggestions, or just asking questions regarding craft or interpretations. “Really liked your lead,” comments are NOT sufficient; you must include reasons and critical evaluation, too. The purpose of these blog comments is to mimic writing course peer-feedback and facilitate class discussion, in addition to integrating students into the new digital landscape. For each missing writing assignment, an entire letter grade will be deducted from the overall reviews/criticism grade; failure to comment on other student assignments will result in a lower class participation grade.

Final Profile: In lieu of a final exam, students will be required to turn in a multi-source profile on the artist or cultural figure of their choice (pending Instructor approval). These 1.5-2K-word stories will include interviews with the main subject and secondary sources, as well as any pertinent citations/quotations from related written sources. Students will “pitch” their instructor via email on these as well, this time using a “block memo” piece including contact information for all their sources.

***Plagiarism is a serious offense and will not be tolerated.***  Stealing someone else’s words or work will not be tolerated. When in doubt, ask your instructor. Disciplinary action will be taken in accordance with the UNCC Code of Student Academic Integrity found at: http://www.legal.uncc.edu/policies/ps-105.html. The penalties trump a poor assignment grade, so be forewarned that it is not worth it.

Attendance: Attendance and participation are imperative for a class that only meets once per week. Any more than two absences will result in a “0” grade for the “Attendance/Participation” portion of your final grade. Every absence after the third one will result in a drop of one-letter grade from the student’s overall final grade. Students are also expected to be in class for the entire duration of the class, with the exception of a mid-class break. Being a minute or two late to class is sometimes unavoidable; anything later than that constitutes a class disruption and results in a tardy. After three tardies, each subsequent late arrival will constitute an absence. Leaving early without prior instructor approval will also deduct points from your “attendance/participation” grade. Missing any of the class field trips will result in a ZERO for that week’s assignment.

Classroom Behavior: Cell-phones, iPhones and Blackberrys, iPods, iPads, tablets, lap-tops, etc., are to be turned off during class – no exceptions. Facebook is absolutely off-limits during computer lab time. During the course of the class you will probably be exposed to arts and cultural trends you don’t care for. That’s fine, but your task is to study them objectively and put them in course context. While polite critical feedback is encouraged, rude or disrespectful behavior or comments will not be tolerated. That goes for the classroom and on-line commentary as well.

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