English 451 – (section 3) Senior Seminar – Curating

Spring 2014

Location:  Humanities 120             Time: 1:40 – 2:55 p.m. M/TH (and online)

Instructor:  Matt Newcomb

Office Hours: Office Hours: M/TH 4:30-5:00, T 12:15-1:15 pm, W 1:00-3:00 pm

Email:          Phone: 845-257-2732


Description:  This course will work on library and other research skills and have a major research project around the theme of curating. Our approach will use theories from cultural studies as we look at the idea of curating culture, selves, nature, and objects (digital and analog) in an information-based society. Web sites like Pinterest have popularized a form of curating, or at least the selection and collection aspects of it. The notions of care and value that go with curating will be up for discussion and redefinition. We will read some short work in cultural studies theory, numerous academic and popular articles related to curating, and a set of literary texts that can be connected readily to curating. Students will write a formal research paper and curate a collection of their own choosing. This class meets twice per week like most three-credit courses and has the equivalent of one credit of online work per week.


Texts: (available at the campus bookstore)

Margaret Atwood–The Year of the Flood
E L Doctorow–Homer & Langley: A Novel

Umberto Eco–The Name of the Rose
Ramona Fernandez–Imagining Literacy: Rhizomes of Knowledge in American Culture and

William Gibson–Pattern Recognition
Aldo Leopold–A Sand County Almanac

Adam Rex–The True Meaning of Smekday

Leslie Marmon Silko–Storyteller

-Handouts as assigned (usually on Blackboard)



By the end of this class students will be able to

  1. Complete a major research project in English studies.
  2. Effectively find and use academic articles.
  3. Theorize the idea of curating in relation to contemporary culture.
  4. Extend their abilities to reason, to think critically (i.e., to analyze, to infer, to synthesize, to interpret, and to evaluate information), and to argue effectively (i.e., to develop a position, reasons, and evidence).
  5. Analyze and evaluate arguments about cultural objects of many types.
  6. Present scholarly ideas in a professional manner.
  7. Create a curated online archive for the use of others.
  8. Thoughtfully consider the ethical issues involved in curating.
  9. Understand and work with important strands of cultural studies.





Feb. 3 – end add/drop; Mar. 31 – end course withdrawal

Day                                        Activities for the day                                                      Assignments due

1-Jan 23 – (TH) Intro class, go over syllabus, Pinterest, defining curating  
2-Jan 27 (M)


Online: Start blog on curating issue Eco 1/3, Hirsch on Blackboard
3-Jan 30 (TH) Noah’s Ark, Battlestar Galactica Eco 2/3, Manovich on Blackboard
4-Feb 3 (M) Online: blog and post online collection with commentary for class Eco finish, Fernandez Intro
5-Feb 6 (TH)   Smekday 1/2
6-Feb 10 (M) Online: Commentary on BG so far Smekday finish, Memory and Rhetoric on Blackboard
7-Feb 13 (TH)


  Silko ½, Clifford on Blackboard
8-Feb 17 (M) Online: blog and find library source/video re: curating Silko finish
9-Feb 20 (TH) Presentation sign-ups (generate topics and dates and groups) Hebdige and Williams excerpts
10-Feb 24 (M)


Online: BG update and post about museum collection for class Borges and Weschler on Blackboard
11-Feb 27 (TH) MUSEUM DAY? Catch up or get ahead on reading

Analysis Paper Due

12-Mar 3 (M)


Online: blog and explore MLA database and one other to post description of for class Gibson 1/3
13-Mar 6 (TH)   Gibson 2/3, Foucault on Blackboard
14-Mar 10 (M) Online: blog and find academic article on curating—brief write-up for class Gibson finish
15-Mar 13 (TH) MOMA Century of the Child Exhibit Fernandez ch. 1 and 5
March 17-21 Spring Break  
16-Mar 24 (M) Online: blog and BG update Doctorow 1/2, Fernandez ch. 4
17-Mar 27 (TH)


  Doctorow finish, Bourdieu on Blackboard
18-Mar 31 (M) Online: blog and finish BG if haven’t, develop ideas for online curating project Leopold 1/2
19-Apr 3 (TH) Mutter Museum site Leopold finish

Annotated Bibliography Due

20-Apr 7 (M) The Matrix

Online: work on online curating project

Atwood 1/3
21-Apr 10 (TH)


  Atwood 2/3, Fernandez chapter 3 
22-Apr 14 (M)


Online: work on online curating project Atwood finish
23-Apr 17 (TH) Presentations Assigned by presenters

Seminar Paper Draft Due

24-Apr 21 (M) Presentations

Online: work on online curating project

Assigned by presenters, Fernandez chapter 2
25-Apr 24 (TH) Presentations


Assigned by presenters, Fernandez Conclusion
26-Apr 28 (M) Discuss individual texts for common themes

Online: work on online curating project

Choice from list 1/3
27-May 1 (TH) Discuss individual texts for common themes


Choice from list 2/3

Seminar Paper Due

28-May 5 (M) Discuss individual texts for common themes

Online: work on online curating project

 Choice from list finish
29-May 15 (TH)

12:30-2:30 pm

Final exam session Present online archives


Assignments: You must complete all major assignments to pass the course.  Late work will be reduced by up to one letter grade per day late. You may revise one of your essays for a completely new grade.

1. Individual Presentation – 10 points: Present background, examples, and an analysis of a curated collection of your choice.

2. Seminar Paper – 35 points: develop a 15-20 page research-based argument about a text or cultural object, utilizing the cultural studies theories and/or the curating theme for the course

3. Annotated Bibliography – 10 points: provide at least 10 possible sources for your seminar paper in MLA style with notes about the content and relevance of each source

4. Paper draft – 5 points: rough draft of 8-10 pages written and outlined of your seminar paper; include current version of bibliography

5. Online Archive – 15 points: create a web site that collects materials around a particular theme, writing clear commentary for individual items, keeping it organized and usable for others, and introducing the purpose and value of the whole archive

6. Analysis Paper- 10 points: use the curating angle and define curating as part of the paper, responding to a particular text or cultural object, 3-4 pages

7. Participation and attendance – 5 points

8. Blog – 10 points: participate regularly as expected in our class blog, including reading and commenting on other posts

Total – 100 points


A total of 100 points will be possible.  I do not round grades at the end of the semester. The grade ranges are below:

93-100  = A          90-92.9 = A-        87-89.9 = B+       83-86.9 = B          80-82.9 = B-        77-79.9 = C+

73-76.9 = C          70-72.9 = C-        60-69.9 = D          59.9 or below = F


Statement on Academic Integrity: “Students are expected to maintain the highest standards of honesty in their academic work.  Cheating, forgery, and plagiarism are serious offences, and students found guilty of any form of academic dishonesty are subject to disciplinary action” (SUNY NP Faculty Handbook 33).

Plagiarism is the unacknowledged (intentional or unintentional) use of summary, paraphrase, direct quotation, language, statistics, or ideas from articles or other information sources including the Internet.  A student must cite according to the Modern Language Association (MLA) format (which is outlined in the Simon and Schuster Handbook and other locations).

Accommodation and Disability: “Students with disabilities are entitled to the right to accommodation under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Ace and ADA of 1990.  ADA students are responsible for self-identifying to the Disability Resource Center, who will inform me of your needs of accommodation related to the structure of the course” (Faculty Handbook 30).


Attendance: Students are expected to be in class every day. Much of work will involve in-class writing and discussion, so the class time is important. Students are allowed three total absences for any reason. This is the general composition program policy, so please don’t try to push it because you need to be here to get credit for the course. For significant health issues or family emergencies we will work out what to do on an individual basis. The key is to communicate with me in absence situations (before you miss class if at all possible). Also, class will start and finish on time. Excessive lateness will lead to being counted as absent (three days late equals one absence).


Classroom Courtesy: I want this course to be a place where, for a brief three hours a week, we can freely discuss ideas and work on our writing.  I have found that certain interruptions can be extremely distracting to both your classmates and me, so I ask that you observe these basic guidelines of classroom decorum:

-Please turn your cell phones off or to silent for the duration of our classroom meetings.

-I expect you to fully present during our time together, so during class, please do not text message, send e-mail, surf the web, use Morse code, telepathy, or do anything else that will distract you or others from the work of the course.

-Please come on time to class and make your bathroom breaks, coffee runs, and smoke breaks BEFORE coming to class.  Unless you have an emergency, I ask that you join us for the entirety of class.


Grading Standards:

The A Essay

  1. The A essay fulfills the assignment-and does so in a fresh and mature manner, using purposeful language that leads to knowledge making. The essay effectively meets the needs of the rhetorical situation in terms of establishing the writer’s stance, attention to audience, purpose for writing, and sensitivity to context. When appropriate to the assignment, the writer demonstrates expertise in employing the artistic appeals of ethos, logos, and pathos appropriately.
  2. The topic itself is clearly defined, focused, and supported. The essay has a clear thesis that is supported with specific (and appropriate) evidence, examples, and details. Any outside sources of information are used carefully and cited appropriately. The valid reasoning within the essay demonstrates good judgment and an awareness of the topic’s complexities.
  3. The organization-chronological, spatial, or emphatic-is appropriate for the purpose and subject of the essay. The introduction establishes a context, purpose, and audience for writing and contains a focused thesis statement. The following paragraphs are controlled by (explicit or implicit) topic sentences; they are well developed; and they progress logically from what precedes them. (If appropriate, headings and subheadings are used.) The conclusion moves beyond a mere restatement of the introduction, offering implications for or the significance of the topic.
  4. The prose is clear, readable, and sometimes memorable. It contains few surface errors, none of which seriously undermines the overall effectiveness of the paper for educated readers. It demonstrates fluency in stylistic flourishes (subordination, variation of sentence and paragraph lengths, interesting vocabulary).

The B Essay

  1. The assignment has been followed and fulfilled. The essay establishes the writer’s stance and demonstrates a clear sense of audience, purpose, and context.
  2. The topic is fairly well defined, focused, and supported. The thesis statement is adequate (but could be sharpened), especially for the quality of supporting evidence the writer has used. The reasoning and support are thorough and more than adequate. The writer demonstrates a thoughtful awareness of complexity and other points of view.
  3. The B essay has an effective introduction and conclusion. The order of information is logical, and the reader can follow it because of well-chosen transitions and (explicit or implicit) topic sentences. Paragraph divisions are logical, and the paragraphs use enough specific detail to satisfy the reader.
  4. The prose expression is clear and readable. Sentence structure is appropriate for educated readers, including the appropriate use of subordination, emphasis, varied sentences, and modifiers. Few sentence-level errors (comma splices, fragments, or fused sentences) appear. Vocabulary is precise and appropriate; punctuation, usage, and spelling conform to the conventions of Standardized American English discussed in class.

The C Essay

  1. The assignment has been followed, and the essay demonstrates a measure of response to the rhetorical situation, in so far as the essay demonstrates some sense of audience and purpose.
  2. The topic is defined only generally; the thesis statement is also general. The supporting evidence, gathered honestly and used responsibly, is, nevertheless, often obvious and easily accessible. The writer demonstrates little awareness of the topic’s complexity or other points of view; therefore, the C essay usually exhibits minor imperfections or inconsistencies in development, organization, and reasoning.
  3. The organization is fairly clear. The reader could outline the presentation, despite the occasional lack of topic sentences. Paragraphs have adequate development and are divided appropriately. Transitions may be mechanical, but they foster coherence.
  4. The expression is competent. Sentence structure is relatively simple, relying on simple and compound sentences. The paper is generally free of sentence-level errors; word choice is correct though limited. The essay contains errors in spelling, usage, and punctuation that reveal an unfamiliarity with the conventions of Standardized American English discussed in class.

The D Essay

  1. The D essay attempts to follow the assignment, but demonstrates little awareness of the rhetorical situation in terms of the writer’s stance, audience, purpose, and context. For example, the essay might over- or under-estimate (or ignore) the audience’s prior knowledge, assumptions, or beliefs. The writer may have little sense of purpose.
  2. The essay may not have any thesis statement, or, at best, a flawed one. Obvious evidence may be missing, and irrelevant evident may be present. Whatever the status of the evidence, it is inadequately interpreted and rests on an insufficient understanding of the rhetorical situation. Or it may rely too heavily on evidence from published sources without adding original analysis.
  3. Organization is simply deficient: introductions or conclusions are not clearly marked or functional; paragraphs are neither coherently developed nor arranged; topic sentences are consistently missing, murky, or inappropriate; transitions are missing or flawed.
  4. The D essay may have numerous and consistent errors in spelling, usage, and punctuation that reveal unfamiliarity with the conventions of Standardized American English discussed in class (or a lack of careful proofreading).

The F Essay

  1. The F essay is inappropriate in terms of the purpose of the assignment and the rhetorical situation. If the essay relates vaguely to the assignment, it has no clear purpose or direction.
  2. The essay falls seriously short of the minimum length requirements; therefore, it is insufficiently developed and does not go beyond the obvious.
  3. The F essay is plagued by more than one of the organizational deficiencies of a D essay.
  4. Numerous and consistent errors of spelling, usage, and punctuation hinder communication.

Resources for in class:

Mutter Museum

Noah’s Ark story

Excerpt of Serac

NP art museum

The Matrix

Memory and rhetoric essays

Curating essays I’ve downloaded

Hannah Arendt excerpt


Other Texts—choose one for your last book:

The Intuitionist Colson Whitehead

Diamond Age Neal Stephenson

Tracks Louise Erdrich

Ceremony Leslie Marmon Silko

Life: A User’s Manual Georges Serac

Gibson’s Blue Ant trilogy—other 2 books

The Museum of Extraordinary Things Alice Hoffman

In an Antique Land Amitav Ghosh

The Bonesetter’s Daughter Amy Tan

Autobiography of a Face Lucy Grealy

Number the Stars Lois Lowry

Building Stories Chris Ware

Autograph Man Zadie Smith

NW Zadie Smith

Never Let Me Go Kazuo Ishiguro

Cabinet of Curiosities Mark Dion

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore Robin Sloan

Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story by Jim Holt


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s