JOUR 3304 – Syllabus

The first half of the semester will be devoted to cultivating your sense of expertise around a particular art form. You’ll be invited to select which genre you would prefer to focus on for the semester (film, music, theater, etc.) and will begin by building familiarity and confidence in assessing individual works in that field. The second portion of class will be devoted to reviewing works in that field and showcasing/workshopping your reviews with your fellow students.

The course consists of six writing assignments: five reviews (400-600 words) and one preview article (650-1000 words). For the first two reviews, I will offer some constraints designed to focus your attention on specific elements of the critical process, while the final three will be straightforward reviews of works from the field you have chosen. For your final three reviews, you will be asked to pick a specific, real publication venue to write for (as we’ll be discussing and comparing the differences between audience and venue). You will also be asked to find example reviews from that publication to share with the class – that you will be using as a “model” for your own criticism.

To encourage comfort and familiarity with writing publicly (and not just to the instructor), all articles will be published on the course blog, which will be public to your instructor and classmates but not to the Internet as a whole. You will be expected to read each other’s work and come to class prepared to discuss what you notice – offering helpful feedback.

Course Learning Objectives:

  • to understand the history and traditions of art criticism
  • to identify and assess the discreet elements that compose a particular art form
  • to write persuasively about that assessment
  • to craft an authorial/critical voice (ethos)
  • to cater writing to particular audiences and publication venues
  • to formulate effective interview questions and techniques
  • to provide feedback to peers (and artists) in a constructive and conscientious manner

Required Texts:

Williams, Joseph M. and Gregory G. Colomb. Style – Lessons in Clarity and Grace (10th ed.). Longman: Boston, 2010. ISBN: 978-0205747467,

All supplementary readings will be provided via Blackboard or email.

Please also keep in mind that you will be required to attend up to five events/exhibits/films for which you will more likely than not have to purchase tickets. I recommend setting aside/budgeting at least $50 for this purpose (more if you choose to work on theater) – hence I am only requiring you purchase the one book.

Grade Breakdown:

Reading quizzes and classroom participation: 15%

Discussion questions and homework assignments: 15%

5 reviews (400-600 words): 50%

1 preview/feature article (650-1000 words): 20%

Grading Policies:

Grading Criteria: While I hope that personal fulfillment and improvement in your writing skills will be your main objective in this class, I understand that you’re also interested in passing the class.

I will grade your work using journalistic assessment standards:

  • A = 90 to 100 points. Outstanding. Copy is publishable with little or no editing.
  • B = 80 to 90 points. Very good. Copy requires minor editing.
  • C = 70 to 80 points. Adequate. Copy needs heavy revision and additional reporting.
  • D = 60 to 70 points. Marginal. Copy contains factual errors, incomplete reporting, and needs extensive editing.
  • F = 50 to 60 points. Unacceptable. Copy does not meet minimum writing and reporting standards or has been handed in after deadline.

You will be graded on your ability to find a focus, write clearly, compose a compelling lede and incorporate strong quotes in your copy (primarily for the preview article). Proper presentation and punctuation of quotes, proper use of AP Style and overall accuracy will also factor into your final grade on each assignment. You will lose three points for each error of fact (dates, venues, etc.). You will lose 5 points for each proper name you get wrong/misspell.

I will only provide copy-editing feedback as necessary (via e-mail), but I will provide substantive feedback on the content and style of each of your articles in the form of recorded audio-commentary. If you prefer written feedback, you must request that in writing (send me an e-mail), and I will be happy to accommodate your request.

Revision: Regardless of your level of experience, two of my pedagogical goals for the course are to encourage you to view writing as a process and to help you gain confidence in your writing abilities. With those objectives in mind, I maintain an open-ended revision policy. Provided the assignment was submitted on time and meets the minimum requirements, each writing assignment may be revised and re-submitted until you are satisfied with your grade.

Keep in mind, however, that “revision” does not mean merely correcting mistakes. To have effectively revised a piece of writing is to have re-envisioned it: to reconsider structure (both global and local); to weed out extraneous claims and clauses; to improve the flow of ideas and sentences; to provide additional support for weaker arguments. I will only provide feedback (or a new grade) on resubmitted assignments that demonstrate substantial revision. Additionally, you will be required to meet with me during office hours or by appointment to discuss your plans for revision prior to resubmitting any assignment.

All revised assignments are due by 5:00 pm on December 8, 2013.

Deadlines/late work: Given that this is a journalism course, and given that “real-world” journalism operates under strict deadlines, late work will not be accepted. Do not ask me for extensions, as they will not be granted. You will not receive credit for any article posted after the deadline.

Because this course meets only once weekly, and in order to provide both the instructor and your fellow students time to review your work prior to class (so that we can discuss them as a group), articles must be posted to the course blog by 5:00 pm on the day before class. The schedule will reflect these Sunday due dates. Fortunately, the Internet works 24 hours a day, so keep in mind these deadlines provide you roughly 140 hours between a Monday night class and your next deadline – during any of which you are welcome to post your article.

You will also be expected to “pitch” your assignment topics (in writing) at least five days before they are due in order to obtain approval.  This means that if you have an article due on Sunday, you should send me an email by midnight Tuesday night pitching your subject and requesting approval. This replicates many real-world journalistic scenarios where you would have to request editorial approval before writing an article.

Academic Integrity:

Academic dishonesty includes cheating on tests as well as plagiarizing (presenting another individual’s work as your own). The St. Edward’s University Student Handbook states that, “a student who is dishonest in any work is to receive a mark of F for that course.” Students caught committing any act of academic dishonesty in this course will be subject to the full range of penalties as described in the Student Handbook.


Given that this course meets only once each week, missing one class is the equivalent of missing a full week of classes. You are allowed one excused absence during the semester. The second absence will result in a 3% overall grade deduction. If you are absent a third time (the equivalent of missing six normal class sessions), you run the risk of being withdrawn from the class.

The most important thing a journalist does is show up. If you want to do well in this course, you must come to class on time and stay for the duration. You must also come prepared: read the assigned articles and materials, post your own work/sample articles on time, and be ready to participate in lively discussions.

Please note that if you miss any in-class writing assignments designed to develop your deadline skills, you cannot make them up and will earn a zero for those assignments. Likewise, quizzes cannot be made up. If you miss a quiz, you earn a zero.

If you know in advance that you will be absent, please send me an e-mail to let me know. This is both courteous and makes me much more inclined to discuss with you the material that you miss.  If, however, you do not notify me in advance, you will need to turn to your classmates for assistance in catching up on the missed material.


Incompletes will be awarded only if a) the student’s work is up to date at the time of the request for an incomplete; b) the student provides thorough documentation of a serious emergency; c) the request is approved by the Dean of the School of Humanities.

Special Circumstances/Accommodations:

If you have a medical, psychiatric or learning disability and require accommodations in this class, please let me know immediately or as soon as you are eligible for accommodations. You will first need to provide documentation to the Disability Coordinator, located in Academic Planning and Support.


E-mail is an official means of communication, and I will frequently use this medium to communicate class information. Please check your e-mail and Blackboard regularly for announcements and updates. I also strongly encourage you to e-mail me with questions and concerns, but keep in mind that my response might not be immediate, particularly if your message is sent late at night. Also, if your question is a lengthy one (about writing, etc.), I may ask you to visit my office hours instead of responding via e-mail. Please also keep in mind that e-mail is short for electronic mail. As such, I expect you to include a subject, a salutation, and a closing. Even if you are sending them from your phone, remember that e-mails are not text messages.

Office Hours/Conferences:

I am more than happy to meet with you to discuss anything you are struggling with in this class or to chat about story ideas you might have. Please feel welcome to come talk to me!  As noted above, if you intend to revise any of your articles, you will be required to meet with me to discuss those revisions prior to submission.  I am only on campus Monday evenings, but if my office hours are not convenient for you, I’m very happy to schedule an appointment to chat with you online. You will find that I am very available for outside help as your success in this class is my highest priority.


Speakers will occasionally come to talk to the class. Please make sure you are in class when a speaker is scheduled and that you are prepared to ask questions and take detailed notes. You will be required to cover the speakers’ talks as brief news stories. These assignments cannot be made up.



While I will rarely (if ever) disrupt your schedule by moving the due dates of major assignments, all readings and short homework assignments are subject to change. To make the most of this course, the reading schedule will be catered to your interests and strengths.  While my area of expertise is theater, if the majority of you want to work on music and film, it makes more sense for us to look at those types of reviews (although we’ll be reading at least one or two of every kind). A more thorough schedule will be provided in the second week of class – after you have submitted your preferences. However, occasional juggling of readings may occur from time to time, so be sure to come to class each week and/or touch base with your classmates or instructor if you are ever confused about what is due.

Basic Schedule:

8/27 – Introduction/overview

9/2 – NO CLASS

9/9 Purpose of Criticism (read Wilde, Elkins, Pater,

– DUE: Sunday, 9/15 – Review #1

9/16 “Good” Criticism

9/23 Ethos

– DUE: Sunday, 9/29 – Review #2

9/30 “Constructive” Criticism

10/7 Interviews

10/14 Audience/Publication/Purpose – Speaker: Dan Solomon

– DUE: Sunday, 10/20 – Preview Article

10/21 Editing – Speaker: Robert Faires

– DUE: Sunday, 10/27 – Review #3 (Group A)

10/28 REVIEWS (Workshops)

– DUE: Sunday, 11/03 – Review #3 (Group B)

11/4 REVIEWS (Workshops)

– DUE: Sunday, 11/10 – Review #4 (Group A)

11/11 REVIEWS (Workshops)

– DUE: Sunday, 11/17 – Review #4 (Group B)

11/18 REVIEWS (Workshops)

– DUE: Sunday, 11/24 – Review #5 (Group A)

11/25 REVIEWS (Workshops)

– DUE: Sunday, 12/01 – Review #5 (Group B)

12/2 – REVIEWS (Workshops) (Last day of class)