the creative interpretation of actuality" (John Grierson)
This course examines how the documentary
works in different media: radio, print, film, photography, graphic arts, and
the web. It asks how we should think about the web, given that it is a medium
that can bring together text, still and moving images, and sound, and that it
can allow both linear and "hypertextual" navigation. We will look at the documentary
as a form of storytelling and consider the technological developments that contributed
to changes in documentary representation. By focusing on the documentary in
different forms of media, this course offers a comparative perspective that
will lead to a greater understanding of the genre as well as of
media. This course will be divided between seminars, which will stimulate in-depth
analysis of particular documentaries as well as of larger questions about representation
and form, and labs, which will furnish hands-on experience in working with digital
The HANS 320 course packet (henceforth
known as CP) and the following books are available at the Rice Campus Store.
Items in the course packet are also on e-reserve in Fondren Library.
- Ira Glass and Jessica Abel, Radio:
An Illustrated Guide (1999)*
- Grahame Clarke, The Photograph.
Oxford History of Art Series. (1997)*
- James Agee and Walker Evans,
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1939)*
- Art Spiegelman, Maus: A
Survivor's Tale (1986) *
- Erik Barnouw, Documentary:
A History of the Non-Fiction Film (1993)
- Richard Grusin and Jay David
Bolter, Remediation: Understanding New Media (1999)
- Robert Coles, Doing Documentary
Since this is a discussion class, I consider your attendance and participation
very important. Keep in mind that discussion classes usually reward you
in proportion to the effort that you put into them. You should also know
that you will receive a grade based on your participation.
- Short exercises and media
This course aims to develop your skills in both analyzing and producing digital
media. Toward this end, there will be five introductory media labs focused
on how to use tools for creating Web pages, editing audio and video, and capturing
and manipulating images. If you already have experience working with any of
these tools, you are not required to attend the corresponding media lab (typically
held for an hour at the end of a class session), but everyone must complete
the assignments associated with the labs.
On class days when a media lab assignment is not due, you will submit a brief,
informal written response to a question related to the week's reading assignment.
These responses need not be polished, but they should reflect your engagement
with the issues raised in class.
Note: Specific assignments
for the following papers and projects will be given at least 3 weeks before
the due date. You are always welcome to turn in any assignments early, or to
have me look at a draft before officially submitting an essay or project.
- Essay 1
Analytical essay (3-4 pp.) offering a close reading of a documentary instance.
Due by 5:00 p.m. on October 1 to my office in the Electronic Text Center.
- Essay 2
Appreciative essay (3-5 pp) advocating for a particular artist or work overlooked
on the syllabus. Due November 5.
- Oral report
Working with several other students, you will deliver a 15 minute presentation
about a collection of documentary photographs. During this presentation, your
group should describe the background of the photographer, highlight the central
themes of the collection, and discuss a few photographs that illustrate important
ideas and methods. You should prepare a web-page to accompany the presentation,
and should strive to engage your classmates in a discussion of the collection.
The collections to be assigned all focus on some aspect of the American identity:
Groups and more specific assignment TBA. Due October 10.
- Final project Working with
a small group, you will develop a "digital documentary" focused on some aspect
of Houston or Rice. This documentary should include at least three types of
media (e.g. image, text, audio, video) and will be included on the class website.
Due by December 12.
The Electronic Text Center:
If you need to listen to an online audio documentary, use a CD-ROM,
or work on your own digital projects, you are more than welcome to use the
equipment, software, and reference books at the Electronic Text Center,
and to ask the staff for assistance. Our hours are currently 9-6 weekdays,
but we can look into staying open in the evenings and weekends if there
is sufficient demand. The Electronic Text Center is located on the first
floor of Fondren Library; after you enter the rotunda, turn right. The Etext
Center is on your right immediately before you get to the reference desk.
(My office is located in the back of the Etext Center, and you're welcome
to drop by any time we're open.)
We will be using WebCT (http://webct.owlnet.rice.edu/)
for our course bulletin board, assignment dropbox, gradebook, and so forth.
If you are enrolled in the course, you should go to http://cts.rice.edu/webctrequests/hans320/
to set up your WebCT course account for HANS 320. Further details to follow.
- Late assignments: Late
assignments will be docked 1/3 of a letter grade for every class period that
they are overdue. (For example, an A- paper late by one class period would
receive a B+; if it were late by two periods, it would receive a B.) Exceptions
will be granted only to those who have made prior arrangements with me and
who have a genuine need for an extension.
- Absences: Because this
class depends on student involvement, attendance is mandatory. You will be
allowed two unexcused absences without penalty. After that, each unexcused
absence will result in the reduction of your semester grade by 1/3 (e.g. from
a B to a B-). Please contact me if you are ill or if an emergency arises.
Keep in mind that if you are absent, you are obligated to find out what you
missed and make up any work.
- Plagiarism: All work that
you submit in this class must be your own (except, of course, in the case
of the group assignments). If you do consult an outside source, be sure that
you include it on a works cited page. Plagiarism is, of course, an honor offense,
and I will follow university policies in handling it.
- Disabilities: Any student
with a disability requiring accommodations in this course is encouraged to
contact me after class or during office hours. Additionally, students will
need to contact Disability Support Services in the Ley Student Center.
- First Paper: 10%
- Second Paper: 15%
- Final Project: 30%
- Media labs and short writing
- Group report: 15%
- Participation: 10%