English 111M

Counterculture & Spirituality in American Culture


    Fall, 2009

    HOPW 22

MWF 11-11:50

Dr. Chidsey Dickson

Office: Carnegie 222

Need to contact me?

Email works best: dickson_c@lynchburg.edu


Office Hours: M&W 10-10:30am; 2-3:30pm. And by appointment.


Our politics are mere theater. Culture war, evangelical against humanist, Democrat against Republican, liberal against conservative, Rush versus Moore, O’Reilly versus Obama. We are asked to choose sides in this theater and asked to understand this choice as our “freedom.”…This fake politics sets evangelical and secular America at permanent odds. Is this true? The two parties understand poorly not only the other but themselves. Evangelicals imagine themselves to be spiritual while committing themselves to capitalism, militarianism and nationalism. They do not understand that justice is a requirement of spirit. On the other side, secular liberalism imagines itself free of the need for spirit. But it cannot answer even the most basic questions without resorting to values that are inevitably spiritual. Capitalism exploits the poor, they complain. But why shouldn’t it? We are destroying the world. But what says we shouldn’t?


Curtis White, author The Spirit of Disobedience: Resisting the Charms of Fake Politics, Mindless Consumption, and the Culture of Total Work



I was once told that there was a tale in the Talmud about a man somewhere in the desert who sees an animal on the horizon. As the animal comes closer, he realizes it is a man. When it gets even closer, he recognizes the man as his brother. That is the story that is forever learned in the United Statese pluribus unum.


Stanley Crouch. “The High Ground,” in Best African American Essays: 2009 (eds Gerald Early and Debra Dickerson)



Required Materials


They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing (With Readings). Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein, Russel Durst. Norton, 2009.


Sentence Composing for College: A Workbook on Sentence Variety and Maturity. Don Killgallon. Boyton, 1998.


Counterculture Through The Ages. Ken Goffman and Dan Joy. Villard Books, 2004.


Course Description


This is as much an inquiry class as it is a writing class. The work you’ll do this semester will be spread out over four areas:


·         prose style and mechanics: you’ll do some workbook exercises once a week in the book, Sentence Composing, which will help you become more flexible in your construction of ideasàsentences. We’ll also have class discussions about the philosophy of the semi-colon (!) and what kind of rhythms are possible in paragraphs (more than you’d think). And of course you’ll be required to nail down the “comma rules” (not a hard thing once you see the logic of it).


  • invention and convention: you’ll be introduced to several “heuristics” (tools) that will help you think further than you are able to at the moment (which is to say: more creatively, analytically, rigorously, and cogently). You’ll also experiment with some “templates,” some conventional moves in academic  discourse. Most of these will be from your book, They Say/I Say: The Moves that Matter, but really we can find them anywhere, and we will.


  • readings and presentations: from the first week of class, we’ll be reading about countercultures—from the mythic hero Prometheus and the 10th century Christian monk to the 60’s radical and the 1990’s “intentional community” (aka “commune”). We’ll be looking at Goffman and Joy’s thesis that countercultures throughout history have three primary characteristics: they
    • assign primacy to individuality at the expense of social conventions and governmental constraints
    • challenge authoritarianism in both obvious and subtle forms
    • embrace individual and social change.

Few of us, of course, belong to a recognized counterculture, but we have probably all dissented in our lifetime at one point or another. So, we’ll ask each other: how has dissent worked positively and negatively in our lives and in world history? Obviously, concerning the latter, we already know a great deal: without the religious dissent of the Puritans and Quakers, the British colonies that became the United States would not have been possible. Also, without the political dissent of the nation’s foundational documents, which emerged from the Enlightenment values subscribed to (and transcribed by) Jefferson, Franklin and Payne, the world’s “greatest experiment in democracy” would not have happened. And without the non-violent protests of the last two centuries (Abolitionism, Suffrage, Civil Rights, Feminism, Gay Liberation), ‘the experiment’ would not have withstood its own internal contradictions.  So, counterculture and dissent will be two important topics for discussion during the semester. à We’re also very fortunate to have several off-campus speakers visit our classroom to share the experiences, practices and ideas of their faith traditions. You may wonder: what does counterculture have to do with spirituality (and vice versa)?  This will be one of the important questions of the course: does a spiritual being/seeker have to work for change/justice, or is it enough to believe in the basic precepts of a religion?  Or to put it the other way around: are countercultures just motley aggregates of artists, radicals and ne’r-do-wells doing their own thing, or do they have (spiritual) commitments and communities that require them to act within certain constraints and towards certain objectives? And then there are even bigger questions we may want to tackle: Does understanding the world in an analytic/historical/skeptical way (as secular countercultures do) preclude understanding the world in a spiritual/doctrinal/pious way (as religious countercultures do)? If the secular and religious worldviews are not necessarily at odds, then what is the relationship of humility/piety to critical thinking?


  • informal and formal writing: you’ll write a lot in this course, and a good amount of it will be “informal, low-stakes” writing, meaning you will not be graded on specific criteria; this is something it takes first-year students some time to get used to.  I repeat: your weekly reflections on the speakers and the readings will not get individual grades, but I will read some of them at random twice during the semester to determine part of your “Participation Grade.” There will be three formal essays, and one zine project. In the formal projects, you will be graded not just on the correctness and lucidity of your prose but also (and mostly) on how good your ideas are, and how well they are developed: this requires that you get feedback on your work from your peers and professor and use this feedback to improve your essay. Getting/using and giving feedback is a skill, one that requires effort and practice. It may be the single most important skill you learn this year.


Learning Outcomes for the Course


By the end of the semester, you will improve your ability to:


  • read analytically (rather than for the gist)
  • write creative, coherent, convincing analyses of arguments
  • write grammatically correct and stylish sentences and well-organized essays
  • use photoshop and publisher for effective document design/lay-out
  • listen actively and contribute effectively to class discussion
  • connect ideas from varied sources (speakers’ talks, research, experience, articles)
  • articulate connections between service, critical thinking and spirituality


Service Learning and Interfaith Fieldtrips


This is a service learning course, which means that you will choose from a menu of possibilities to engage in a one-time or ongoing service to the community. Every opportunity is different, so consider your options carefully before deciding; some may choose to do several different short term projects, some may do the same project once a week, etc.  You will need to choose your option early and complete and sign a contract so that all parties (you, me, and the community representative) will know where/when it will happen, and what is required of each participant.  Your service hours must total 8, but you are not restrained from doing more, which would be the case if you chose to volunteer once at week at Lynchburg Grows, a local organic farm. We will also have several opportunities for fieldtrips (to Thomas Road Baptist Church, to a Muslim Mosque, to Yogaville, etc). that will provide first-hand experience with a variety of religious practices/traditions. At least one fieldtrip is required for the course. Additionally, there may be “community nights” on LC campus at one of the special interest student houses. The kinds of activities you would participate in might include practicing meditation, working with clay, drumming circle, creating a healthy meal, etc..




CLASS PARTICIPATION (you take notes in class, you are prepared for and willing to engage in discussion, etc.)




Formal Essays (3 @ 15%)






To get an A in the class you:

  • Prepare fully for every class. Being “prepared” for class also means being ready and able to help the whole class or your small group engage with the material for the day. Slouching down in your seat, hood-or-iPod-earpiece-wearing, coming late to class, sleeping, eating or head-on-desk “resting”: all indicate a lack of engagement. Basically, one slouch, tardiness, or nibble per month is acceptable. Beyond that, it’s a liability for the class and so you’ll be docked points for your Participation Grade.
  • Respond in class—this means listening attentively to what others are saying (not just the instructor) and RESPOND directly to them. Don’t hog the stage but don’t sit back and let others keep the ball rolling. Be thinking, comparing what two people said for similarities and differences. Make connections to previous discussions and to the current project. Be intellectually awake! This is your chance to learn how to engage your own mind, to take it to the next level.
  •  Turn in all assignments on time (exceptions can be negotiated as they arise, but must involve good reasoning and you must notify me 3 DAYS before the due date).
  • Revise work until it is not only insightful and briskly written but also polished (proofread)
  • Miss no more than four classes (extreme exceptions can be dealt with on an individual basis).

To get a B, you will generally need to meet the criteria of an A, but with some inconsistencies—or, you do all the work but the writing does not meet the departmental standards. The “inconsistency” could happen in any area, but generally it shows up as not being prepared for every class (not having the reading done, not handing in assignments on time), writing projects that don't meet all the assignment criteria, sporadic participation in class, or attendance or tardiness problems. The key here is that you are generally meeting the criteria for an A, but occasionally or in a particular area you are not.

To get a C, one or two inconsistencies become a norm rather than an exception. So, you could be working hard and learning  a lot—improving your writing abilities—but your writing isn’t quite ready for prime time, or you show little to no participation in class discussions, you’re is routinely late, so on.

Consistently failing to meet the criteria explained above will result in a D or F.

Attendance/Class Behavior


  • More than three unexcused absences from class indicates that, regardless of your writing ability or performance, you are not really invested in the course. After two absences, I might ask to speak to you about what’s hindering your full engagement (problems with workload, difficulty of assignments, etc.). Students who have six or more absences automatically fail the class. Since the class is only 50 minutes long (5 minutes of which is taken up with roll-taking and announcements), being on time is absolutely necessary. If you are chronically late, I will have to begin to count each lateness as one half an absence.


  • Flu: The symptoms of H1N1 flu virus in people are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue, and sometimes also diarrhea and vomiting. Infected persons are contagious for 24 hours prior to the onset of symptoms and for 24 hours after the fever breaks. If you are sick, you may be ill for a week or longer. You should stay home and keep away from others as much as possible, including avoiding travel and not going to class, for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.)  If you leave your room, wear a facemask and/or cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue.


  • No food is allowed in class but you can bring a drink if there is a top.


  • Use the restroom before you come to class, but if you need to go, you don’t need to ask permission—just be quiet as you leave and return. Also, sometimes during the middle of class you just need to stretch your legs and take a deep breath—if you can do this quietly I have no problem with it.


  • No cell phone/texting allowed in class


Missed Classes


Due to sickness, athletic events, family problems, etc., you will probably miss one or two classes during the semester. There’s no need to notify me if that’s all you miss. It is your responsibility, though, to have contact information for another person in the class (email and phone number) so that if you do miss a class you can find out what you missed, possible changes to the syllabus, etc.. More than three unexcused absences results in a drop in your semester grade by 1/2 letter grade.


Picking Up Work After an Absence


If you are absent on the day I return a hardcopy of your work, you can pick it up later outside my office door in a cardboard box marked “ENGLISH 111 Dr. Dickson.” If you leave your work there for weeks and weeks, it will indicate to me a lack of interest in improving your work (see “Participation Grade”).


Class Preparedness and Late Assignments


Late assignments are penalized a half a letter grade for every day they are late. My feedback to your work will be prompt if it is turned in on time, but if you turn something in late, I cannot promise that I will have time to turn your work around as quickly. It may be a few days before I have time to respond.




Plagiarism is a serious act of intellectual theft and will not be tolerated. All language and ideas you deploy in formal projects that you derive from sources must be credited. We will discuss the MLA guidelines for incorporating and documenting sources. As far as CW posts go, you are on your honor not to read your peers’ posts and merely paraphrase what they say. If I see that this is a problem, I will speak to you individually. If the problem is not addressed, I may choose to turn off your ability to see your peers’ posts, which disrupts part of the point of the electronic forum: seeing what others have to say.


What to Bring to Class (this is part of your “Participation Grade”)


  • Notebook and pen
  • Any text from which there is a reading assignment for that particular day
  • Any work (drafts, notes, etc.) from the major writing project you’re working on


Writing Center (Hopwood 04)


All writers can benefit from discussing their work with another interested writer; hence, the individual attention provided by the Writing Center tutors is a helpful resource for all students in ENGL 111-112.  You should decide at what point in your writing process discussion with a tutor would be most helpful: 

-          invention and focusing your document in the early stages

-          developing and organizing ideas in the rough draft

-          integrating and documenting sources (when applicable)

-          editing and proofreading before a final draft

You may like to visit the Writing Center more than once per assignment as your purpose changes at various points in the writing process, but I STRONGLY ENCOURAGE YOU to make at least two visits to the Writing Center this semester.  To avoid being blocked out of the Writing Center, make the appointments well in advance.  Afterwards, the tutor will send me an email form, which outlines the main points of your discussion.  This is how I know you have gone. This is worth 5% of your semester grade.




Lynchburg College is committed to providing all students equal access to learning opportunities.  The Support Services Office, located on the second floor of Hall Campus Center in Academic & Career Center, works with students who have disabilities to provide and/or arrange reasonable accommodations.  Students registered with Support Services, who have a letter requesting accommodations, are encouraged to contact the instructor with their letter as soon as possible each semester - accommodations are not retroactive.  Students who have, or think they may have, a disability (e.g. attentional, learning, vision, hearing, physical, or psychiatric) are invited to contact the Support Services Coordinator for a confidential meeting.  Call 434-544-8687 or e-mail the Coordinator at Arnold.sm@lynchburg.edu.  Additional information is available at the Lynchburg College Disability Support Services website:  http://www.lynchburg.edu/disabilityservices.xml.


Teacher Licensure

This course is designed to assist students preparing to meet Virginia Department of Education, Teacher Licensure Competencies in English as follows:  Competency 1: Understanding of the knowledge, skills, and process of English as defined in the Virginia Standards of Learning. (SOLS are 9.6-9.7; 10.7-10.9; 11.7-11.8 for ENGL 111; and all of these plus 9.8-9.9; 10.10-10.11; 11.9-11.10; 12.7-12.8 for ENGL 112). Competency 3: Knowledge of grammar, usage, and mechanics and their integration in writing


Schedule of Assignments Fall 2009


Reading and Writing Assignments


CTA = Counterculture Through the Ages

MTM = They Say/I Say: Moves that Matter

P= course packet

JE: “Journal Entry:” 1-3 pages of writing that pertains to the reading assignment(s)

Sentence Composing Assignments


F 28

Introduction to Course

(Note: I suggest you write your Iron&Silk essay this weekend and then revise it on Thursday night)


M 31

R The syllabus (annotate it). Also: Chapter 3 (CTA); 1-14 (MTM) W: JE

Focus 1 (practices 1-3, every other exercise, or more if you’d like. You may want sometimes to Xerox some pages and write directly on)


W 2

R Chapter 1 and 12 (MTM); Obama’s “One Nation Under God?” (P) W: JE

Focus 2 (all practices, every other exercise, or a little less, no more than an hour and half on this)

F 4

DUE: Iron and Silk Essay. R Chapter 4 (CTA) & 11 (MTM); Greif’s “WeTube (P) Class discussion: how to listen & how to interview. W: JE


M 7

R: Speaker Text TBA, Chapter 5 (CTA) W: JE

Focus 3 (all practices but only spend 1 1/2 hours, or more if you’re having fun or writing is just your bag: this goes for the rest of the foci)

W 9

R Chapter 8 (CTA), Chapter 1 (MTM) W: JE


F 11

R Chapter 2 and 3 (MTM) W: JE


M 14

R Speaker Text TBA, Chapter 4 (MTM) W: JE

Focus 4

W 16

R Chapter 5 & 6 (MTM); Chapter 2 (CTA) W: JE


F 18

R Chapter 8 & 10 & Ruskkoff’s “Bart” (MTM) W: JE


M 21

R Speaker Text TBA

Due: Brainstorming* for Essay #1

*always bring a hard copy (do not come to class and ask if you can go print it out—we only have 50 minutes for class)

Focus 5

W 23

R Chapter 4 & 5 (CTA); Turkle’s “Can You Hear Me Now” (MTM) W: JE


F 25

R: Rockler-Gladen’s “Me Vs. Media” (MTM)

Due: 1-page draft of Essay #1


M 28

R Speaker Text TBA

Due: Draft of Essay #1

Focus 6

W 30

R Chapter 8 (CTA); Will’s “Reality TV” (MTM) W: JE



F 2

R Sklar’s “Gulf” Bartlett’s “Wages” & “Inequality” (MTM) W: JE


M 5

R Speaker Text TBA

Due: Revision Essay #1

Focus 7

W 7

R Chapter 9 (CTA) W: JE



R: Chapter 10 & 11 (CTA) W: JE



M 12

R Speaker Text TBA

Due: Brainstorming Essay # 2

Focus 8

W 14

R Chapter 12& 13 (CTA)

Due: 1-page draft Essay # 2


F 16

Fall Break

M 19

R Speaker Text TBA, Chapter 14 & 15 (CTA) W: JE

Focus 8

W 21

R Chapter 9 (MTM)

Due: Draft of Essay # 2


F 23

R: Berman’s “911” &  Goldwasser’s “Kids Today” (MTM) W: JE


M 26

R Speaker Text TBA,

Due: Essay # 2

Focus 10

W 28

R Lemonick’s “Losing Our Edge?” & Balko’s “What You Eat” (MTM) W: JE


F 30

R Banzhaf’s “Lawsuits”  & Schlosser’s “Your Trusted Friends” (MTM) W: JE



M 2

R Speaker Text TBA, Chapter

Focus 11

W 4

R: Orbach’s “Fat as Feminist Issue” & Campos’ “Being Fat OK”  (MTM) W: JE


F 6

Due: Brainstorming Essay #3



R Speaker Text TBA

Due: Draft Essay # 3

Focus 12

W 11

R TBA Meet in library


F 13

R TBA Meet in library


M 16

R Speaker Text TBA

Focus 13

W 18


Meet in computer lab


F 20


Meet in computer lab


M 30

R Speaker Text TBA



W 2


Meet in computer lab


F 4


Meet in computer lab


M 7

R Speaker Text TBA


W 9

Meet in computer lab


F 11

Meet in computer lab

Due: Zine Project