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English 2367.

Documentary in the U.S.
Crime, Justice, and
MWF (10:20-11:15am),
Denney Hall 268
Instructor: Jacinta Yanders
Office Hours: MWF,
Office: Denney Hall 569

Course Description

“Reality is more maddening, more fabulous, change. Finally, we willEmail:

consider the
more strangely manipulative than fiction”- Trinh representational impact of documentary as well
T. Minh-ha, “The Totalizing Quest of Meaning” as its capability (or lack thereof) to be more true
than fiction.
Throughout the course of film history, there
have been numerous core topics that have been In this three-hour, second-level writing course
present in films. One such topic is that of the for which English 1110 is a prerequisite, you
crime story, which is present across genres and will continue to develop and refine the skills in
often in many of the films most often considered analysis, research, and composition that you
canonically classic. Though filmic crime stories practiced in English 1110. This course
have a long lineage, recent years have seen the emphasizes persuasive and researched writing,
development of a more concerted interest in revision, and composing in various forms and
crime stories across media. In particular, the media. In addition, you will build upon and
subgenre of true crime has seen a resurgence on improve your mastery of academic writing with
the heels of the wildly popular podcast Serial. and from sources; refine your ability to
synthesize information; create arguments about a
Bearing such interest in mind, this course aims variety of discursive, visual, and/or cultural
to explore the construction (and deconstruction) artifacts; and become more proficient in and
of crime, alongside justice and power, via sophisticated in your research strategies and
documentary film. We will explore how employment of the conventions of standard
documentaries interrogate these topics as well academic discourses.
the documentary’s ability to contribute to social
Class Hacks

 Come to every class.

 Do everything: Read, write, think, watch, listen, etc.
 Challenge yourself.
 Have fun.


 We will understand documentary as as a tool to address and critique a variety of contemporary and
historical social problems and issues.
 We will be able to write analytically and effectively about documentary film in relation to its historical and
cultural contexts.
 We will be able to identify relevant secondary source material, interrogate its credibly, and utilize it
effectively in our own writing.
 We will be able to recognize well-crafted arguments and persuasive appeals in our reading and
simultaneously be able to deploy similar skills in our own writing.
 We will be able to recognize how skills of analysis, writing, and critical thinking are relevant to our lives
beyond this class.
 We will utilize both reflection and peer feedback to evaluate and revise our work.
 We will examine the ethics of documentary filmmaking and truth as a broader concept with real world
 We will be more confident in our writing by the end of class, especially with respect to adhering to
academic conventions and expectations, than we are at the start.

University GE Fulfillment and Learning Outcomes

As a second-level writing course at OSU, English 2367.03 fulfills the GE category in Level Two Writing and

Writing and Communication

Goals: Students are skilled in written communication and expression, reading, critical thinking, oral expression and
visual expression.
Expected Learning Outcomes:
Level Two Writing (2367)
1. Through critical analysis, discussion, and writing, students demonstrate the ability to read carefully and
express ideas effectively.
2. Students apply written, oral, and visual communication skills and conventions of academic discourse to the
challenges of a specific discipline.
3. Students access and use information critically and analytically.

Learning Outcomes
1. Rhetorical Knowledge
2. Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing
3. Knowledge of Composing Processes
4. Collaboration
5. Knowledge of Conventions
6. Composing in Electronic Environments
7. Minimal Course Requirements
a. By the end of their second writing course, students will have written
i. A variety of texts, including at least one researched essay, with opportunities for response
and revision
ii. A minimum of 5000 total words (roughly 20 total pages of written work). Electronic or
other projects of equivalent rigor and substance may be included, but the primary focus
of the course must be the composing of formal written work
What You Need

 Who Says?: The Writer’s Research-1st edition by Deborah H. Holdstein & Danielle Aquiline (ISBN:
 Access to a Netflix account (some films will also be available via OSU’s Media library at
 Additional readings via Carmen

Show What You Know

Grading Scale
A 93-100 B+ 87-89 C+ 77-79 D+ 67-69
A- 90-92 B 83-86 C 73-76 D 60-66
B- 80-82 C- 70-72

Below, you will find brief summaries of the class’ major assignments. More detailed instructions will be
forthcoming as the semester proceeds.

Film Quizzes (10% total; 2% each): Five unannounced film quizzes will be given randomly throughout the
semester. Each quiz will take place on a day in which we’re covering a new documentary. Quizzes will be given in
the first ten minutes of class and cannot be made up.

Critical Reading Responses (15% total; 3% each): Five critical reading responses will be due throughout the first
half of the semester. When bolded readings appear in the syllabus, you will write a 1.5-2pp. typed response that
demonstrates your engagement with and understanding of the text. Each response will be due to Carmen at the start
of class on the day for which the reading is assigned.

You Teach (15%): Each week, 1-2 of you will be responsible for facilitating the start of class discussions on days
in which we cover new documentaries. In addition to facilitating discussion, you will be expected to demonstrate
your summarizing skills, your ability to analyze the film, and your understanding of how the documentary relates to
our class readings, discussions, and other previously viewed documentaries.

Critical Analysis Project (35%): For this project, you’ll complete a series of writings about a chosen documentary.
Each of these initial writings will require you to approach your object of inquiry from a different critical perspective
while demonstrating your ability appropriately integrate secondary source material. Ultimately, you will synthesize
your work into one final analytical essay. Project components:
 Scene Analysis, 3-5pp. (5%)
 Annotated Bibliography, 2-3pp. (5%)
 Thematic Analysis, 3-5pp. (5%)
 Rough Draft of Final Essay (2.5%)
 Peer Review (2.5%)
 Final Essay, 8-10pp. (15%)

Documentary Project (25%): For this project, you will be divided into groups that will each be responsible for
crafting a documentary short on a subject that relates to our course theme. The final versions of your documentaries
will be presented in a public showcase during our final exam time in April. Project components:
 Documentary Proposal, 1-2pp. (2%)
 Documentary Rough Draft (3%)
 Final Documentary (15%)
 Final Exam Showcase/Group Evaluation (5%)

Grade Distribution:
Film Quizzes 10%=100 points
Critical Reading Responses: 15%=150 points
You Teach: 15%=150 points
Critical Analysis Project: 35%=350 points
Documentary Project: 25%=250 points
Total: 100%=1000 points

The Nitty-Gritty

Classroom Community and Inclusivity: The classroom is comprised of people with a rich variety of backgrounds
and perspectives. We should all be committed to building an atmosphere for learning that respects and appreciates a
range of perspectives and identities. While working together to build this classroom atmosphere, we are all tasked
 Sharing unique experiences, values, and beliefs
 Being open to the views of others
 Appreciating the opportunity that we have to learn from each other
 Keeping confidential discussions that the community has of a personal (or professional) nature
P.S. The devil does not need an advocate.

Inclusive Language: Everyone should be referred to by their preferred name, by the correct pronunciation of their
name, and by their preferred pronouns (such as she, ze, he, or they).

Content Advisory: Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the course topic, the films we’ll be viewing for this class often
contain subject matter that some viewers may find that they need to prepare for. The classroom space is one in
which I believe we should all be challenged. However, it is not the endeavor of this course to do harm to anyone. So
that each person can take whatever steps necessary to prepare to productively engage with the material, I will do my
best to provide content warnings as we proceed throughout the semester. When presenting and/or sharing work
and/or examples, students are expected to take the same precautions.

Attendance: As mentioned above, in order to get the most from this class, it’s important to be present. While I am
generally willing to make exceptions for serious circumstances, such as illness or family emergency, please note that
acceptance of excuses is up to my discretion. Furthermore, accruing more than three unexcused absences will result
in the loss of 1/3 of a letter grade for each subsequent unexcused absence.

Student Work: All assignments should be posted to Carmen by the listed due date/time. Late work will result in a
drop of one letter grade (for example, from B to C) for each day late. Film quizzes and “You Teach” presentations
cannot be made up if missed. Unexcused absences or technological misfortunes are not acceptable excuses for
failing to meet a deadline. Pro-tip: back up all work, save often, and keep at least 2 electronic copies of your work
(on your hard drive and on a computer, for example). All written work must be submitted in MLA format (visit
Purdue Owl for guidance if needed) and as .doc or .docx files. Please do not submit .pages files.

Drafts: I am happy to provide feedback on essay drafts if a copy is brought to me during office hours ahead of the
assignment’s due date. When you come in, you should have specific passages in mind for me to review and/or
specific questions to attend to. I will not read and edit the entire document. Additionally, I will not respond to drafts
via email.

Revision: This semester, you will have the opportunity to revise either the Scene Analysis essay OR the Thematic
Analysis essay for the possibility of a higher grade. Specific instructions for revision can be found on the Revision
Application in the Assignment Prompts folder.

Tech Time: Like many, if not all, of you, technology is a significant part of my life in all sectors, most particularly
with respect to my academic work. As such, you are welcome to use your devices to take notes, pull up the articles,
and to complete other relevant tasks related to the course work. However, should your devices become a distraction
to others in the class, you will be required to put them away.
Class Cancellation: In the unlikely event of class cancellation due to emergency, I will contact you via email and
request that a note be placed on the door of our classroom announcing the cancellation.

Plagiarism is the unauthorized use of the words or ideas of another person. It is a serious academic offense that can
result in referral to the Committee on Academic Misconduct. Please remember that at no point during the writing
process should the work of others be presented as your own.
It is the responsibility of the Committee on Academic Misconduct to investigate or establish procedures for the
investigation of all reported cases of student academic misconduct. The term "academic misconduct" includes all
forms of student academic misconduct wherever committed; illustrated by, but not limited to, cases of plagiarism
and dishonest practices in connection with examinations. Instructors shall report all instances of alleged academic
misconduct to the committee (Faculty Rule 3335-5-487). For additional information, see the Code of Student

“Help Will Always Be Given To Those Who Ask”- JK Rowling (more or less)

Emily Sferra is the Research Tutor for the OSU Libraries. Emily is available to provide help to first- and second-
year writing students during any stage of the research process. She is available for tutoring sessions at the Writing
Center in Thompson Library located behind the reference desk in Thompson 120. Research tutoring hours are
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 11AM-1PM and 2PM-5PM. Tuesday tutoring hours are from 11AM-
1PM and 4PM-6PM. All sessions are walk-in appointments. Emily can be reached at

The Writing Center offers free help with writing at any stage of the writing process for any member of the
university community. Appointments are available in-person at various locations on-campus, as well as online. You
may schedule an in-person or online appointment by visiting or by calling 614-

The Digital Media Project (DMP) is the division of the English department that provides equipment and technical
support to students enrolled in English classes. The DMP general office is located in Denney 324, and offers
equipment borrowing and support from friendly, expert staff. For more information, including borrowing policies
and requirements, see

The Ombud for the Writing Programs, Debra Lowry (, mediates conflicts between instructors
and students in Writing Programs courses. Her Spring 2017 walk-in office hours in Denney Hall 441 are Monday, 1-
3 PM, and Thursday, 9-11 AM. All conversations with the Ombud are confidential.

Students with documented disabilities who have registered with

the Office of Student Life Disability Services will be appropriately
accommodated and should inform the instructor as soon as possible of
their needs. SLDS is located in 098 Baker Hall, 113 W. 12th Ave;
Tel.: 614-292-3307; VRS: 614-429-1334;;
The Day-to-Day

Key: Who Says?(WS), OSU Media Library (O), Netflix (N)

All viewings and readings should be completed before coming to class on the days in which they are listed.
Note: Schedule is subject to change as needed. Additionally, you will need to have access to all assigned readings
during each class meeting, either in hard copy or digitally. Failure to bring required materials restricts your ability to
participate fully in class.
Week 1: Getting Started

January 9th
 Introductions, Syllabus
January 11th
 Readings Due: Greg Smith, “Analyzing Film and Television”; Michael Goldberg, “Some Suggestions on
How to Read a Film”; Laura Bolin Carroll, “Backpacks vs. Briefcases: Steps Toward Rhetorical Analysis”
January 13th
 Viewing Due: The Thin Blue Line (N, O)

Week 2: Making Meaning

January 16th
 No Class: MLK Day
January 18th
 Readings Due: Bill Nichols, “How Can We Define Documentary Film?”; Tonny Krijnen & Sofie Van
Bauwel, “Gender and Media”; Stuart Hall, “The Work of Representation” (read only pp. 15-29)
 Assignment Due: Critical Reading Response #1
January 20th
 Viewings Due: Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer (N) & Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial
Killer (N)

Week 3: Finding a Voice

January 23rd
 Readings Due: Bill Nichols, “How Did Documentary Filmmaking Get Started?”; Vann R. Newkirk II,
“Sometimes There Are More Important Goals Than Civility”
 Assignment Due: Critical Reading Response #2
January 25th
 Viewing Due: The Black Power Mixtape, 1967-1975 (N)
January 27th
 Reading Due: WS (pp. 6-15); Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, “‘Ain’t So/Is Not’: Academic Writing
Doesn’t Always Mean Setting Aside Your Own Voice”

Week 4: Barriers

January 30th
 Readings Due: Bill Nichols, “How Have Documentaries Addressed Social and Political Issues?”; Michael
S. Kimmel, “Masculinity as Homophobia”
 Assignment Due: Critical Reading Response #3
February 1st
 Viewing Due: Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine (N)
February 3rd
 Reading Due: WS (pp. 30-42)

Week 5: Emotional Appeals

February 6th
 Reading Due: Bill Nichols, “What Makes Documentaries Engaging and Persuasive?”
February 8th
 Viewing Due: Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (N, O)
February 10th
 Reading Due: WS (pp. 43-49)
Week 6: It’s About Ethics in Documentary Filmmaking

February 13th
 Reading Due: Bill Nichols, “Why Are Ethical Issues Central to Documentary Filmmaking?”
February 15th
 Viewing Due: The Imposter (N)
February 17th
 Reading Due: Gocsik, Barsam, and Monahan, “Writing About Movies”

Week 7: Who Gets to Speak?

February 20th
 Introduce Scene Analysis
 Readings Due: Bill Nichols, “What Gives Documentary Films a Voice of Their Own?”; Marisa Kabas,
“Here’s How Men Are Learning About Consent”
 Assignment Due: Critical Reading Response #4
February 22nd
 Viewing Due: Audrie & Daisy (N)
February 24th
 Reading Due: WS (pp. 68-84)

Week 8: Community

February 27th
 Readings Due: Bill Nichols, “How Can We Differentiate among Documentaries? Categories, Models, and
the Expository and Poetic Modes of Documentary Film”; Richard Dyer, “The Matter of Whiteness”
 Assignment Due: Critical Reading Response #5
March 1st
 Viewing Due: Shenandoah (N)
March 3rd
 Reading Due: WS (pp. 51-66)

Week 9: The Unexpected

March 6th
 Introduce Annotated Bibliography and Thematic Analysis
 Assignment Due: Scene Analysis
March 8th
 Viewing Due: Amanda Knox (N)
March 10th
 Reading Due: WS (pp. 111-121 & 17-29)

Week 10: Spring Break

Week 11: Work Work Work Work Work

March 20th
 Introduce Documentary Project
 Reading Due: Gocsik, Barsam, and Monahan, “Cultural and Historical Analysis"

March 22nd
 iMovie Workshop in Denney 312

March 24th
 Audacity Workshop in Denney 316
 Assignment Due: Annotated Bibliography

Week 12: Higher Learning

March 27th
 Reading Due: Shannon Ridgway, "25 Everyday Examples of Rape Culture:"; Sam Tucker, "Lessons at
BrOhio State"
March 29th
 Viewing Due: The Hunting Ground (N, O)
 Assignment Due: Documentary Proposal
March 31st
 Reading Due: WS (pp. 88-97, 99-104 &106-109)

Week 13: Amendments

April 3rd
 Reading Due: Ta-Nehisi Coates, excerpt from Between the World and Me
 Assignment Due: Thematic Analysis
April 5th
 Viewing Due: 13th (N)
April 7th
 In-class Documentary Workshop Day

Week 14: Passing

April 10th
 Readings Due: Bill Nichols, “How Can We Describe the Observational, Participatory, Reflexive, and
Performative Modes of Documentary Film?”; Alvin Chang, “Living in a Poor Neighborhood Changes
Everything About Your Life”; Kimberlé Crenshaw, “Why Intersectionality Can’t Wait”
April 12th
 Viewing Due: O.J.: Made in America (Parts 1-3) (O)
 Assignment Due: Final Essay Rough Draft
April 14th
 Final Essay Conferences
 Assignment Due: Final Essay Peer Review

Week 15: Catching

April 17th
 Reading Due: Carl Plantinga, “The Philosophy of Errol Morris: Ten Lessons”; WS (pp. 123-129 & 133)
April 19th
 Viewing Due: O.J.: Made in America (Parts 4-5) (O)
 Assignment Due: Documentary Rough Draft
April 21st
 Documentary Group Conferences
 Assignment Due: Final Essay

Week 16: Finale

April 24th
 Out of Class Work Day
 Assignment Due: Final Documentary
April 27th
 Final Exam (10:00-11:45am): Documentary Showcase & Evaluation in Denney 311