LIT211 Masterpieces of World Literature II Fall 2016


Rowan College at Burlington County (RCBC)


Liberal Arts

Literature 211-300, Masterpieces of World Literature II, 3 credits

Monday/Wednesday 1100-1220, Laurel 312


William Patrick Wend, Instructor


Office, Laurel Hall 110

Monday/Wednesday 1230-1330

Tuesday/Thursday/Friday 1100-1200


I am primarily in my email during office hours except for Wednesday when I do "EOffice" hours (2100-2200) on Skype. If you send an email after about 1600, there is a good chance I will not answer it until the next morning.  


SECTION 1: Course Information

Course Description:

This course will cover both fictional and non-fiction works from the eleventh century to the present with a focus on European and non-Western traditions. Students will explore the historical, social, and cultural contexts of chosen texts in order to trace the development of modern literary genres.


Required Texts and other Materials:

  • Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
  • Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu
  • Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee
  • Other Materials Supplied By Professor Wend!


Please acquire the most accessible, cheapest, versions of these texts that you can! Do not overspend!


Course Learning Outcomes ~ By the end of Literature 211, you should be able to:

1. Demonstrate your ability to recognize and analyze the major elements of literature in terms of the novel, short story, and essay;

2. Identify the historical, social, and cultural influences on writers and their work;

3. Write clear and coherent essays which analyze these literary elements and influences;

4. Complete independent research for both written and oral presentations.


General Education Outcomes

Written and Oral Communication: Communication

* Students will logically and persuasively support their points of view or findings.

* Students will communicate meaningfully with a chosen audience while demonstrating critical thought.

* Students will conduct investigative research which demonstrates academic integrity, originality, depth of thought, and mastery of an approved style of source documentation.


Humanistic Perspective: Humanities LITERATURE:

* Students will recognize and assess the contributions of people from various nations and/or cultures.

* Students will analyze the changing significance of social constructions of religion, race, class, and/or gender in cultural artifacts (music, art, literature) throughout time.


Global and Cultural Awareness: Diversity

* Students will be able to compare and contrast cultural norms from diverse populations.

* Students will be able to explain how communication and culture are interrelated.

* Students will be able to examine how multicultural societies and peoples help engender a richer understanding of diverse life experiences.



A selection of non-Western texts from 1000 CE to the present  

A selection of short stories from the Medieval period to the present  

Early to contemporary novels  

Select non-fiction and literary criticism


SECTION 2: Course Information

Course and Classroom Policies:

ATTENDANCE: The following Board-approved Attendance Policy will be enforced. Students are required to attend all class sessions for the full duration of each such instructional session. Grade penalties for absences will be imposed when a student exceeds a ten-percent absence rate (in the case of 15-week English 101 courses, starting with the third absence). The policy can be accessed at

Student attendance is important. Students are expected to attend every session unless there is a legitimate reason for them missing class. Failure to regularly attend a class a class like this like this will greatly impede student success. Your grades will be determined by your writing, but attendance and what you contribute to the course are crucial. If you do not attend class or contribute actively, you are unlikely to comprehend the course material well enough to pass the course. Leaving early, without prior permission, is considered disrespectful and will not be tolerated. I will not tolerate frequent lateness. If this is a morning class and the student has difficulties staying awake or showing up on time, I would strongly suggest finding another section of this course to take.


Special Note for Students Receiving Financial Aid and/or Veterans Aid: Attendance will be reviewed by Financial Aid and Veterans Aid programs, and benefits will be contingent upon compliance with the program’s regulations. (Updated Spring 2014 by AL, SL, BL, VC With Administrative Addition Fall 2014)


COMMUNICATION: Students are responsible for communicating with instructors within 48 hours following a missed class to make arrangements for the completion of course requirements not completed due to absence. If a student does not communicate within 48 hours as stated above, the student forfeits his or her right to receive the missed work, and such assignment grades will be entered as zeroes.


PLAGIARISM (see Academic Integrity Policy, below) will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Be aware that plagiarism includes (but is not limited to) copying someone else’s words without crediting the source; paraphrasing someone else’s words without crediting the source; using someone else’s ideas without crediting the source (even if rephrased in your own words); using facts not universally known which are obtained from a source without crediting the source; asking someone else to write your paper, either in whole or in part; or obtaining a paper or portion thereof by any means and submitting it as an original document. The penalty for plagiarism is failure of the assignment and potentially failure of the course (at the instructor’s discretion), and it may result in suspension or expulsion from the College (at the discretion of the Student Affairs Committee)..


Assessment Methods:

Professional Email Assignment 5%

Citation Practice 5%

Course Contribution 10%

20% Project 20%

Three Papers x 15% each

Class Leadership 15%



There Is No Extra Credit


Criteria for meeting grade determination are as follows:

A: Meeting course goals by demonstrating perceptive understanding of readings and course concepts; excellence and originality in compositions; superior scores on exams and other assigned work; active participation in class discussion and small groups; and compliance with attendance and assignment requirements.

B+/B: Meeting course goals by demonstrating mastery of subject and concepts; above average quality in compositions and exams; good participation in class and small groups; and compliance with attendance and assignment requirements.

C+/C: Meeting course goals by demonstrating a satisfactory level of understanding of subject material and concepts; acceptable quality in compositions and exams; adequate participation in class and small groups; and compliance with attendance and assignment requirements.

D: Not meeting all of the course goals; minimal knowledge of subject material and concepts; marginal quality in compositions (poor quality of development, support, or grammar); poor performance on exams; passivity in class and small groups; non-compliance with attendance and assignment requirements.

F: Not meeting course goals; unsatisfactory progress in understanding and applying subject material and concepts; incomplete or unacceptable work in compositions (gross grammatical, developmental, and structural errors); failure of exams; non-compliance of attendance and assignment requirements.


SECTION 3: College Information

College Policies: In order for students to know their rights and responsibilities, all students are expected to review and adhere to all regulations and policies as listed in the College Catalog and Handbook. These documents can be accessed at Important policies and regulations include, but are not limited, to the following:


College Attendance Policy

  • Grading Standards
  • Withdraw (W) and Incomplete Grades (I & X)
  • Withdrawal date for this semester
  • Student Code of Conduct
  • Academic Dishonesty/Plagiarism and Civility
  • Use of Communication and Information Technology


Office of Student Support and Disability Services: RCBC welcomes students with disabilities into the college’s educational programs. Access to accommodations and support services for students with learning and other disabilities is facilitated by staff in the Office of Student Support (OSS).  To receive accommodations, a student must contact the OSS, self-identify as having a disability, provide appropriate documentation, and participate in an intake appointment. If the documentation supports the request for reasonable accommodations, the OSS will provide the student with an Accommodation Plan to give to instructors.  For additional information, please contact the Office of Student Support at 609-894-9311, ext. 1208,, or


Academic Integrity Policy: The following Board-approved Academic Integrity Policy will be enforced. Board definitions of cheating, fabrication or other misconduct in research, plagiarism, and facilitating academic dishonesty will be de determined according to the discretion of the instructor. Students found guilty of more than two offenses should expect to receive sanctions of disciplinary probation, suspension, or dismissal, depending upon severity of said offenses. Students have within five working days to appeal any sanction to the Chief Academic Officer of the College, or his/her appointed designee. The policy can be accessed at


Educational Technology Statement: Rowan College at Burlington County (RCBC) advocates the use of technology to enhance instruction. Students should assume that classroom and online technology will be used throughout their coursework at RCBC, as it will most certainly be used in their future education and careers.  The College provides on-campus facilities for the convenience of the RCBC community.  Various college departments, including the Office of Information Technology and the Office of Distance Education, provide technology training and assistance to faculty and students.


Student Success Services: RCBC offers a variety of free services for its students including those listed below. Descriptions of these services, as well as many others, can be found in the College Catalog and Handbook and on the RCBC website at


  • Academic Advisement (     
  • Career Services (          
  • Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) (          
  • Financial Aid (
  • International Students Office (
  • Library (          
  • Office of Veteran Services (
  • Student Support Counseling (
  • Tutoring Center (
  • Test Center (    
  • Transfer Services (


SECTION 4: Instructor Policy

Technology Policy: Please mute your cell phone BEFORE entering the classroom. If your cell phone goes off more than once while class is in a session, you will be asked to leave. I fully encourage whatever technology suites your learning style, accommodations, or interests whether they are laptops, tablets, apps on smart phones, etc, as long as they do not distract from our purpose in the classroom. Paper is totally fine too.

With that being said, during opening and closing remarks in class focus should be away from technology and on discussing our goals and outcomes for the day. Please remove all earbuds before entering class and keep them removed until you leave the room at the end of class.

In my classes, I have an expectation students will have access to email and computers in general. All of your work will be submitted to via your RCBC Gmail account and returned, with annotated comments, via Google Drive. Given there are public and school libraries, the ILRC, coffee shops, etc, students need to budget their time better; I do not see any excuse for having “no access” to email outside of the classroom.

Students are expected to check their RCBC Gmail account on a regular basis. I do not accept the excuse, “I didn't check my email for two weeks” as a valid problem. Digital correspondence should be written using proper grammar and form. I will not reply to emails filled with texting speak (2, u, 4, lol, j/k) or poor grammar and/or misspellings. Please include a subject and "sign" your email with your name, student ID number, and course section. If you miss class, please check the syllabus for information about assignments, due dates, and outcomes from class. Do not email the professor and ask “did we do anything in class today?” or any variations on that theme. (Updated Spring 2013 by NC, MS, MM, LG)


Writing Policy: My expectation for this class is that all of your work will be free of errors. Papers, projects, etc should be proofread for spelling, mechanics, and grammar. I will mark down for these errors: Please do an exhaustive job of proofreading and revision. All papers should follow standard MLA 8 formatting: Typed; titled; double spaced; page numbers, with your last name, in the top right hand corner; and a page break before your works cited page. All papers will be digitally shared via Google Drive by 23:59 to my RCBC email ( on the due date. I will not be accepting print copies of your papers. No matter the email students submit their work from, all work will be returned to their school email.

If you use Microsoft Works, please convert your file (.wps) to something more accessible (.odt or .doc is fine) before submitting your paper. Same goes for .pages files. Please do not submit a .pdf file.

Upon sharing your paper via Google Drive, do not consider your paper submitted until, if and only if, you receive a confirmation reply (usually within 24-48 hours). If you do not receive a confirmation email, it is the student’s responsibility to get in touch with me about their work. I am not responsible for making sure you hand in your assignments.

Please make sure you are backing up your work to an external hard drive, flash drive, cloud based source, or other backup method. I will not accept excuses involving crashed computer or broken files.

Please follow the “24 hour rule” for graded work. I do not discuss returned student work until 24 hours have elapsed since I returned them. There will be no discussion, in person or via email, until that time window has elapsed.

All submitted work should be completed by the due date. Please consult the extension policy for details about asking for, and receiving, an extension. With prior permission to submit late work, a full letter grade will be taken off for each day that it is late. (Updated Spring 2015 by AB, CD, and MW)


Revision Policy: I strongly believe one of the most important lessons I learned about writing was that quality work almost always entails rewriting, but also reflection on what lessons can be learned and implemented in future writing. In this class, in place of a straight paper revision, you will analyze the mistakes I noted in comments on your paper and write a response discussing the comments and how you would correct them in future writing. This means if you are not satisfied with your grade, you may submit a response (directions are below), shared to my school Google Drive (, within 3-5 days after I comment on your paper.

My expectation that for every mistake you are fixing, there is a brief paragraph discussing how to correct your work. I would consider directly citing our book readings (and the writing manual from ENG101) or your notes from class discussions in this response. Please do not cite random writing from the world wide web. There should be a second paragraph discussing specifically how you would fix it in your own essay as well.

If you are unsure what to write about, you can always schedule an appointment during office hours whether in person or electronic. Regardless, I would strongly suggest meeting with me to make sure you understand your grade and how to improve it.

Anywhere between one (1) to three (3) points can be added to your paper proportionally depending on the overall point total of the paper.

    Of course, there are no revisions on term papers. Also, you may not use your revision to correct a plagiarized paper (see academic honesty policy below). Finally, revisions on your citation practice and source blend assignments do not count towards your revision. (Revised Fall 2015 by HC, DH, TC)


Extension Policy: Extensions are gifts, not a right. College work involves responsibility and ownership over your individual situation. With that in mind, here are a few caveats about extensions. First, I need to know 48 hours before an assignment is due if you need an extension. This will be clearly addressed on the class schedule. To apply for an extension, we must speak in person or over email immediately. A rough draft of your paper in progress will be required to be handed in at this time. I will then determine whether to grant or deny the extension and how much time would be allotted for it.

    To apply for an extension beyond the 48 hour mark for reasons of hospitalization, bereavement, military service, observance of religious holidays, legal reasons (jury duty, etc), or work related issues (ie: getting called into work at the last minute), written documentation not given before the due date must be in by Saturday night after the due date.

    For the following reasons, extensions will not be permitted: Short term illnesses and family vacations.

    Only one extension will be granted per semester, although an "emergency" extension can be granted under certain circumstances. (Updated Fall 2011 by LD, EP, AF)


Course Contribution Policy: I have found in past semesters that "participation" isn't a sufficient means of assessing students. How do you grade shy, or otherwise quiet, students who do very well in your class? At the same time, does a student who does very poorly on papers/quizzes/etc, but "participates" in class deserve a high grade? Instead, I have switched this to an assessment of a student's contribution to the course. How do you do in group work? Are you always on task, or do you take others off task with your actions? Do you bring useful ideas and thoughts into class? Do you go beyond commentary that is intended to please me or make you look smart? Do you experiment, take chances, and offer untested commentary? Do you attend our peer review sessions to not only accentuate your own work, but also help your classmates? Are you punctual and always prepared? Do you do more than just listen to me? What about your presence in the class adds to it? These are some of the factors I will consider when assessing your class contribution grade.


Finally: Students in my classes are responsible for reading and understanding these course policies. Do you have questions?

  • Send me an email:          
  • Talk to me before or after class
  • Come to my office during office hours (Laurel Hall 110)  
  • If you are a student who has progress reports for a sport, EOF, or anything else, I will only fill these out during office hours. I will not fill them out at the end or beginning of classes.  
  • The syllabus is a living document. Sometimes, things might not work and we will need to make a change. This syllabus is subject to change at all times. Any changes will be discussed in class.
  • Just a reminder that all readings should be completed before class begins.
  • Finally, a matter of general respect: I do not tolerate homophobic, misogynistic, ableist, or racist language in the classroom.


Session One

  • Attendance Sheet
  • Class Introduction
  • Discuss Syllabus
  • Introduce Professional Email Assignment
  • Introduce Paper #1
  • Introduce Citation Practice
  • Introduce 20% Project
  • Log Into Your Email/Web Advisor/Set Up Signatures/Check Contact Information


For Next Week: Read The Intro, Advertisement, and Chapters One-Four of Vindication of the Rights of Women.


Session Two

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • Discussion of Vindication of the Rights of Women


For Next Week: Read Chapters Five-Eight of Vindication of the Rights of Women.


Session Three

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • Discussion of Vindication of the Rights of Women


Session Four

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • Discussion of Vindication of the Rights of Women


For Next Week: We Will Have Our First 20% Project Day. We Will Also Discuss Chapter Two of Ian Watt's The Rise Of The Novel.


Session Five

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • 20% Project Day


Session Six

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • Discussion of Chapter Two of Rise of the Novel.


For Next Week: Read the Following Sections of The DeCameron: Prolouge, Day One Story One, Day Three Story Ten, Day Four Story One/Three.


Session Seven

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • Discussion Of Decameron: Prolouge, Story One/Day One, Story Ten/Day Three


Session Eight

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • Discussion of Decameron: Day Four Story One/Three


For Next Week: Read Coetzee's Disgrace.


Session Nine

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • Discuss Disgrace


Session Ten

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • Discuss Disgrace


For Next Week: Read Le Fanu's Carmilla


Session Eleven

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • Discuss Carmilla


Session Twelve

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • Discuss Carmilla


For Next Week: We Will Have A 20% Project Day. We Will Peer Review Our First Paper.


Session Thirteen

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • 20% Project Day


Session Fourteen

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • Peer Review “Speed Dating” For Our First Paper


For Next Week: Read Chaucer's The Miller's Tale and Gordimer's Essay On The Short Story. Read Danticat's Ghosts.


Session Fifteen

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • Discuss Gordimer's Essay
  • Discuss The Miller's Tale


Session Sixteen

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • Discuss Danticat's Ghosts


For Next Week: We Will Have Our Five Minute Meeting Day. Read Twain's The War Prayer.


Session Seventeen

  • Five Minute Meetings


Session Eighteen

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • Discuss Twain's The War Prayer


For Next Week: Read Joyce's Araby and Diaz's Alma


Session Nineteen

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • Discuss Joyce's Araby


Session Twenty

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • Discuss Diaz's Alma


For Next Week: Read Borges' The Gospel According To Mark. We Will  Peer Review Paper #2.


Session Twenty One

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • Discuss Borges' The Gospel According To Mark


Session Twenty Two

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • Peer Review “Speed Dating” For Paper #2


For Next Week: We Will Have A 20% Project Day.


Session Twenty Three

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • 20% Project Day
  • Introduce Paper #3


For Next Week: Read Atwood's Siren Song and Millay's Love Is Not All: It Is Not Meat Nor Drink. Read Whitman's The Untold Want, Darwish's I Will Slog Over This Road.


Session Twenty Four

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • Discuss Atwood's Siren Song
  • Discuss Millay's Love Is Not All: It Is Not Meat Nor Drink


Session Twenty Five

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • Discuss Whitman's The Untold Want
  • Discuss Darwish's I Will Slog Over This Road


For Next Week: Read The Dream of the Rood and Milton's Adam, First Man Of Men. Read Smith's Not Waving But Drowning and Hughes' Let American Be America Again.


Session Twenty Six

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • Discuss The Dream of the Rood
  • Discuss Milton's Adam, First Man of Men


Session Twenty Seven

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • Discuss Smith's Not Waving But Drowning
  • Discuss Hughes' Let America Be America Again


For Next Week: We Will Peer Review Our Final Essay.


Session Twenty Eight

  • Attendance
  • Announcements
  • Peer Review


During Finals Week We Will Meet To Wrap Up 20% Projects On _ At _.

Books Read In 2015

  1. The Battle for Justice in Palestine by Ali Abunimah
  2. The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi
  3. Jennifer Government by Max Barry
  4. Professor Borges: A Course on English Literature by Jorge Luis Borges
  5. Borges at Eighty: Conversations by Jorge Luis Borges
  6. Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges
  7. The Darkling Child: The Defenders of Shannara by Terry Brooks
  8. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex by Judith Butler
  9. Lilith's Brood by Octavia E. Butler
  10. Fantastic Tales: Visionary and Everyday by Italo Calvino
  11. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  12. You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir by Felicia Day
  13. Replay: The History of Video Games by Tristan Donovan
  14. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
  15. The Peripheral by William Gibson
  16. Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work by Melissa Gira Grant
  17. Death in Classical Hollywood Cinema by Boaz Hagin
  18. The Odyssey by Homer
  19. A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen
  20. The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan
  21. Spam Nation: The Inside Story of Organized Cybercrime-from Global Epidemic to Your Front Door by Brian Krebs
  22. One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America by Kevin M. Kruse
  23. The Muslims Are Coming: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror by Arun Kundnani
  24. Passing by Nella Larsen
  25. The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector
  26. A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O'Connor
  27. The CIA in Iran: The 1953 Coup and the Origins of the US-Iran Divide by Christopher Petherick
  28. The Foundation Pit by Andrey Platonov
  29. Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye Volume 1 by James Roberts
  30. Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye Volume 2 by James Roberts
  31. Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye Volume 3 by James Roberts
  32. Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye Volume 4 by James Roberts
  33. Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye Volume 5 by James Roberts
  34. Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye Volume 6 by James Roberts
  35. The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero
  36. The Oxford Shakespeare: Othello: The Moor of Venice (The Oxford Shakespeare) by William Shakespeare
  37. The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling by David Shoemaker
  38. Against Interpretation: And Other Essays by Susan Sontag
  39. Automate This: How Algorithms Took Over Our Markets, Our Jobs, and the World by Christopher Steiner
  40. The Epic Struggle for the Internet of Things by Bruce Sterling
  41. Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution by Neil deGrasse Tyson
  42. The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti
  43. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

Books Read In 2014

  1. Breathing Machine, A Memoir of Computers by Leigh Alexander
  2. Clipping Through: One Mad Week In Video Games by Leigh Alexander
  3. And Eternity by Piers Anthony
  4. vN by Madeline Ashby
  5. The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood
  6. The Boss by Abigail Barnette
  7. Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter by Tom Bissell
  8. Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles and Speeches, 1998-2003 by Roberto Bolano
  9. Fetish Sex: A Complete Guide to Sexual Fetishes by Violet Blue
  10. Borges On Writing by Jorge Luis Borges
  11. It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by danah boyd
  12. The High Druid's Blade: The Defenders of Shannara by Terry Brooks
  13. Witch Wraith: The Dark Legacy of Shannara by Terry Brooks
  14. If On A Winter's Night A Traveler by Italo Calvino
  15. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  16. The Divine Comedy by Dante
  17. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  18. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
  19. How To Read A Poem by Terry Eagleton
  20. A Case Of Hysteria by Sigmund Freud
  21. The Fear Of An Illusion by Sigmund Freud
  22. No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald
  23. Bootleg: The Secret History of the Other Recording Industry by Clinton Heylin
  24. Never Let Me Go by Kazou Ishiguro
  25. Devilish by Maureen Johnson
  26. Critique Of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
  27. Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil
  28. Collected Sonnets by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  29. Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss
  30. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
  31. The Trial And Death Of Socrates by Plato
  32. Rouge Code by Mark Russinovich
  33. Trojan Horse by Mark Russinovich
  34. Zero Day by Mark Russinovich
  35. Dimension Of Miracles by Robert Sheckley
  36. Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser
  37. Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson
  38. Influx by Daniel Suarez
  39. Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves by Jill Walker Rettberg
  40. The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet by Neil Degrasse Tyson
  41. Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries by Neil Degrasse Tyson
  42. Conversations With Kurt Vonnegut by Kurt Vonnegut
  43. Palm Sunday by Kurt Vonnegut
  44. Pandora's Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal by Melanie Warner
  45. A Vindication Of The Rights Of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft
  46. Come To Our Show: Punk Show Flyers From DC To Down Under

Worth Reading Recently

Hardware Media & Radio Interview

Originally published on the website for the now defunct Hardware Media & Radio in 2005.  Thanks for Dave K for letting me republish it here.

How, why and when did this show start?
I've always wanted to do a radio show.  Well, my first semester of college I filled in for a friend's show one time but I got thrown off the air after playing an Agnostic Front song.  Originally, Signifying Nothing was just a weblog.  I toyed with doing it as a print fanzine for a while, but at this point in my life I don't have the time or money to put into doing a good print fanzine.  I started blogging in the spring of 2004.  I had just completed my senior thesis (on intertextuality and the writing of Jorge Luis Borges-Pretty soon I will have a version of this Online) and my professor, Dr. Scott Rettberg, had a weblog. At the time I was becoming more curious about blogging and new media in general.  Dr. Rettberg's weblog, and a few others, inspired me to get started on my own. 

By the end of that term I, and a few other classmates, decided to start blogging.  Besides me, one of them still does one.  I started out just doing a pretty ordinary weblog. I would comment on personal issues, political stuff, and news related to new media, music, video games, etc.  Earlier this year I moved to Word Press and parked it at my own domain

After about a year of blogging, I came to the conclusion that I needed to get back into the game when it came to hardcore.  I had already seen a few weblogs and webzines be upload, I was offered a position at a few even, but I wanted to do something on my own.  Signifying Nothing started as a way for me to archive all of the fanzines (see next answer) I had done in the past plus some new material.  After the summer of 2005 I started to put up more new stuff.  This mostly consisted of record reviews and a couple interviews.  I took a hiatus because of school from November to January.  At that point I came back for a couple weeks and then took another month off to move Signifying Nothing to my domain and its new address at

I began to podcast pretty much the same way I did blogging.  I really liked a lot of the podcasts I had been listening to and decided I should do one.  If you've listened to recent episodes you have heard me talking about some of them.  After talking to a few people who already were podcasting I waded my feet into the water in February. So far I have done fifteen or so podcasts.  Most of them I am very happy with.  There have been a few minor technical problems along the way.  I have already changed the format around a few times and am planning to do so again soon.  As of August the weblog portion of Signifying Nothing will have a monthly, not weekly, update.  I will upload reviews, interviews, and other stuff at that time.  The podcast will still be weekly.  I really like creating the show each week and work hard to improve it. 

As for the name, I've had it on the back burner for a few years.  When I was still considering doing a print fanzine Signifying Nothing was one of the names I thought about using.  Another was Running With Scissors. I came up with Signifying Nothing while sitting in Professor Tompkins' Shakespeare class back in the fall of 2003.  After a lecture on Macbeth where we had just passed by Macbeth's famous speech in V.v. I said to my friend Lauren that Signifying Nothing would be a cool name for a fanzine.  It stuck with me after that I guess. 

Have you been involved in anything else punk/hardcore related (bands/fanzines/show promotion)?

Over the years I have done a number of fanzines.  In fact, before I was really involved with the DIY hardcore scene I had worked on a half sized fanzine the summer after eighth grade into ninth grade.  I wrote articles about animal rights and typed up my tape trading list (even before I was into hardcore I was an avid live show collector-at this point my list primarily consisted of Metallica, Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and stuff like that).  For reasons I can't recall I never finished it.  What probably happened was that, as I got more directly involved with punk rock in ninth grade, I became embarrassed of liking metal and grunge. 

A year or two later I began working on a fanzine which would use the name I had picked out a few years earlier: Assimilation Or Oblivion. I had read that name in a book about Native Americans when I was younger and it stuck with me as a pretty cool and “punk” sounding phrase.  A Or O had some pretty horrible writing about The Straight Edge, animal rights, and some other more trivial stuff.  There were also interviews with 25 Ta Life and h20. I was also supposed to interview Fastbreak and Mouthpiece but both interviews, sadly, feel through.  I really wish they hadn't. A Or O also had a piece of fiction I had written for English class which, while pretty awful, had a few really accurate pieces of foreshadowing that coincide to the real life events almost exactly to the time “in the future.”  I printed a few hundred of them and actually got rid of most of them via distros.  I remember Rick Healey took a lot and that was appreciated.  I started a second issue but over the winter break the next year I scrapped it and decided to start over with a new name and a decidedly more cut and paste DIY style. 

Around this time I also remember having a conversation on the phone with you, Dave, where you told me to keep trying and to give doing a fanzine another shot.  Thanks man. 

After spending the final half of my senior year of high school interviewing bands and putting together content, What Was Said Fanzine was born.  #1 came out in October of 1997 and had Hands Tied, Breakdown, One King Down, Ten Yard Fight, Uprise, and a few others.  For the most part, I remember it being pretty good.  I printed four hundred (I remember because I printed two hundred twice!) and got rid of them via distros and the Internet. Connections in Europe, Canada, and Australia also helped.  Especially Australia. 

Oh yeah, before I forget, I also did a one pager before #1.  This was given out at a couple shows during the famed summer of 1997.  Side a featured some awkward and random observations by me on nothing really that important.  Side b featured one of our friends threatening another friend with violence for breaking edge.  Twenty-six year old Bill would like to chat with seventeen year old Bill about why it wasn't a good idea to enable him by printing this. 

There was also another one pager sometime in early 1998, but that only made it to a few shows.  I sent a big package of them to friends in Europe and Australia too. 

Later in 1998 I rechristened What Was Said as In The Blink Of An Eye Fanzine. Why I kept naming zines after NJHC records is beyond me.  ITBOAE lasted two issues.  The first (listed on the cover as #2 for some reason) had the Hands Tied and Uprise interviews from What Was Said plus By The Grace Of God, Weapon X, Full Speed Ahead, and others.  The personal writing in this one is quite embarrassing. Following my established pattern, I did another one pager which had me ranting about “metal” in hardcore, emos, and the usual silliness from the era.  I began to plan another issue which was going to have Mainstrike, Monster X, and Floorpunch. I even did ads and probably took a couple preorders.  Due to a variety of personal problems, which included one near failing out of college and one really nasty and rather humiliating breakup with a girlfriend, this never really got off the ground. 

Meanwhile, over winter break 1997/1998 I began doing a one pager called Broken Behind This Wall. More NJHC names.  What the fuck.  BBTW was in the vein of Radio Riot, although I wouldn't actually see an issue of Radio Riot until a few months later.  Whoops.  BBTW had interviews with By The Grace Of God (same one from above), Ten Yard Fight (why did I interview this band twice?), and Reach The Sky. After issue six I started issue seven while in a bout of serious depression.  I wrote some really scathing things about various bands and people.  Well, more than usual I guess.  After showing it to a few friends I was told I should be “extremely fucking cautious” about printing it, so to speak.  Wisely, I decided to scrap it. 

A year later I decided to do another fanzine.  Parade Brigade Fanzine was born.  This time around, hoping to keep myself from saying anything stupid, I enlisted a few friends to join in on the fun.  #1 had Floorpunch, Ensign, 97a, Spazz, DRI, Arms Reach, and The Judas Iscariot. We printed approximately five hundred and got some pretty positive reviews. 

Due to personal issues we didn't do another issue for over a year.  In between I did two issues of a new personal fanzine called This Isn't Me. Both are filled with my random ranting about nothing important or interesting.  I burned the originals a few years ago. 

Near the end of 2000, with John, myself, and Justin now all attending the same college we huddled up and got our second issue out.  We reprinted old interviews with SSD and Minor Threat. We also dug up an interview with Rain On The Parade that John and Justin had done in 1997 but never released.  We printed one hundred for the first show we took them to.  We sold some and gave some to friends, including members of bands we had interviewed in the first issue.  At least two of those people were observed tossing it in the trash after I walked away.  Thanks a lot assholes.  Both bands ended up being huge disappointments anyway, so whatever. 

A few months later, while driving to campus with John, I decided we needed to have a new issue out for a show that Friday evening.  John agreed and I got to work.  Somehow, in a span of 72 hours, we put together a ten page fanzine and interviewed both Fit For Abuse and Shark Attack. The day of the show all we had to do was wait for John's personal page.  I remember being pissed he was taking so long that day to send it over!  Yeah, because giving him a 72 hour notice to have a drafted, edited, and finalized page is totally fair.  I was such a jerk back then a lot of the time. 

So issue three had Shark Attack, Fit For Abuse, and reprints of interviews with The Faith and Siege. There was also supposed to be a reprint of a Larm interview but I have no idea what happened to that or the H-Street interview I did around that time.  We printed a couple hundred on the way to the show.  Interpersonal, and personal, problems kept us from ever working officially on another issue.  By that time I was really distancing myself from my friends who were drinking and this included the people I did Parade Brigade with.  Right or wrong, we all barely spoke that summer. 

Unofficially, I continued working on a fourth issue.  I interviewed Eric Ozone and Dan O'Mahoney. We also had leftover interviews with Kill Your Idols, The Purpose, and a couple others that we never printed we could incorporate.  At one point, I spoke to another friend about possibly having her start working on Parade Brigade, but that was more about me trying to get in her pants than anything else.  I wanted to interview Out Cold and Voices Forming Weapons, but neither interview happened. 

In September 2001 multiple events (not the one you are thinking of) the first few weeks of the month put a stake through the heart of the fanzine.  We never officially ended it, but it was done. 

I've tried to do bands over the years, but none of them ever got anywhere. I had done guest vocals for local ragers Fists Of Fury in 1997.  After their singer (the person who was threatened in the fanzine above) broke edge I would always sing their covers of Bottled Violence and Straight Edge.

I've done a lot of behind the scenes stuff with booking and promoting shows but never have officially put one on myself. 

Why a punk and hardcore music radio show?

Hardcore Punk is who I am.  If The Dead Kennedys had not come into my life when I was fourteen I would be long dead. Doing things via podcasts and weblogs is just an extension of that. Podcasting and blogging, for the most part, is a pretty DIY venture. Of course corporations are starting to assimilate it and use “viral” marketing to trick the masses into thinking they have an effect on the popularity of something when it's popularity has already been determined and they are just using viral marketing to sucker you into thinking you have a say. 

I listen to a variety of podcasts: some are musical, some political, some just do really neat things.  I get my daily news from Democracy Now!. I listen to shows like Sonic Overload, Harmony In My Head, and All Go No Slow! to check out cool music.  I also listen to a lot of academic and literary podcasts. 

How do you decide what to play?

When I first decided to podcast I went through my collection, record by record, and picked out one or two songs I'd like to one day play. Since I do everything from mp3 I simply created a separate folder for all of these songs.  I also have another folder with sub folders for bands I am going to do features on eventually.  Whenever I get a new record or live show I go through it and pick out a song or two and add them to the folder.  Each week when I am plotting out the show I pick some songs to play. 

What kind of set up for broadcasting do you have at your disposal?

When I started doing the show the only thing I purchased was a USB mic. Everything else is freeware or open source programs.  I am a big proponent of open source and so should you.  I think it's a pretty “hardcore” thing.  I use a few different programs to cut the show together into one file, equalize the volume levels, and some other stuff.  I've got the process of creating the show down pretty well now.  I can bounce between programs really quickly and get the show together easily. 

What media do you prefer on your show (vinyl, CD, mp3, etc)?

Everything comes from mp3.  Since my music is already stored on my desktop computer (I do all of Signifying Nothing on my laptop) it's easiest to just keep it there.  I've never, besides some stupid technical mistakes on my end one week, had any problems doing this.  Having everything on my computer also allows me to mix and match out songs and keep a copy of the songs I'd like to play, as I noted above, stored on my computer in a separate folder. 

We all know that the 1980s was the best time for punk and hardcore in general. Now that we are more than halfway in the 00s, what time period do you think is better: the 1990s or the 00s?

Despite the slow start for the first few years, I have to say that the 00's win easily.  The nineties had some great bands don't get me wrong. But for every Devoid Of Faith, Rorschach, Crossed Out, Team Dresch, or Floorpunch you had fifty bands that sounded like Snapcase. Or worse.  It was a lot harder to avoid that garbage at shows too because a lot them intermixed with the good stuff.  Even into the late nineties that still happened.  These days it is so much easier to avoid the dumb stuff.  I'll stick to bands like Direct Control and Mind Eraser thank you very much.  I can't even keep count of the amount of great bands right now, and this is coming from someone with an irrational hatred of most bands.  Things are really taking a good turn.  While there are regrettably a lot of dumb bands who call themselves “hardcore” who have no right to, these days you can avoid them pretty easily.  That's another great thing about blogging and podcasts.  I can listen to Sonic Overload each week and check out the bands Al is reviewing to see what is new and good.  I've found out about a lot of good bands that way.  All the emo, chugga chugga metal crap, and amazingcore trying to deceive people is not going to win as long as there are great bands like Direct Control. Seriously if you listen to a band like Direct Control and then still wanna listen to the bad stuff you just suck. 

Whats the scene like in your local area?

I don't really know what is going on in Manahawkin right now.  Most of the people I went to shows with have all moved, “grown up,” or just aren't all that involved anymore.  A few people book local bands in Waretown, which is pretty cool.  Our good friend Leslie Adam, who runs the Fate clothing store in town, books sometimes here in Manahawkin.  She did the Vision show last year.  Ian Dickson and some others are also booking in Toms River too.  It's nice when shows are twenty minutes away instead of two hours.

What kind of reaction are you getting from broadcasting on-line? Any weird requests?

I've received a lot of praise from people who I admire.  I've received kind emails from people all over the world.  Nothing too negative as of yet, but I did receive some nasty comments on Signifying Nothing awhile back from some cronies of the idiots who were harassing the audio trading blog a few months ago. 

No weird requests quite yet.  The one thing I was worried about was labels really trying to push their stuff at me to play or get pissed if I didn't play something.  For the most part, that hasn't happened. I am not playing stuff on the podcast that I don't like and no one seems to have a problem with that.  I did reject and refuse to review one label's stuff because their policy about “downloading” sounded like Lars Ulrich wrote it. 

Where do you think the future of Internet radio and podcasting is heading?

Well, with net neutrality potentially being gutted, DRM, the UN screwing with podcasting, and bands threatening people over blogging about their demo tapes from twenty years ago I'm sure podcasting will get mucked up soon enough. 

That last one really burns me.  It is no surprise when our wonderful representatives in Washington screw things up, but getting threatened by a band over a fucking weblog post really pissed me off.  When will the first “punk” band sue someone over downloading?  Who will be the first to get their head beat in for “leaking” a record to Soulseek? 

What are your favorite internet radio shows/podcasts that you listen to regularly?

I listen to a ton of radio shows and podcasts.  Some of my favorites include:

Any advice for the up and coming Internet radio DJ?

Make an effort, show your hardware


The Work Of A Poet Never Ends

The task of art is to transform what is continuously happening to us, to transform all these things into symbols, into music, into something which can last in man’s memory. That is our duty. If we don’t fulfill it, we feel unhappy. A writer or any artist has the sometimes joyful duty to transform all that into symbols. These symbols could be colors, forms or sounds. For a poet, the symbols are sounds and also words, fables, stories, poetry. The work of a poet never ends. It has nothing to do with working hours. Your are continuously receiving things from the external world. These must be transformed, and eventually will be transformed. This revelation can appear anytime. A poet never rests. He’s always working, even when he dreams. Besides, the life of a writer, is a lonely one. You think you are alone, and as the years go by, if the stars are on your side, you may discover that you are at the center of a vast circle of invisible friends whom you will never get to know but who love you. And that is an immense reward.

-Jorge Luis Borges

Calvino On Borges

If I had to say which fiction writer has perfectly achieved Valéry’s aesthetic ideal of exactitude in imagination and in language, creating works that match the rigorous geometry of the crystal and the abstraction of deductive reasoning, I would without hesitation say Jorge Luis Borges. The reasons for my fondness for Borges do not end here, but 1 will mention only the main ones. I love his work because every one of his pieces contains a model of the universe or of an attribute of the universe (infinity, the innumerable, time eternal or present or cyclic); because they are texts contained in only a few pages, with an exemplary economy of expression; because his stories often take the outer form of some genre from popular literature, a form proved by long usage, which creates almost mythical structures. As an example let us take his most vertiginous “essay" on time, “El jardin de senderos que se bifurcan" (The Garden of Forking Paths), which is presented as a spy story and includes a totally logico-metaphysical story, which in turn contains the description of an endless Chinese novel—and all this concentrated into a dozen pages. The hypotheses on the subject of time enunciated by Borges in this story, each one contained (and virtually hidden) in a handful of lines, are as follows. First there is an idea of precise time, almost an absolute, subjective present: “reflexioné que todas las cosas le suceden a uno precisamente, precisamente ahora. Siglos de siglos y sólo en el presente ocurren los hechos; innumerables hombres en el aire, en la tierra y el mar, y todo lo que realmente pasa me pasa a mi" (I reflected that everything, to everyone, happens precisely, precisely now. Century after century, and only in the present, do things happen. There are innumerable men in the air, on land and on sea, and everything that really happens, happens to me). Then there is a notion of time as determined by the will, in which the future appears to be as irrevocable as the past; and finally the central idea of the whole story—a manifold and ramified time in which every present forks out into two futures, so as to form “una red creciente y vertiginosa de tiempos divergentes, convergentes y paralelos" (a growing and bewildering network of divergent, convergent, and parallel forms of time). This idea of infinite contemporary universes in which all possibilities are realized in all possible combinations is by no means a digression in the story, but rather the very reason why the protagonist feels authorized to carry out the absurd and abominable crime imposed on him by his spy mission, perfectly sure that this happens only in one of the universes but not in the others; and indeed that, if he commits this crime here and now, in other universes he and his victim will be able to hail each other as friends and brothers. The scheme of the network of possibilities may be condensed into the few pages of a story by Borges, or it may be made the supporting structure of immensely long novels, in which density and concentration are present in the individual parts. But I would say that today the rule of “Keep It Short" is confirmed even by long novels, the structure of which is accumulative, modular, and combinatory.

Italo Calvino
Six Memos for the Next Millennium