This course will study the Anglo-American origins and development
of the idea of "free speech." We will begin by studying classic
early statements of the 'right' to freedom of expression within
democratic culture--selections from Milton's Areopagitica,
Locke’s “Letter Concerning Toleration,” to the Declaration of
Independence, and the Bill of Rights. Through a reading of Anthony
Lewis's Make No Law, we will follow the evolution of
the legal concept of free speech into the late 20th century.
Central here will be a detailed study of the decisions made
in a group of arguments made by Justices Holmes and Brandais
during the early decades of the 20th century. Since these classic
protections for “political” speech, new technologies—of radio,
television and the Internet— and new forms of entertainment—like
pornography—have posed new problems for the interpretation of
the “right to free speech,” Most recently, new practices--like
peer to peer file sharing (e.g. Napster)--have meant that one's
ability to express ideas has entered the arena of copyright
law, of how we conceptualizes the ownership of the cultural
materials for expression. We will read selections from Lawrence
Lessig's Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace to understand
why it is risky to place a parody of Mickey Mouse upon the Internet.
By studying several texts that were exposed to censorship in
their own day, we will seek to understand the limits placed
upon free expression. We will look at "clips" from literature,
radio, and visual culture that causes censorship in their own
day: the heroine's meditated suicide in Pamela (1740),
Matthew Lewis use of the Bible in his gothic thriller, The
Monk (1793); Flaubert's Madame Bovary; the photographs
of Robert Mapplethorpe; the anti-abortion site, "The Nurenberg
Files". To grasp the contemporary case against speech that’s
too free, we will study the polemical statements of Catherine
MacKinnon’s Only Words and Stanley Fish’s essay “There
is no such thing as free speech, and it's a good thing too!”
Then we will engage two contemporary debates: 1) Is it Art
or is it Porn? [the storm provoked by the Mapplethorpe exhibit
and the Helms Amendment; the arguments developed by the Women
Against Pornography against representations of violence against
women] 2) How is “speech” to be protected on the Internet
where the private citizen can broadcast his or her ideas without
any practical means of imposing limits? Here we will study
the Communications Decency Act passed by congress in
1996, and the rulings that overturned that first try at controlling
the Internet. We will also study the case of Napster, the file
sharing system that garnered 70 million users, but was driven
out of business by the Recording Association of America.
Throughout this course we have to consider how representation
is understood, and what powers are attributed to it. Can a representation
cause someone to commit violence? Should one hold artists responsible
for actions committed by readers/ viewers/ listeners? And more
broadly: Does culture necessarily involve censorship? What are
the values and limits of free speech? How should we balance
the copyright interests of artists and corporations with the
need for there to be a public domain of cultural resources open
LCI course: This course is part of the Literature
and the Culture of Information specialization within the English
department. We will meet in the English department's new, technologically
enhanced classroom. It will involve intensive use of new media
(web editing, image manipulation and sound), although because
we will be offering web workshops, no advanced knowledge of
web editing is necessary.
Office: South Hall, 2507
Office hours, Friday, , and by appointment
English Department Media Classroom, South Hall 1415
Tuesday and Thursday,
Webmasters and media masters Workshops:
Friday, , South Hall 1415
Jennifer Stoy, Transcriptions Studio Drop-in
Tues & Thurs, 10:30-1:30 PM
By appointment email@example.com
Michael Perry, Transcriptions Studio
Tues-Friday, 2:00-5:00 PM
By appointment: firstname.lastname@example.org
1: Oral presentation: [10%] (5 minutes = 2 typed pages): state the central
ideas of the reading, and offer some key questions raised by
the reading for class discussion. 2 page typed version is due
on the same day you present.
Each team takes up a general area of interest with implications
for the practice and legal control of free speech.
Here are some example: Free speech on campus
Censorship among the literary modernists (Flaubert, Joyce, D.H.
Lawrence); Censorship of/ by homosexuals in film (The Celluloid Closet; the storm about Basic Instinct; legal cases dealing with homosexual expression); Speech
and censorship in the abortion wars (Schenk); 7 forbidden words
an radio: George Carlin and Liberty Communications; etc.
The web site will include: overview
page, annotated links, annotated bibliography, topic timeline,
digitized media (.jpeg, .mp3,), and an individually written
8-page paper on a “free speech incident” related to your topics.
[Best way to find legal cases is at the library, by using Lexus/
Conferences with Prof Warner will take place in early Feb.
Team prospectus is presented to the class on Feb 20th.
Final presentation to the class will take place Tues March
18, , SH 1415
3:Exam [30%]: Feb 27: matching,
quote identification, 2 short essays
in studying for the exam, which functions as the course's check
on how well you have understood the reading.
Read each assigned essay in the class
Use your class notes and the on-line slide lectures to focus
in on key passages
the central concepts and themes of the free speech theorists
and cases we have read: Fish, Milton, Locke, Trenchard &
Gordon, the Declaration, the Bill of Rights, the Espionage
Act cases, the Obseneity trials (Joyce, Lawrence), The
Birth of the Nation controvercy, MacKinnon, and controvercy
around the NEA
Read the review materials I will added to our web site by
4: Individually written term paper (8-pages). [25%] This carefully written
essay should mobilize the concepts and perspectives of this
course to analysis of a “free speech incident”
5: Class participation and attendance [10%]
Ground rules for a good class:
A well functioning
class is a collaborative endeavor. For this reason I ask you
to respect these ground rules:
1) Class attendance
is a required part of
the class. More than 2 misses and your grade is lowered
by 1/3rd of your final letter grade; more than 4
misses, 2/3rd of the final letter grade, and so on.[If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to get
notes and assignments from another class member, so your know
where we are with our work.]
arrive on time for a full 75-minute class. Please take care
of any personal needs—for food or a visit to the restroom—before
or after class.
assignments are an essential part of class work; the care and
quality of your reading will reflect itself in your participation
in class discussion and exams; I urge you to keep a notebook
for your readings, writing down key ideas as you read, and general
thoughts and questions to bring to class.
Your oral presentation paper and term paper should be typed
on 8 ½ X 11” paper, with 1” margins in (12 point) font. Papers
should have a works cited list in MLA format. No unexcused late
papers will be accepted.
5) I enjoy getting to know you and talking with students.
After our first paper, I will schedule an extensive conference
with each project team. In addition, feel free to come by my
office hours (Friday, ), or email me to make an appointment to talk…about the content of
the course, a special problem, or just to talk.