Course Overview

Rebel Music

EXPO 1213/1223, Sections 995 and 996–Summer 2018

Dr. Robert Scafe (Section 996)—

Dr. V. Nicholas LoLordo (Section 995)—

Office Hours: Zoom videoconferences available by appointment.

Course Website:  (The course also has a Canvas page, but that page will be used only for the submission of major assignments and for final grades.)

Course Description

“When the mode of music changes,” wrote Allen Ginsberg, “the walls of the city shake.” Ginsberg wrote at the beginning of the 1960s, that famous decade of upheaval—but his words paraphrased Plato’s Republic. This course invites students to critically examine the long association of music with rebellion from the folk revival and rock and roll to more contemporary styles such as hip-hop, punk, reggae and dub, and electronic music. How have music subcultures informed protest movements? What’s behind music fans’ criticism of “sell-out” artists? When is borrowing music from other cultures an expression of solidarity—and when is it theft?

This is a writing course, so you’ll explore these questions by doing a lot of reading and by writing three papers over the course of the semester. For each paper, you’ll submit an ungraded “conference draft,” which you will revise after a short meeting (via videoconference) with your professor. We see the papers you’ll write in this class as mixing the virtues of academic prose and the more informal style you might use as a music critic or fan. On the one hand, we will teach you skills of academic scholarship such as articulating an original research question, integrating and citing evidence, and structuring a coherent argument. On the other hand, we also hope to teach you ways of inserting your own voice, interests, and ways of speaking into these papers. This class is about popular music, after all!

Readings. All readings for the course are available on the course website.

Requirements.  This course requires you to write three essays and to submit, for each one, a conference draft as well as a re-write. We will also assess your writing on the weekly formal posts you contribute to the discussion forums.

  • Essay #1 (4-5 pages): Rock ‘n’ Roll, Pop, and Musical Authenticity. This assignment asks you to enter the debate in scholarly and music criticism circles about “rockism”–the view that all forms of popular music should be measured against the standard of classic rock ‘n’ roll. Readings include music reviews of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and other artists from the 1960’s; scholarly articles on the concept of “authenticity” in rock music; and selections from the debate between “rockists” and “poptimists” in more recent popular music criticism. Selected rock, pop, and hip-hop songs will also be assigned for analysis.
  • Essay #2 (5-6 pages):  Your second essay assignment will place the tension between rock and pop values in a wider context by examining the development of reggae music through time and space–from its roots in Jamaican popular culture, to Bob Marley’s rise to global music superstardom, to the contemporary musical legacy of Jamaican sound system and studio culture.  The thread of authenticity will remain visible:  readings (and musical selections) weave a tapestry of arguments about the political power of reggae and how that power depends upon the tension between the music’s Jamaican origins and its disasporic circulation:  the “movement of Jah people.”
  • Essay #3 (8-10 pages): A limited research paper analyzing a specific musical subculture. The popular music genre/s will be selected by the student. Professors LoLordo and Scafe will provide suggestions and starter sources, but this assignment also requires some library research and use of scholarly articles or books.  (All research can be conducted on-line, for those of you with no physical access to a research library.)
  • Blog Posts (10 paragraph-length posts): Paragraph-length contributions to class discussion as part of the Rebel Music site’s courseblog. These posts will be assessed for the quality of their critical thinking and constructive engagement with the ideas of others.
  • reading annotations (see the separate page of that title for details)

In addition to the above, students must complete all ungraded “prelim” assignments in good faith. Although these “low-stakes” assignments are not graded individually, completing them will be an important part of your overall participation grade.

Participation and “Attendance”:  Your success in this class depends on each student’s prompt and substantial participation in the discussion forums and group annotations. Although you generally have two or three days to contribute, I strongly encourage you to post early in the forum period. This will allow others to respond to your post. A pattern of late or minimal participation in forums will affect your participation grade.

“Check-in” Policy: We expect students to check in to the Rebel Music website every weekday to read our daily posts. Even if you have nothing due that day, check in. (You can even log in from a smartphone to read the daily post and ensure you’ve not missing anything.) A student who goes 48 hours without checking in will receive an “absence.” Starting with your third absence, your grade will go down 1/3 letter grade per absence. If for some reason you are unable to log in to the course site for 48 hours—e.g. you will be in the deep wilderness for a three day backpacking trip—let your professor know in advance so your absence can be excused.

Deadlines. All written work must be turned in by the deadline. We will grant extensions for documented family or medical emergencies only. Papers turned in after the deadline will be graded down 1/3 grade (e.g. from A- to B+) for each day they are late.

Grade Breakdown

Essay #1                      20%

Essay #2                      20%

Essay #3                      35%

Major Posts               10%

Annotations              10%

Participation             5%

Conferences. For each essay, you will videoconference with one of us for a thirty-minute discussion of your initial conference draft. These one-on-one conferences are the most vital 90 minutes you will spend in this class—please don’t miss them! Missing a conference counts as an absence and will affect your participation grade.  (While you are not required to complete all conferences, you are required to submit substantive revisions of each essay.)

Academic Honesty: All essays and drafts submitted for this course must be your own and must be written exclusively for this class. If you use someone else’s ideas or words, you must give them credit and cite them so your reader can locate the original source. This is true even if you are not quoting exactly but paraphrasing . For more detailed information on how to avoid plagiarism, see the very helpful FAQ provided by OU’s Office of Academic Integrity: Depending on the seriousness of the offense, penalties for plagiarism may include a failing grade on the essay in question, automatic failure in the course, or even suspension from school.

Students with Disabilities: If you have a disability that may prevent the full demonstration of your abilities in this course, please contact me personally as soon as possible so we can provide an appropriate contact to discuss accommodations necessary to ensure full participation and facilitate your educational opportunities.

Title IX Resources and Reporting Requirement: For any concerns regarding gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, or stalking, the University offers a variety of resources. To learn more or to report an incident, please contact the Sexual Misconduct Office at 405/325-2215 (8 to 5, M-F) or Incidents can also be reported confidentially to OU Advocates at 405/615-0013 (phones are answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week).  Also, please be advised that a professor/GA/TA is required to report instances of sexual harassment, sexual assault, or discrimination to the Sexual Misconduct Office.  Inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies may be directed to: Bobby J. Mason, University Equal Opportunity Officer and Title IX Coordinator at 405/325-3546 or For more information, visit

Adjustments for Pregnancy/Childbirth Related Issues: Should you need modifications or adjustments to your course requirements because of documented pregnancy-related or childbirth-related issues, please contact your professor or the Disability Resource Center at 405/325-3852 as soon as possible. Also, see for answers to commonly asked questions.

Due Dates of Major Papers

Please see detailed weekly calendars for schedule of readings and minor assignments and quizzes.

Essay One—Conference Draft            Friday, June 22, 11:59 PM

Essay One—Final Draft                           Tuesday, June 26, 11:59 PM

Essay Two—Conference Draft           Friday, July 13, 11:59 PM

Essay Two—Final Draft                          Tuesday, July 17, 11:59 PM

Essay Three—Conference Draft      Saturday, July 28, 11:59 PM

Essay Three—Final Draft                     Thursday, August 2, 11:59 PM