Kresge Core Course

Provost Ben Leeds Carson at Fall 2016 Core Plenary

Power and Representation

Power and Representation is an introduction to critical reading and writing skills. The majority of our texts are short essays on a variety of contemporary social problems, and on the interplay between representation—the ways that individuals are seen, heard, and understood in society—and power—how those representations determine our privileges, responsibilities, and capacity to pursue happiness in the world. In the 2017 syllabus, we are placing special emphasis on activism, that is, on the question of how individuals and communities can intervene, take action, and advocate, for social justice. 

Like all college 80 courses, Kresge 80: Power and Representation is a course in university discourse, that is, a course in the styles of reading, writing, questioning, and argumentation, that empower the best learning and research in a university environment. Among the chief goals of Kresge 80 is the development of approaches to writing: how to organize sentences and paragraphs, claims and evidence, citations and their contexts; and comprehending differences among genres, purposes, and types of audience.

Core course seminars are limited to 26 students to provide an opportunity for students to work closely with each other and the instructor. Students will enroll in a specific core course section based on their satisfaction of two writing-related UCSC requirements: ELWR & C1. Students who have not satisfied both the ELWR and C1 requirements prior to enrolling at UC Santa Cruz will take Writing 2 after passing the core course, to finish their lower-division composition requirements and prepare for upper-division course work at the university. For more information on Core course placement and selection, please review: New Student Advising Guide - Core Course Selection.

Do you need some help brainstorming, reorganizing, or fine-tuning your writing? Please click here to learn more about the Westside Writing Center, and make an appointment here.

Summer Assignment

Due Wednesday, September 27

KRESGE 80—POWER and REPRESENTATION (Includes Kresge 80A, 80B, 80C, and 80F)


Eric Liu, “How to Get Power”, in We Humans, <Ideas.Ted.Com>. 28 March 2017.

Eric Liu, “Why Ordinary People Need to Understand Power” [video lecture], in TED: Ideas Worth Spreading. [Filmed 20 September 2013 at “TEDCity 2.0”, New York, NY.]

bell hooks, “Keeping Close to Home: Class and Education,” in Working-Class Women in the Academy: Laborers in the Knowledge Factory (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993), 100-110.

Janelle Monáe (composer, performer), and Alan Ferguson (director). “Q.U.E.E.N.”, feat. Erykah Badu [music video]. New York: Atlantic Records, 2013.

Janelle Monáe (composer, performer), and Wendy Morgan (director), “Tightrope” feat. Big Boi [music video]. New York: Big Boy Records / WMG, 2010.

Your tasks:

1. Take careful reading/viewing/listening notes on each text (you should have at least 2 pages of notes). Some tips to consider for note-taking:

  • As you read, keep a record of your engagement with each text: What seems important? Where do you have questions? Where do you see connections?

  • Download and print paper copies of “How to Get Power” and “Keeping Close to Home.” Make annotations directly on the printouts and also take separate reading notes, keeping track of particularly compelling passages, words or references you need to look up, and any questions you’d like to bring to class. Your notes should trace the main argument or point each text seems to be making.

  • When watching and listening to the lecture-video (“Why Ordinary People Need to Understand Power”), write down or paraphrase key points that Liu makes, and mark them with timecodes so you can return to listen again as needed.

  • For Janelle Monáe’s videos (“Q.U.E.E.N.” and “Tightrope”), take time to watch and listen at least twice to each.

    • In your first listening, focus on the lyrics, and how they are expressed—what words are emphasized? (The emphasis and expression can occur as a result of singers’ delivery, imagery, or other issues of performance.) What messages or assertions are important? What meanings can you draw from the lyrics that aren’t necessarily explicit?

    • In your second listening, consider focusing exclusively on what you hear. You may have noted, in your first listening, how Janelle Monáe and other singers’ choices affect the expression of the meanings of lyrics. This time, see if you can describe something about the melody—when does it change, and in what way? Do you notice changes in the accompaniment as well–the instruments, backing vocals, and other sounds? You may be feeling uncertain about describing musical experience, if you haven’t tried this before. If so, just trust your instincts and use whatever intuitive words you can find to help you remember specific moments in the recording.

    • If possible, come back a day or two later and watch/listen a third time, taking a step back and considering the music video as a whole expression. What new meanings emerge, now that you’re familiar with the different aspects of each song? As with the other texts, feel free to represent your sense of the songs’ expressions in whatever way seems intuitive.

After you’ve taken reading/viewing/listening notes on the individual texts...

    • Look for points of connection between the texts in this list.

    • Make note of personal examples and associations that give you a framework for understanding the texts.

    • As you review your notes, think about your understanding of our course theme of “power and representation.” Where do you see these ideas come up in each text?

    • Think about how each text’s genre (Ted Talk, music video, academic essay, popular essay) might affect that way it conveys its ideas.

Diligent note-taking is an important step in preparing for the work that instructors will expect of you in most classes at UCSC. In Kresge 80, you’ll be asked to arrive at your seminar and section meetings with ideas and questions ready to go, and we hope the guidelines above help you develop reading and preparation habits to meet those expectations.

2. Write a 2-4 page paper in response to the following prompt:

In “How to Get Power,” Eric Liu argues that storytelling is “the catalytic agent for changing the status quo,” and discusses community activist Marshall Ganz’s model of the story of self, the story of us, and the story of now. First, thoroughly explain Ganz’s model, using examples from Liu’s essay or from your own observations and experiences. Then, apply this model to either bell hooks’s “Keeping Close to Home” or Janelle Monáe’s “Q.U.E.E.N.” and “Tightrope.” What is the story of self and/or story of us that hooks or Monáe is telling? How might this story be seen as a larger political intervention (a story of now)?

Your written response should be 2-4 pages (typed, double-spaced, standard 12-point font) and should include direct reference to at least two of these texts. Your note-taking and written response should be completed in advance of the opening plenary on Wednesday, September 27. Bring your notes, your marked-up copies of hooks and Liu, and your written response paper to your first Core seminar meeting; your instructor will likely collect all three.