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AI 185 Beatles and the Creative Process​​

Syllabus

Course Description

The Beatles are significant in many ways: they were an unprecedented show business phenomenon; they were leaders of sixties cultural rebellion; and they stand, for many, as a signal instance of popular entertainment attaining the status of high art. This course will examine the musical craftsmanship of the Beatles, focusing on their work as songwriters and record makers. Recent audio and print releases documenting the group's performing and recording history provide a unique and detailed glimpse of the Beatles' creative process. We will utilize these materials to closely trace the development of the group's work while using other resources to place it in a larger historical and cultural context. The goal is to shed critical light on this recent chapter in cultural history. That discussion will, in turn, highlight questions about creativity in a modern context where commerce vies with art, technology redefines performance, and an emerging global village culture transforms concepts of originality and tradition.

Note: This course is offered by DePaul University's School for New Learning (SNL). It can be taken by SNL students for as many as two SNL competencies. It can also be taken by non–SNL students for Liberal Studies credit in the Arts & Literature Domain.

  • If you are an SNL student, click here.
  • If you are a non–SNL student taking this course for Liberal Studies credit in the Arts & Literature domain, click here.

For SNL students: Competencies Offered

SNL students may take this course for 4 credit hours (i.e., two SNL competencies) or 2 credit hours (i.e., one SNL competence). For SNL students, the course offers the following set of competencies (each of which is worth 2 credit hours):

Competence Competence Statement

A1X

Can view works of popular music through an interpretive 'lens' and can discuss strengths and weaknesses of the lens in question.

A3X

Can describe and analyze the interaction between a popular music phenomenon and at least one philosophical/spiritual problem or perspective. 

A5

Can define and analyze a creative process.

S3F

Can analyze the integration of new technology into a specific field of human endeavor from at least two perspectives.

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For details on these SNL competencies and course assignments, click here.

Non–SNL students taking the course for Liberal Studies Credit

Students from DePaul colleges other than SNL may take this course to meet the Arts & Literature requirement of the Liberal Studies Program. Non–SNL students who wish to take the course for Liberal Studies credit should register on the SNC–185 roster (a 4–credit hour roster specially created for Liberal Studies students). DePaul's Liberal Studies Program aims to foster among students reflectiveness; value consciousness; multicultural perspectives; and critical as well as creative thinking.

The learning outcomes for Liberal Studies Program's Arts & Literature domain are as follows:

  • Students will be able to explain, in well-written prose, what a work of art is about and/or how it was produced (i.e., they should be able to explain the content of that work and/or its methodology of production).
  • Students will be able to comment on the relationship between form and content in a work.
  • Students will be able to assess the formal aspects of their subject and put those qualities into words using, when appropriate, specialized vocabulary employed in class and readings.
  • Students will be able to contextualize a work of art. They will be able to do so with respect to other works of art in terms of defining its place within a broader style or genre. They will also be able to contextualize a work of art in terms of contemporaneous aesthetic, social or political concerns, discussing how these might shape the work's reception and how that reception might differ amongst various people and historical periods.

For a description of the Liberal Studies Program's Arts & Literature domain and details on Arts & Literature Learning Outcomes and course assignments, click here.

Non–SNL students taking the course for 2 credit hours

If you are a non–SNL student and you are registered on a roster other than SNC–185, then you are taking the course for 2 credit hours (rather than 4 credit hours). You should follow the directions below for students taking the course for 2 credit hours.

Course Materials - Print Texts:

There are numerous required readings for this course and they are all available in PDF form at the DePaul University Library website, under Ares Course Reserves. All required readings are listed in each course module; clicking a reading's link will open Ares Course Reserves in a new browser window.

Note: In addition to our required readings, the E-Reserves page includes several optional, supplementary readings.

As there is no single textbook currently in print that is adequate to the purposes of this course, the course author has used the Electronic Reserve system to assemble a custom anthology, composed of articles and chapters by a range of authors on a variety of topics. These E-Reserve materials will in effect serve as our print text.

Course Materials - Sound Recordings:

During the period they were together as a band, The Beatles released 12 albums on (or through) their UK label, EMI / Parlophone and these are listed below. Having access to all 12 is ideal. For this course, you are required to purchase the titles that appear in bold.

  • Please Please Me (1963)
  • With the Beatles (1963)
  • A Hard Day's Night (1964)
  • Beatles for Sale (1964)
  • Help! (1965)
  • Rubber Soul (1965)
  • Revolver (1966)
  • Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
  • Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
  • The Beatles (aka the White Album) (1968)
  • Abbey Road (1969)
  • Let It Be (1970)
  • Past Masters, volumes 1 & 2

[A note about Past Masters: This collection contains the numerous Beatles single releases that were never included on albums. These single releases represent some of the Beatles' finest work, so it's essential to have them. The Past Masters collection is available in two formats – as two albums labeled, respectively, volume 1 and volume 2; or as one double album entitled Past Masters (Remastered). Also—and this is something of a fine point, so no need to worry about it—but if you have a choice of getting Past Masters in mono or stereo, your instructor recommends that you get the mono version.]

All of these albums have recently been re-mastered. The CDs are widely available from retail outlets, both brick-and-mortar and online. In addition, all the albums are available for digital download from iTunes. Of course, if you have the vinyl, rock on!

Organization of the Course

This course is organized into 10 modules, each of which lasts a week:

  • Module 1 Come Together: Why The Beatles Are A Big Deal
  • Module 2 The Fifties, Race & Rock
  • Module 3 Songcraft, Convention & Technology
  • Module 4 Mania, Spectacle, Sociology
  • Module 5 From Pop to Art
  • Module 6 Psychedelia, Spirituality & the Global Village
  • Module 7 Sgt. Pepper as (Counter) Cultural Moment
  • Module 8 The Sgt. Pepper Debate: Transcendent Masterpiece or Toy Balloon?
  • Module 9 Random, Rishikesh, Revolution
  • Module 10 Making & Taking

Assessment of Learning

Evidence Students Will Submit

Discussions
Students are expected to contribute in a substantive, timely and interactive fashion to the Discussion posted for each module/week of the course.

To view the assessment rubric for Discussion participation, click here.

Journal entries
By the end of every module/week except Module/Week 6 and Module/Week 10, students will submit a journal entry (around a typed page in length) on a reading chosen from the list of readings scheduled for that module/week. This will make for a total of 8 journal entries by course's end. The format for journal entries appears in each module.

To view the assessment criteria for journal entries, click here.

Quizzes
The course contains two open–book Quizzes, one due at Midterm time (the end of Week 5) addressing material covered in Modules 1–5 and another at Finals time (the end of Week 10) addressing material covered in Modules 6–10. Students taking the course for 4 credit hours will submit the Midterm Quiz at the end of Week 5 and the Final Quiz at the end of Week 10. Students taking the course for 2 credit hours will submit one quiz – either the Midterm or the Final – by the end of Week 10.

Short Papers:

  • SNL students registered for two competencies will submit a short paper (5-7 pages long) addressing each of the competencies for which they're signed up. They will submit one such paper (addressing one competence) by the end of Week 6 and another such paper (addressing another such competence) by the end of Week 10. This totals up to two short papers by the end of the course. For information on paper topics, see below.

    (Note: SNL students registered for one competence will submit one short paper addressing that competence by either the end of Week 6 or the end of Week 10. This totals up to one short paper by the end of the course.) For information on paper topics, see below.
  • Non-SNL taking this course for Liberal Studies credit in the Arts & Literature domain will submit two short papers (5-7 pages long), each attuned to Arts & Literature domain learning outcomes. They will submit one such paper by the end of Week 6 and another such paper by the end of Week 10.  This totals up to two short papers by the end of the course. For information on paper topics, see below.

Re topics for short papers: Students will choose topics from an array of essay questions prepared by the instructor. The instructor will see to it that the essay questions are attuned to specific learning outcomes. As an alternative, you may write on an essay question of your own invention, provided it fits outcome criteria and the instructor approves it.

To view the assessment rubric for short papers, click here.

In sum, the evidence requirements for the course are:

  • Discussion participation (in 10 such weekly discussions)
  • Journal entries (one per module/week, except Week/Module 6 & 10)
  • Two Quizzes (Midterm & Final)
  • Two short papers (Midterm & Final)

Note: students registered for just one SNL competence (i.e., 2 credit hours) are only required to submit one Quiz and one Short paper by the end of the course.

Point-wise, the breakdown is as follows:

For Students Taking 4 Credit Hours:

Discussions (10 x 3 pts) 30 Points
Journal Entries (8 x 3 pts) 24 Points
Quizzes (2 x 9 pts) 18 Points
Short Paper (Midterm) 30 Points
Short paper (Final) 30 Points
Total: 132 Points

For Students Taking 2 Credit Hours:

Discussions (10 x 3 pts) 30 Points
Journal Entries (8 x 3 pts) 24 Points
Quiz (at either Midterm or Finals time) 9 Points
Short Paper (at either Midterm or Finals time) 30 Points
Total: 93 Points

The grading scale is based on 100 percent of the required assignments. Thus:

A = 95 to 100 A- = 91 to 94 B+ = 88 to 90
B = 85 to 87 B- = 81 to 84 C+ = 77 to 80
C = 73 to 76 C- = 69 to 72 D+ = 65 to 68
D = 61 to 64 F = 60 or below  

Please note: Grades lower than a C- do not earn credit or competence in the School for New Learning.

Criteria for Assessment

Discussions

To receive full credit (3 points) for a given module's Discussion, you must make a contribution that is

  1. Substantive: This means that you offer a considered opinion, a thought–provoking speculation and/or new information. A substantive contribution does more than simply indicate "I agree" or "Me too";
  2. Interactive: This means that, in addition to posting your own view(s), you respond to at least one other student and that you do so by, again, saying something more than "I agree" or "Me too".
  3. Timely: This means that you make your first post by the halfway point of the week (according to the due date for 'First post' listed in your Checklist for each week/module); and that you make at least one additional post later in the week.

In addition, you can receive an extra credit point for a contribution that your instructor judges to be of exceptional quality.

Journal entries

A single journal entry is worth a maximum of 3 points. To receive full credit, a journal entry must:

  1. Respond to all 6 questions and do so in coherent paragraphs (though those paragraphs may be brief);
  2. Show attentive engagement with the questions; and
  3. Provide at least one piece of thoughtful reflection.

Short papers

Assessment Rubric for Short Papers:

'A' designates work of high quality. An A paper (28-30 pts)

  • develops an argument cogently and creatively across the length of an essay;
  • reflects thorough understanding of and engagement with pertinent texts (audiovisual and/or print) and the issues at hand;
  • draws insightful connections and/or generates thoughtful questions concerning the topic and the specified materials;
  • cites sources consistently in appropriate citation style;
  • is virtually free of grammar lapses.

'B' designates work of good quality. A B paper (25-27 pts)

  • develops an argument effectively across the length of an essay;
  • reflects adequate understanding of and engagement with pertinent texts (audiovisual and/or print) and the issues at hand;
  • draws clear connections and/or generates apt questions concerning the topic and the specified materials
  • cites sources consistently in appropriate citation style;
  • is mostly free of grammar lapses.

'C' designates work which minimally meets requirements set forward in assignment. A C paper (22-24 pts)

  • develops some ideas but does so in a superficial or simplistic manner;
  • reflects limited understanding of or engagement with pertinent texts audiovisual or print) and the issues at hand;
  • draws connections, some of which are unclear, and/or raises questions, some which are inapt, concerning the topic and the specified materials;
  • cites sources inconsistently and/or occasionally uses appropriate citation style;
  • contains several grammar lapses.

'D' designates work of poor quality which does not meet minimum requirements set forth in the assignment. A D paper (19-21 pts)

  • shows little development of ideas;
  • reflects little or no understanding of pertinent texts (audiovisual and/or print) and the issues at hand;
  • does not draw clear connections or raise coherent questions concerning the topic and the specified materials;
  • does not cite sources appropriately;
  • contains numerous grammar lapses.

Such work is expected to conform to college–level standards of mechanics and presentation.

In assessing such work, your instructor strives to be clear, flexible, forthright and empathetic.

Due Dates

Due dates in the course are firm and must be adhered to if you expect to succeed. If you have a problem meeting a due date, you should contact your instructor. Assignments that are late will receive reduced points. Assignments which are more than one week late will receive zero points.

SNL Competencies and Course Assignments

For details on SNL competencies and course assignments, see below:

Competence A5

The A5 competence is addressed by the course focus on analyzing the Beatles' multifaceted creative process:

Competence Statement Facets of the Competence Learning Outcome Assignments/Deliverables demonstrating this competence
Can Define and Analyze a Creative Process Can define the concept of creativity. Students will: develop an understanding of a modern creative process Prime deliverable: Midterm or final paper targeting this competence
Can identify, analyze, and describe the components of a creative process in one or more fields of human endeavor. Develop an understanding of differing perspectives on what counts as creativity Journal entries and Quiz assignments will also speak to the competence.
Can explain how engaging in a creative process affects one' s perception of the world. be able to discuss ways in which this modern creative process is bound up with sociocultural factors such as class, literacy, and vernacular culture Discussions will speak to the competence.
Competence A1X

The A1X competence is addressed by the course focus on songcraft and record making as art forms as well as various approaches to interpreting these forms:

Competence Statement Facets of the Competence Learning Outcome Assignments/Deliverables demonstrating this competence
Can view works of popular music through an interpretive 'lens' and can discuss strengths and weaknesses of the lens in question. Specifies a work or works and engages an interpretive lens (e.g., sociocultural context; structure/genre; the artist's biography; the rhetoric of fans, critics or scholars) Students will: have practice with close reading techniques as applied to print and/or audio texts Prime deliverable: Midterm or final paper targeting this competence
Thoroughly and thoughtfully analyzes the work in terms of the interpretive lens. be familiar with some basic concepts of popular songcraft and sound recording Journal entries and Quiz assignments will also speak to the competence.
Briefly discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the interpretive 'lens' byconsidering what aspects of the work it allows us to see well and what aspects it blinds us to. Have experience using and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of at least one interpretive lens Discussions will speak to the competence
Competence: A3X

The A3X competence is addressed by the course focus on such artworks in relation to 60s-era trends in spirituality and philosophy:

Competence Statement Facets of the Competence Learning Outcome Assignments/Deliverables demonstrating this competence
Can describe and analyze the interaction between a popular music phenomenon and at least one philosophical/spiritual problem or perspective. Identifies a popular music phenomenon. (E.g., the Beatlemania fan craze; the Orientalism of middle period Beatles culture; the development of the 'psychedelic sound'.) Students will: become familiar with some 60s-era trends in spirituality and/or philosophy Prime deliverable: Midterm or final paper targeting this competence
Identifies at least one philosophical/spiritual problem or perspective. (E.g., the problem of women's oppression; the perspective of Indian mysticism; the challenge of modern alienation.) be able to place such phenomena in a historical and/or social context Journal entries and Quiz assignments will also speak to the competence.
Describes how 1 & 2 above interact with reference to pertinent histories, practices and texts and goes on to analyze the significance of the interaction in relation to popular music practice or spiritual/philosophical inquiry. have practice with close reading techniques as applied to print and/or audio texts Discussions will speak to the competence
Competence: S3F
Competence Statement Facets of the Competence Learning Outcome Assignments/Deliverables demonstrating this competence
Can analyze the integration of new technology into a specific field of human endeavor from at least two perspectives. Identifies a field of human endeavor (in this case, the arts) that has been reshaped by new technology (in this case, sound recording) Students will: become familiar with some 60s-era trends in spirituality and/or philosophy Prime deliverable: Midterm or final paper targeting this competence
Analyzes the significance of the integration of new technology into that field from at least two different perspectives (for example, historical, ethical, sociological, economic, aesthetic, or scientific). be able to place such phenomena in a historical and/or social context Journal entries and Quiz assignments will also speak to the competence.
  have practice with close reading techniques as applied to print and/or audio texts Discussions will speak to the competence

Liberal Studies Program Arts & Literature Domain

Courses in the Arts and Literature Domain ask students to extend their knowledge and experience of the arts by developing their critical and reflective abilities. In these courses, students interpret and analyze particular creative works, investigate the relations of form and meaning, and through critical and/or creative activity come to experience art with greater openness, insight, and enjoyment. These courses focus on works of literature, art, theatre, or music as such, though the process of analysis may also include social and cultural issues. Students who take courses in this domain choose three courses from such choices as literature, the visual arts, media arts, music, and theater. No more than two courses can be chosen from one department or program

For details on Liberal Studies Learning Outcomes and course assignments, see below:

Liberal Studies / Arts & Literature Domain Learning Outcomes (from the DePaul Liberal Studies Program website) Assignments/Deliverables
Students will be able to explain, in well-written prose, what a work of art is about and/or how it was produced (i.e., they should be able to explain the content of that work and/or its methodology of production). Prime deliverables:

- Midterm paper and final paper, both on an Arts& Literature topic

- Journal entries

- Discussion
Students will be able to comment on the relationship between form and content in a work. Prime deliverables:

- Midterm paper and final paper, both on an Arts& Literature topic

- Journal entries

- Discussion
Students will be able to assess the formal aspects of their subject and put those qualities into words using, when appropriate, specialized vocabulary employed in class and readings. Prime deliverables:

- Midterm paper and final paper, both on an Arts& Literature topic

- Journal entries

- Discussion

- Quizzes
Students will be able to contextualize a work of art. They will be able to do so with respect to other works of art in terms of defining its place within a broader style or genre. They will also be able to contextualize a work of art in terms of contemporaneous aesthetic, social or political concerns, discussing how these might shape the work's reception and how that reception might differ amongst various people and historical periods Prime deliverables:

- Midterm paper and final paper, both on an Arts& Literature topic

- Journal entries

- Discussion

The Liberal Studies Arts & Literature emphasis is addressed by the course focus on the Beatles as songwriters, record makers and cultural icons, as well as the course focus on popular music as a site of artistic endeavor and interpretation.

Discussion Forums

Discussion Forums are an important component of your online experience. This course contains discussion forums related to the topics you are studying each week. For requirements on your participation in the Discussion Forums, please see "Course Expectations" in the syllabus.

A Course Q & A discussion forum has also been established to manage necessary, ongoing social and administrative activities. This is where the management and administrative tasks of the course are conducted, and where you can ask 'process' questions and receive answers throughout the course. Please feel free to answer any question if you feel you know the answer; this sharing of information is valuable to other students.

Bio

Associate Professor John Kimsey received his PhD in English Literature from the University of Illinois at Chicago and his BA from Washington University in St. Louis. A member of the SNL Resident Faculty, he teaches and writes about modern literature and popular culture and has also worked as a professional musician. His essays have appeared in numerous scholarly journals and anthologies, including Popular Music & Society; Interdisciplinary Literary Studies; The Journal of Popular Music Studies; The Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community; The Cambridge Companion to the Beatles; Sgt. Pepper & the Beatles: It Was Forty Years Ago Today; Reading the Beatles: Cultural Studies, Literary Criticism and the Fab Four; and Fifty Years with the Beatles: The Beatles’ Impact on Contemporary Culture.

His song cycle, Twisted Roots: Music, Politics and the American Dream Blues, was awarded a DePaul Humanities Center fellowship and has been described by jazz composer/performer/scholar Ben Sidran as "an ingenious way to integrate political and social commentary into a musical architecture."

He received DePaul’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 2014. His classes include: AI 185 The Beatles and the Creative Process, AI 215 Film Noir, AI 286 New Orleans in Song, Story and Struggle, IN 307 Advanced Elective Seminar: Frankenstein Across the Curriculum, LL 270 Critical Thinking, and LL 250 Foundations of Adult Learning.

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