LSP 111

Explore Chicago: Underground Music in Chicago

Autumn 2010


Dr. Daniel Makagon                                                               Student Leader: Amanda Blowers

Office: 14 E Jackson, #1828   (temporary SAC 591)    

Office Hours: W 12:00-1:00 and by appointment

Phone: (312) 362-7979                                                           Academic Advisor: Karin Winters


Course Objectives


Chicago, like other large cities, has been a magnet for artists, musicians, writers, and performers. Some of these people consider the city to be a site that will facilitate fame and fortune. Others view the city as an environment that fosters cultural production that is grounded in community building and social connection. The link between creativity and the city has been a central feature of urban political discourse in recent years, as governors, mayors, and city council members have worked to lure creative people to their states and cities. In an effort to understand better how creative cultural production is central to Chicago (spatially and symbolically), this course will focus on contemporary forms of underground (or bohemian) culture in Chicago. We will explore the ways in which various underground cultural practices function as both important sources of local identity and an opportunity to put Chicago on a larger creative map. Students will study a range of underground cultural practices in Chicago (e.g., alternative rock, punk, rap, and techno music production and night clubs), alternative media outlets (e.g., radio stations and fanzines), and public art (e.g., graffiti and murals). Additionally, we will investigate how underground cultural producers develop relationships with city officials or resist official forms of support (and in some cases, co-optation). The course will ultimately introduce students to a variety of theoretical issues about urban life, communication and culture, city politics, and community as well as the aesthetic and business practices of people who are involved with such issues vis-ą-vis the production of culture in Chicago.


Chicago Quarter Learning Goals:


1. Involve experiential learning through participation, direct observation, personal discovery, and reflection.


2. Develop students' writing and rhetorical skills through classroom exercises and projects.


3. Promote Vincentian values of community service and respect for diversity.


4. Acquaint students with the Chicago Metropolitan area, its neighborhoods, cultures, people, institutions, organizations, or issues.


5. Introduce students to group-based learning, what it means to be a life-long learner, and the enjoyment of learning.


Required Texts


All course readings are accessible via a password protected Web site. You are required to print each day’s reading and bring the article with you to class.

Course Assignments


Common Hour                                    10%                 ____(pts.) X .10 = ______


Reading Quizzes                                 20%                 ____(pts.) X .20 = ______


Underground Spaces Paper                 35%                 ____(pts.) X .35 = ______


Zine Contribution/Final                       35%                 ____(pts.) X .35 = ______


                                                                                    Final Grade= ____________



You are required to complete the reading assignments before you attend class. This will lead to more fruitful discussion.


Underground Cultural Spaces Paper


This assignment emphasizes building an interpretation from looking and listening. Your goal is to document three (3) places where underground culture is thriving in 3-5 pages. You will attend and assess these local underground cultural sites (e.g., a music venue, poetry venue, college or pirate radio station, artistic space, etc.) and analyze the cultural practices that take shape in that place. In general, you should discuss what happens there, the kind of people who gather there, the level of participation among the spectators, and then assess the site through the lens of our course materials. (Note: “Assess” means more than simply describing what you see. You should also discuss the larger social, cultural, political, or economic implications of the event relative to cultural life in Chicago.) You can study these sites with a small group of people (2-3), with a partner, or you can work on your own. If you work with others, each person must write her/his own paper (i.e., you will not turn in a single paper representing the views of two or three students).


This paper is due at 1:00PM on October 6th.


Research process:


1. Discuss possible sites with me. You need to attend these sites between now and the date the paper is due. You can’t write about spaces that are located outside the Chicago area nor can you write based on memory of some place you attended in the past. You can study a space you have been to in the past that is in Chicago or a nearby suburb, but must go to that place again to study that space for this class.


2. Spend time at the sites listening to conversations; talking to people; recording sounds and interviews; exploring the physical characteristics of the site; and trying to understand why the site is important for people, how people use these places, and how people make meaning of the spaces. The places should be a symbolic for a particular style of life (i.e., underground). Pay attention to mannerisms, clothing, and other telling details. Make notes or record snippets of conversation to use as dialogue in your essay. You might also make photographs to help you see these places when writing the essay. (I will say more about photography below.)


3. Write an essay about the ways in which these spaces embody and reflect underground cultural life. The paper should examine the importance of the spaces, making use of the information you gathered during your time at the sites. You also need to submit one photograph of you in each space. That is, you need three photographs total, one from each place that shows you standing in front of the space, holding up a menu in that space, posing with a worker at the counter, etc. I am not concerned with the quality of the image as long as the image is clear (e.g., you can take the photo with a cell phone).


A note about time: In general I expect a 3-5 page paper to take one week to write. That would include formulating a thesis, developing an argument, working through a few drafts, and polishing the final draft of the paper. This assignment will likely require the same time to write but will also require additional research time at the three spaces (enough time at the site to assess what is happening in each space—10-20 hours total). Therefore, you should allow an additional week (7 days) for research. Showing up to a place one time for 20-30 minutes would not constitute research. You are encouraged to discuss your research plans with me so I can help you assess how much time to spend at the site and the kinds of things you might look for and the kinds of questions you might ask people who hang out there.


This essay is worth 35% of your class grade.




There are two options for the Final. You will choose one.


Zine Contribution/Presentation


For this group assignment you will contribute to a course e-zine. Your individual contribution will take the form of an essay but might also include other materials (e.g., photographs, drawings, copies of flyers, poetry, and other creative expressions). Our zine will cover contemporary (and historical) underground culture in Chicago. We will discuss topic options in the fifth week. A full description of this assignment is available in the folder that contains pdfs for this class.


Take Home Final Exam


This exam will ask you to synthesize course materials (excursions, readings, guest speakers, and in-class discussions/lectures). You will develop an analysis of relationships between a do-it-yourself philosophy and underground culture in Chicago. A full description of this assignment will be made available in the 4th week in the folder that contains pdfs for this class.

Reading Quizzess


Quizzes will be short answer and will allow me to gauge how well you understand the arguments made in the readings. Unlike your papers and class discussion, where I am interested in your opinions about the issues and the strength of the writer's argument(s), the quizzes are designed for you to state the author's argument only. In other words, I am not striving to understand what you think about the issues; rather, I am interested in how well you understand the construction of the author's argument. If we do not understand what s/he's saying then our critique of her/his work will not be properly grounded. Possible points for each quiz question will be listed after the question (usually 10 or 20 points per question and usually 1-3 questions per quiz). Answers will be graded based on your ability to clearly summarize the author's argument(s) and use examples from the reading to support your answer(s).


Written Assignment Requirements


All papers should be typed, double-spaced throughout the entire essay, and use a consistent style (e.g., MLA, APA, etc.). Use one-inch margins and 12-point font. I do not accept electronic copies of student work. See the syllabus addendum (available in the folder that contains pdfs for this class) for a description of my grading policies and expectations as well as further details on written assignments.


For assistance with your writing, contact or visit the Writing Center: Lincoln Park at 802 W. Belden, 150 McGaw Hall, 773-325-4272 and The Loop at 25 E. Jackson, 1620 Lewis Center, 312-362-6726.


Course Policies


Promptness is expected as a general rule. If you are consistently late to class your grade will be negatively affected. Leaving before the class ends or arriving more than 10 minutes late is an absence.


Attendance and Active Participation are expected and required. You are allowed one unexcused absence in this class, and two absences total if at least one of those is excused (e.g., you have documentation about a medical illness/emergency, legal issue/civic responsibility, or are missing because of an official DePaul function). If you miss more than two class sessions, or have more than one unexcused absence, you will receive an “F’ in the class (even if the absences are excused). Missing this many class sessions (more than 20% of the term) undermines the integrity of the classroom experience. If you miss this much class because of illness or a family emergency, you should meet with the Dean of Students to discuss withdrawal options.


All assignments are due on assigned days and in class. There will be NO MAKE-UPS. Documented illness or documented emergencies are the only exception to this policy. Changes in work schedules, personal celebrations (e.g., birthdays), assignments due in other classes, car problems/EL congestion, etc. are NOT considered to be legitimate reasons for missing deadlines or class meetings. If you have an excused absence for a class session when you would turn in a paper or take a quiz then you can give me the paper on the next date you attend class and/or make up the quiz during the next class session. (Note: If you will be missing a class because of a religious holiday, let me know in writing at least two weeks before the holiday so we can make arrangements to make up missed work.)


Students with disabilities should provide me with documentation from the Office of Students with Disabilities.


Cellular Phones: If you have a cellular phone or pager, turn it off or set it to vibrate, and keep it in your backpack or purse. All cell phones must be put away during the class session. I will confiscate cellular phones for the remainder of the class session if you are sending or reading text messages or using your phone to check email/surf the Internet.


E-mail: I often send e-mail announcements to the class. You need to (1) make sure your preferred email address in Campus Connect is the address you check regularly so messages do not bounce back and (2) make sure my email address will pass through your spam filter.




I have often found that plagiarism becomes tempting if students are feeling pressured. Remember, when in doubt quote. If you are quoting someone else in your presentation, you need to clearly identify the information as a quote and the source. Similarly, when paraphrasing, you should clearly identify your source. If you are quoting somebody directly in your paper then you need to list the information within quotation marks and cite a page number. If you are paraphrasing then you need to cite the person and a page number. Never copy and paste entire documents into your paper and do not quote others to the point where your ideas become indistinguishable from your source's ideas. There is no reason to plagiarize given the resources available to you (e.g., opportunities to meet with me; coaches in the writing center; my handout on writing for the class; and DePaul’s policy on academic integrity, which can be found at If you do plagiarize, you will automatically receive a grade of “F” in this class. Moreover, the Academic Affairs office will be contacted.

Grade Scale


93-100 A, 90-92 A-, 88-89 B+, 83-87 B, 80-82 B-, 78-79 C+, 73-77 C, 70-72 C-, 60-69 D, 0-59 F

(I do not assign incompletes)