American Gonzo
Fall 2013


TR 2:30-3:45pm
GUA 2213

Gregory Borchard, Ph.D.
(O) 702-895-4868
Office Hours: T 11-noon; W 9-noon; R 11-noon;
and by appointment
2134 Greenspun Hall

Course Overview: This course features journalism and the American Dream. More specifically, it focuses on the ways in which journalists have written about the "rags to riches" myth popularized by Horatio Alger in the late nineteenth century; even more specifically, it features the work of Hunter S. Thompson, who in the 1970s, made an infamous — now famous — visit to Las Vegas in which he both mastered the art of Gonzo journalism and turned the American Dream on its head. The course begins with the antecedents of this story, first told by American Revolutionaries; the story was then reimagined before the Civil War, defined and redefined in the later part of the nineteenth century, and it has been subsequently accepted as a standard part of Americana. We will spend the second half of the semester looking at Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as both a critique of the American Dream and as an extraordinary account of the city. You will be required to develop your own sample of Gonzo journalism by first demonstrating a familiarity with the rules of conventional reporting, and then breaking these rules effectively and in various contexts. Parts of the first half of the semester may be familiar to undergraduate students from my History of Journalism class. An extra course requirement will be assigned to graduate students.

Required Text

  • McKeen, W. Outlaw Journalist. New York: Norton, 2008.
  • Thompson, HS. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. New York: Vintage, Random House, 1971, 1998.

Grading: Combined Scores

A = 93 to 100
C = 73 to 76.4
A- = 90 to 92.4
C- = 70 to 72.4
B+ = 87 to 89.4
D+ = 67 to 69.4
B = 83 to 86.4
D = 63 to 66.4
B- = 80 to 82.4
D- = 60 to 62.4
C+ = 77 to 79.4
F = below 59.4

Another note about grades: In order to earn an "A," you need not only to produce exceptional work, but also to make a positive contribution to class. Although I cannot assign a score for your attitude, participation at least indirectly affects your performance and success.

Extra Credit: I may decide to allow extra credit opportunities. Extra credit is not designed to reward you for work done at minimum standards; rather, it allows you to accentuate excellent performance. You must be present when I announce extra credit because I will not spend extra time reviewing it in class.

Incomplete Grades: The grade of Incomplete ("I") can be granted when a student has satisfactorily completed all course work up to the withdrawal date of that semester/session but for reason(s) beyond the student's control — and acceptable to the instructor — in which the student cannot complete the last part of the course, and the instructor believes that the student can finish the course without repeating it. A student who receives an "I" is responsible for making up whatever work was lacking at the end of the semester. If course requirements are not completed within the time indicated, a grade of "F" will be recorded and the GPA will be adjusted accordingly. Students who are fulfilling an Incomplete do not register for the course but make individual arrangements with the instructor who assigned the "I" grade.

Attendance: Please attend every lecture. You will find a wealth of information in the notes and readings, but you will lose the context needed for interpreting subjects if you miss class. If you are absent and I have not approved your absence in advance, you will receive a zero ("0") for graded course-related materials administered that day. I accept the following absences as excused:

  • Medical excuses. Contact me before class and then provide a letter from a physician documenting the dates of the illness so we can arrange a make-up opportunity if necessary.
  • As a general rule, a student missing a class or laboratory assignment because of observance of a religious holiday may have the opportunity to make up missed work. According to university policy, you must notify me about anticipated absences by the last day of late registration to be assured of this opportunity.
  • Other situations, such as military service and family emergencies, are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Religious Holidays Policy: Any student missing class quizzes, examinations, or any other class or lab work because of observance of religious holidays shall be given an opportunity during that semester to make up missed work. The make-up will apply to the religious holiday absence only. It shall be the responsibility of the student to notify the instructor no later than the end of the first two weeks of classes of his or her intention to participate in religious holidays that do not fall on state holidays or periods of class recess. This policy shall not apply in the event that administering the test or examination at an alternate time would impose an undue hardship on the instructor or the university that could not reasonably been avoided. For additional information, please visit the UNLV Catalogue.

Classroom Policies:
University protocol provides instructors the discretion and prerogative to determine what is and is not acceptable classroom behavior (i.e., late arrival, wearing hats, and cell phone use). Classroom occupants are at the discretion of the instructor (per UNLV General Counsel). University policy considers bringing children to class a potential violation of the Student Conduct Code, Sections III.K. and L. relating to "disrupting" the classroom and/or university operations.

Please Note: I will start class on time and expect you to be on time. Let me know if you have an on-going situation that could affect your arrival to class.

  • Be sure to turn off cell phones, pagers, and alarms before class starts.
  • No guests are allowed in class.

Rebelmail: By policy, faculty and staff should use Rebelmail accounts only. Rebelmail is UNLV's official e-mail system for students. It is one of the primary ways students receive official university communication such as information about deadlines, major campus events, and announcements. All UNLV students receive a Rebelmail account after they have been admitted to the university. Students' e-mail prefixes are listed on class rosters. The suffix is always

Disability Resource Center: The DRC determines accommodations that are "reasonable" in promoting the equal access of a student reporting a disability to the general UNLV learning experience. In so doing, the DRC also balances instructor and departmental interests in maintaining curricular standards so as to best achieve a fair evaluation standard amongst students being assisted. In order for the DRC to be effective it must be considered in the dialog between the faculty and the student who is requesting accommodations. For this reason faculty should only provide students course adjustment after having received an "Academic Accommodation Plan." If faculty members have any questions regarding the DRC, they should call a DRC counselor. UNLV complies with the provisions set forth in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The DRC is located in the Student Services Complex (SSC-A), Room 143, phone 895-0866, fax 895-0651.

Tutoring: The Academic Success Center (ASC) provides tutoring and academic assistance for all UNLV students taking UNLV courses. Students are encouraged to stop by the ASC to learn more about subjects offered, tutoring times and other academic resources. The ASC is located across from the Student Services Complex (SSC). Students may learn more about tutoring services by calling 895-3177.

UNLV Writing Center: One-on-one or small group assistance with writing is available free of charge to UNLV students at the Writing Center, located in CDC-3-301. Although walk-in consultations are sometimes available, students with appointments will receive priority assistance. Appointments may be made in person or by calling 895-3908. The student's Rebel ID Card, a copy of the assignment (if possible), and two copies of any writing to be reviewed are requested for the consultation.

Academic Misconduct: Academic integrity is a legitimate concern for every member of the campus community; all share in upholding the fundamental values of honesty, trust, respect, fairness, responsibility and professionalism. By choosing to join the UNLV community, students accept the expectations of the Academic Misconduct Policy and are encouraged when faced with choices to always take the ethical path. Students enrolling in UNLV assume the obligation to conduct themselves in a manner compatible with UNLV's function as an educational institution. An example of academic misconduct is plagiarism. Plagiarism is using the words or ideas of another, from the Internet or any source, without proper citation of the sources. See the Student Academic Misconduct Policy (approved 12/9/05).

Nevada Revised Statutes 207.320: Any person who prepares for sale or sells any term paper, thesis, dissertation or similar writing intending such writing to be submitted to an academic institution as the work of any person not the author in fulfillment of a requirement for completion of a course of study, award of a degree or other academic credit is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Copyright: The University requires all members of the University Community to familiarize themselves and to follow copyright and fair use requirements. You are individually and solely responsible for violations of copyright and fair use laws. The university will neither protect nor defend you nor assume any responsibility for employee or student violations of fair use laws. Violations of copyright laws could subject you to federal and state civil penalties and criminal liability, as well as disciplinary action under University policies.

Office Hours: I will be in my office during the hours listed at the top of this syllabus (and by appointment), and I can be available at other times if arranged in advance. I want to encourage you to take advantage of office hours. I will not discuss individual test scores or grades in class, but if you have a question about how I've evaluated your work — or, better yet, questions about media history — please see me during office hours or at another time we arrange.


(Post-Midterm, updated Oct. 16)
Oct. 17: Guest Lecture, Bill McKeen, Interview Qs (5%)

Oct. 22: Guest Lecture, Paul Traudt
Oct. 24: Guest Lecture, Michael Green
(10/24: Go to Special Collections, Lied Library)

Oct. 29: Fear and Loathing, pt. 1
Oct. 31: TBA

Nov. 5: Fear and Loathing, pt. 2
Nov. 7: Developing your assignment
(11/7: Class does NOT meet)

Nov. 12: Ethnography (campus)
Nov. 14: Group Session 2 (10%)

Nov. 19: Immersion (residential)
Nov. 21: Group Session 3 (10%)

Nov. 26: Gonzo (the Strip)
Nov. 28: Thanksgiving (class does not meet)

Dec. 3: TBA
Dec. 5: Papers Due (30%)

Dec. 12: Final Exam, 3:10-5:10 (10%)