Issues & Perspectives in Communication Theory, Fall 2011

Comm 6010, Fall 2011
Class: Tuesdays 4:30-7:00 PM, 1020 One Park Place South
Office: 738 One Park Place South

Course Description

Communication is a wide-ranging field encompassing the study of speech, journalism, film, television, video games, the internet, and every other medium through which people exchange information. Scholars bring an array of approaches to their work, from historical digging to quantitative data collection to ethnographic interviews to textual analysis. And they address a broad range of issues, from aesthetics to psychology to politics and beyond.

Communication is less a single discipline than an interdisciplinary meeting ground. At the same time, a series of key conversations runs across all these varied areas of study. This course is designed to help new Communication M.A. students get their bearings in this rich, complex field, as you begin your graduate study. It will introduce you to the ideas, arguments, and ongoing questions which organize our field.


The course-pack for this class is sold by Bestway Copy Center, 18 Decatur Street SE (on the first floor of One Park Place South).  Additional optional readings will be shared via the Twitter hashtag #commtheory.

Class Schedule

8/23    Introduction

8/30    Communication and Culture
James Carey, “A Cultural Approach to Communication,” Communication as Culture (London: Routledge, 1992): 13-36:
Clifford Geertz, “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight”:
Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”:

Click to access mechanicalrepro1.pdf

Ted Friedman, “Introduction,” Electric Dreams: Computers and American Culture (NYU, 2005):

9/6    New Media
Henry Jenkins, “Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars? Digital Cinema, Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture”:
Chris Anderson, “The Long Tail,” Wired 12.10 (October 2004):
Marcus Boon, “Introduction” and “What Is Copying?” In Praise of Copying (Harvard UP, 2010), 1-40:
Ted Friedman, “The Rise of the Simulation Game,” Electric Dreams: Computers and American Culture (NYU, 20005):

9/13    Narrative and Genre
Walter R. Fisher, “Narrative as a Human Communication Paradigm: The Case of Public Moral Argument,” Communication Monographs 51 (1984): 1-23.
Hayden White, “The Question of Narrative in Contemporary Historical Theory,” The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987): 26-57.
Thomas Schatz, “Film Genre and the Genre Film,” Hollywood Genres: Formulas, Filmmaking, and the Studio System (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981): 14-41.

9/20    Semiotics
Kaja Silverman, “From Sign to Subject, A Short History,” The Subject of Semiotics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983): 3-53.
Jonathan Culler, “Saussure’s Theory of Language,” Ferdinand de Saussure, rev. ed. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986): 27-64.
Christian Metz, “Some Points in the Semiotics of the Cinema,” in Gerald Mast, Marshall Cohen, and Leo Braudy (eds.), Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, 4th ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 168-178.

9/27    Ideology
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “The Ruling Class and the Ruling Ideas,” in Durham and Kellner (eds.), Media and Cultural Studies: Key Works (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2001): 39-42.
Raymond WIlliams, “Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory,” in Durham and Kellner (eds.), Media and Cultural Studies: Key Works (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2001), 152-165.
Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception”:
Roland Barthes, “Myth Today,” Mythologies (New York: Hill and Wang, 1972), 109-159.

10/4    Hegemony and Resistance
Stuart Hall, “Encoding, Decoding,” in Simon During (ed.), The Cultural Studies Reader (New York: Routledge, 2007), 90-103.
Celeste Condit, “Hegemony in a Mass-Mediated Society: Condordance About Reproductive Technologies,” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 11 (1994): 205-230.
Dana Cloud, “Hegemony or Concordance? The Rhetoric of Tokenism in ‘Oprah’ Winfrey’s Rags-to-Riches Biography,” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 13 (1996): 115-137.
Celeste Condit, “Hegemony, Condordance and Capitalism: Reply to Cloud,” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 13 (1996): 382-384.
Dana Cloud, “Concordance, Complexity and Conservatism: Rejoinder to Condit,” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 14 (1997): 193-97.
Celeste Condit, “Clouding the Issues? The Ideal and the Material in Human Communication,” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 14 (1997): 197-200.
Research proposals due

10/11    The Public Sphere
Jurgen Habermas, “The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article,” in Durham and Kellner (eds.), Media and Cultural Studies: Key Works (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2001): 102-107.
Phaedra Pezzulo, “Resisting ‘National Breast Cancer Awareness Month’: The Rhetoric of Counterpublics and their Cultural Performances,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 89 (2003): 345-365
Bent Flyvbjerg, “Habermas and Foucault: Thinkers for Civil Society?” British Journal of Sociology 49.2 (June 1998): 210-233:

Click to access CIVSOC5%200PRINTBJS.pdf

10/18    Psychoanalysis
Kaja Silverman, “The [Semiotic] Subject in Freud and Lacan,” The Subject of Semiotics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983), 126-193.
Barbara Creed, “Film and Psychoanalysis,” in John Hill and Pamela Gibson (eds.), The Oxford Guide to Film Studies (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 77-90.
Janice Hocker Rushing and Thomas S. Frentz, “Integrating Ideology and Archetype in Rhetorical Criticism,” The Quarterly Journal of Speech 77 (1991): 385-406.
Ted Friedman, “Jung and Lost,” Flow 9.12 (May 2009):

10/25    Gender
Ann Brooks, “Postfeminist Variations within Media and Film Theory,” Postfeminisms: Feminism, Cultural Theory and Cultural Forms (London: Routledge, 1997): 163-188.
Judith Butler, “Preface (1999)” and “Preface (1990),” Gender Trouble (New York: Routledge, 1999), vii-xxxiii.
Alexander Doty, “There’s Something Queer Here,” Making Things Perfectly Queer (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993): 1-16.

11/1    Race and National Identity
Michael Omi & Howard Winant, “Racial Formation,” Racial Formation in the United States (New York: Routledge, 1994): 53-76.
Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities chapters 1-3 (New York: Verso, 1983), 1-46.
Arjun Appadurai, “Disjunctures and Difference in the Global Cultual Economy,” Modernity at Large (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 27-47.

11/8    Postmodernity, Posthumanism and Transhumanism
Fredric Jameson, “The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism,” Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Duke UP, 1990), 1-52.
Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology , and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” Simians, Cyborgs and Women (Routledge, 1990), 149-181, 243-249.
David Abram, “The Ecology of Magic,” The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than Human World (Vintage, 1997):
David Abram, “Language and the Ecology of Sensuous Experience: An Essay with an Unconstructive Footnote”:
Ted Friedman, “The Politics of Magic,” Scope 14 (June 2009):
Ted Friedman, “Vertigo,” Flow 10.08 (September 19, 2009):

11/15    No reading – research presentations begin

11/22    Thanksgiving Break – no class

11/29    No reading – research presentations continue/party at Ted’s house

Final papers due 12/6


The class assignments add up to total of 100 possible points. Your final grade for the class is determined by adding up your grades for each assignment, adjusting for attendance, then applying the final number to the following scale:

A+    100-98        B+    89-88        C+    79-78        D    69-65
A     97-93        B    87-83        C    77-70        F    64-0
A-    92-90        B-    82-80

I. Co-lead discussions of three readings– 15% of final grade for each reading (45% total)
You will sign up to co-lead discussions of three readings over the course of the semester. The discussion of each reading will be co-led by two students. One leader is responsible for presenting background information on the author(s) and the article. For that presentation, you should research the author’s background, and survey the influence of the essay via If available, incorporate a short video clip of the author speaking. The second leader is responsible for introducing a contemporary media example, and suggesting how the article’s ideas might be applied to the example. Together, the leaders should prepare a short 1-page summary of the key facts about the author(s), article, and media example. Note: it is not necessary to summarize the article beyond brief 1-2 sentence statements of its key arguments. Further exegesis will be developed in lecture and class discussion.

II. Final Paper – 55% of final grade
Write a 15-20 page paper applying one or more theoretical approaches from the class to an object of study in your area. For example, you might develop a semiotic analysis of a news program, a psychoanalytic reading of a film, or a Marxist analysis of a political speech. You should demonstrate your understanding of important concepts and terms, and you should use the concepts to provide new insight into the object you’re examining.

• A one-page proposal is due October 11. I will schedule individual meetings
with you to discuss the proposal.
• You will give a short (10 minute) presentation of your research project on November 15 or 29.
• The final project is due December 6.

III. Attendance Adjustment
As Woody Allen put it, “80 percent of success is showing up.” It’s less than that in this formula, but the bottom line is that you can’t contribute to the class if you’re not there. You’re allowed one unexcused absence for the semester. After that, each unexcused absence subtracts one point from your grade total. Excused absences include medical and family emergencies. You will be expected to schedule any employment responsibilities around this class, or accept the consequences of missed classes for your grade. If you do need to miss a class, please contact me ahead of time, and make arrangements to catch up on missed material.


Academic Honesty
The university’s policy on academic honesty is published in On Campus: The Undergraduate Co-Curricular Affairs Handbook, available online at The policy prohibits plagiarism, cheating on examinations, unauthorized collaboration, falsification, and multiple submissions. Violation of the policy will result in failing the class, in addition to disciplinary sanctions.

The Internet makes it easy to plagiarize, but also easy to track down plagiarism. Bottom line: Don’t plagiarize. It’s wrong, and it’s not worth it. There’s always a better way. Cite all your sources, put all direct quotations in quotation marks, and clearly note when you are paraphrasing other authors’ work.

Incompletes may be given only in special hardship cases. Incompletes will not be used merely for extending the time for completion of course requirements.

Changes to the Syllabus
This syllabus provides a general plan for the course. Deviations may be necessary.

Course Evaluation
Your constructive assessment of this course plays an indispensable role in shaping education at Georgia State University.  Upon completing the course, please take the time to fill out the online course evaluation.

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