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COURSE NAME: "Advanced Communications Theory"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2017

INSTRUCTOR: Peter Sarram
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 3:00-4:15 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisites: Senior Standing and completion of three COM or CMS courses at the 300-level
OFFICE HOURS: M-W 9-11 or by appointment


This course is designed as an advanced level exploration of major theories and schools of thought in media studies and communications. It surveys foundational theories about media and communication, ranging from mass media in the 19th century to contemporary digital media and cultures. Schools of thought and concepts covered in the course include the study of ideology, hegemony, political economy, culture industries, medium theory, cultural studies, mass media and society, spectacle and spectatorship, race, gender, post-colonialism, semiotics, and postmodernism. Students will apply theories through practical written research projects and analysis of current media practices.


This course examines central issues relating to theories of media and society encountered in media studies, and to prepare students for graduate school level studies. The course concentrates on four key areas in mass communication theory: the theoretical roots of social science as a context for media theory; the political economy of the media and institutional analysis; media effects and the mass audience; and the relationship between media production, textuality and reception.

The course will be run as a seminar. Students are highly encouraged to cultivate their own perspective on the points raised in the assigned readings, those they encounter as part of their own research and interest and those raised by others during class discussion. Screening/viewing  of relevant material will also be part of the course organization.


Students who complete this course will be familiar with the major schools of media theory and will be able to apply these theories in practical analytical contexts. This course is intended to prepare students for entry-level graduate school theory courses


Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks; 2nd Revised EditionDurham & KellnerJohn Wiley & Sons978-0470658086  
Key Themes in Media Theory Dan LaugheyOpen University Press978-0335218134  

Midterm Essay 25
Final Exam 25
Theory Presentation 15
Final Analysis Paper 25
Attendance/Participation 10

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the cou
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.


Please note that frequent absences automatically lower your participation grade.

Three unexcused absences (those not officially cleared with the Dean’s Office) will result in your final grade for the course to be lowered by one full letter grade. Anything above five unexcused absences will result in failure of the course.

Lateness: Students more than 10 minutes late are marked as absent. Late arrival (less than 10 minutes) is marked as such, and 3 late arrivals are counted as one absence.

Class procedure:   Students are requested to make sure their cell phones are turned off (and not just muted) at the start of class.


Extra Etiquette:

General: Read the syllabus. 99.9% of your questions will be answered there.


In-class: Arrive on time and remain in class during the duration of class time. If you must leave, do not leave right at the start of class (when important announcements are being made), during student presentations and during screenings.

Email: Professors maintain regular working hours and have office hours. Do not email on the weekend or the night before class and expect an immediate response. When emailing, please include something in the email text. Do not just send an email with a subject line and attachment.

Phones and computers: Phones are strictly forbidden in class. If you use one, you will be counted as absent. Computers and tablets are allowed on a case-by-case basis. Please ask for permission before using computers in class. All computers must be closed during screenings of media.


Reviewing assignment drafts: In some special cases and given adequate warning, student’s concerned about their grades can discuss drafts of their projects during office hours.

Assignment approval: Most assignments require topic approval. Make sure you understand the assignment requirements and submit your proposal in a timely manner. Assignments that need topic approval that are not formally approved will not receive credit.

Assignment extensions: Under special circumstances extensions are given, but you must first ask for permission. If you submit an assignment late without first asking for an extension, your grade will be affected by the normal penalty. The granting of extensions is determined by the Professor.


As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.



Week 1:


Intro to Theory

Chp. 1 & 10 (KT) + Adventures in Media and Cultural Studies (KW)

+ Carey


Week 2&3:


Medium and Message

Chp. 3 (KT) + McLuhan, Benjamin, Berger

RMT Chp. 6&13


Week 4-6:


Culture, Ideology and Hegemony

Chp. 7 (KT) + Marx&Engels; Gramsci; Williams; Horkheimer&Adorno; Althusser (KW)

+ Debord + Enzensberger

RMT Chp. 10, 11, 8, 9, 12, 16


Week 6-8:


Cultural Studies, Semiotics, Signification & Structuralism

Chp. 4 (KT) + Barthes, Hall, Hebdige (KW) + Eco + Barthes + Todorov

RMT Chp. 18, 10, 20, 24

Week 8&9:


The Postmodern Turn

Chp. 8 (KT) + Jameson, Baudrillard, Poster, McRobbie (KW) + Foucault

RMT Chp. 21


Week 10:


Accelerate Theory!

Deleuze & Guattari; Srnicek & Williams + Shaviro + Noys


Week 11:


The Postcolonial Matrix

Chp. 7 (KT) + Gilroy, Appadurai, Garcia Canclini, Barbero, Pieterse (KW) + Said


Week 12&13:


‘Difference’, Gender +  Poaching and Everyday Life

Chp. 9 (KT); Dyer, hooks, De Certeau, Fiske


Week 14:


Media Studies 2.0

Gauntlett, Couldry