Other Pages:

Semiotics & Structuralism

Narrative Theory

Ideological Analysis


Feminist Criticism

British Cultural Studies


J388 Communication Theory and Criticism

Spring 2000/ 12:30 -- 1:50 UH/ 221 Allen

Instructor: Carl Bybee/ Office- 207 Allen Hall

Telephone: 346-4175/ cbybee@ballmer.uoregon.edu

GTF: Chris Demaske/ Office- 216A Allen Hall

Telephone: 346-2120/ cdemaske@darkwing.uoregon.edu

Description: The first purpose of this course is to provide a survey of major perspectives concerning the role of mediated communication in contemporary society. The inclusion of the words "theory" and "criticism" indicates a concern with social scientific as well as humanistic perspectives regarding this role. The absence of the word "mass" as in "mass communication" indicates 1) a growing recognition of the importance of general theories of communication and language for understanding mediated communication and 2) an appreciation for the many ways in which the merger of technology and communication have resulted in "non-mass" mediated communication such as telephone and computer communication, which carry major social, economic and political consequences for our society.

The second purpose is to provide a continuing opportunity to write communication criticism. To this end, the class will examine a series of critical communication perspectives which lend themselves to applied textual criticism.


Robert Allen (ed.), Channels of Discourse, Reassembled, Chapel Hill:

University of North Carolina Press, 1992. (CD)

Robert McChesney, Corporate Media and the Threat to Democracy, New

York: Seven Stories Press, 1997.

Reading Packet (available at U of O Bookstore) plus Internet Sites

Format: This class will meet two times each week for 80 minutes. Discussion will be important, not only to understanding the readings, but in setting the agenda for what aspects of the readings we will emphasize. To make this happen it is expected that all assigned readings are completed in preparation for class. Class attendance is required.

Evaluation: Students will be expected to participate in class discussions, complete one paper, take one concept quiz, complete one analysis project and participate in group assignments. The paper will be due April 20th. The quiz on concepts will be given May 25th. The analysis project will be due June 1st.

Course Overview:

1. Introduction: Theory vs. Criticism

2. Examples of Criticism

3. Theory and Criticism: Overviews

4. Models for Analysis

5. Conclusions

Course Outline and Reading Assignments:

Week One:


1. Introduction: Theory vs. Criticism vs. Be Happy Don't Worry

1.1 Set up groups.

1.2 Complete first part of group assignment one.

1.3 Watch the first half of the Ally McBeal episode.

1.4 Complete second part of group assignment one

1.5 Watch the second half of Ally McBeal episode.

1.6 Complete third part of group assignment one.


2. Examples of criticism:

2.1 Karen Schneider, "Everyone's picking on Calista Flockhart's weight. Now,

the very private Ally McBeal star fires back: 'I don't think I'm too thin!'",

People Weekly, Nov. 9, 1998.

2.2 Ruth Shalit, "Canny and lacy", The New Republic, April 6, 1998, v218, n14,

  1. pp. 27-33.

2.3 Lisa M. Cuklanz, "The Masculine Ideal: Rape on Prime-Time Television,

1976-78", Critical Studies in Mass Communication, Vol. 15, No. 4, December

1998, pp. 423-457.

Week Two:


  1. The Date rape backlash [videorecording] : the media and the denial of rape / [presented by] The Media Education Foundation & FAIR. Northampton, MA : The Foundation, 1994, written and directed by Sut Jhally.


3. Overviews:

3.1 H. Newcomb and P. Hirsch, "Television as a Cultural Forum," in Television: The Critical View, Horace Newcomb (ed.), New York: Oxford University Press, 1994, pp. 503- 515.

3.2 Todd Gitlin, "Prime Time Ideology: The Hegemonic Process in Television Entertainment," in Television: The Critical View, Horace Newcomb (ed.), New York: Oxford University Press, 1994, pp. 516-537.

Week Three


3.3 Allen, (Channels of Discourse), "More Talk About TV," pp. 1-31.


3.4 McChesney, Corporate Media and the Threat to Democracy, pp. 5 -- 75.

Week Four


4. Models for Analysis

4.1 Channels of Discourse: "Semiotics, Structuralism and Television," pp. 31-67.


Semiotics Illustrated: DreamWorlds 2 [videorecording] : desire, sex, power in music video / written, edited & narrated by Sut Jhally, Northhampton, Mass. : Media Education Foundation, 1995.


Week Five


4.2 Channels of Discourse: "Narrative Theory and Television," pp. 67-101.


Narrative Theory Illustrated: "bell hooks: cultural criticism & transformation, part one" / Media Education

Foundation ; produced and directed by Sut Jhally, Northampton, MA :

Media Education Foundation, c1997.

Week Six

4.3 Channels of Discourse: "Ideological Analysis and Television," pp. 161-203.


Week Seven:

4.4 Channels of Discourse: "Psychoanalysis, Film and Television," pp. 203-247.

Week Eight

4.5 Channels of Discourse: "Feminist Criticism and Television," pp. 247-284.

Week Nine


4.6 Channels of Discourse: "British Cultural Studies," pp. 284-327.



Week Ten


5. Conclusions

5.1 Channels of Discourse: "Postmodernism and Television," pp. 327-354.


5.2 "A Politics for Generation X" by Ted Halstead, in Atlantic Monthly,

August 1999, pp. 33-42.