2011-12 Catalog

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Offering Description

Communication and Social Change in American History


Fall 2011 and Winter 2012 quarters

Lori Blewett communication, social studies , Trevor Griffey U.S. history
Fields of Study
communications, history, media studies and political economy
Preparatory for studies or careers in
communication, history, politics, rhetoric, social movement studies, journalism, and social advocacy.

Persuasive efforts have shaped American history. The past is full of moments when individual women and men have been persuaded by others to act for a common cause, sometimes at great personal sacrifice. In this program, the ideological mechanism of persuasion, in both public and private discourse, will be the primary lens through which we analyze American history.

What persuasive strategies were employed by historic social change advocates? Why were some strategies more successful than others? To help answer these questions, we will read texts that draw upon communication studies, American history, cultural studies, political economy, and social change theory. Students will also conduct their own investigations using a variety of analytical tools to examine primary historical documents including speeches, letters, news articles, advertisements, and other artifacts of persuasion.

In order to foster students' capacity to engage in public debate and enhance their rhetorical skills, we will experiment with communicating in a variety of public media. In addition to writing traditional papers, students will report on their research in the form of group radio and television programs, oral presentations, and electronic news articles. Training in essential skills associated with these forms of communication will be spread throughout both quarters. In the winter, students will have the opportunity to conduct oral history interviews with contemporary social activists.

Since rhetoric alone is rarely the impetus for social change, we will ground our investigations in the material history of competing social, economic, and political forces. We will study a wide range of social change efforts from across the political spectrum in order to better understand the evolution of U.S. history and its influence on current ideological conflicts and relations of power.

We will give special attention to the role of the media in shaping public debate: from social movement broadsheets such as William Lloyd Garrison's Liberator to the work of muckraking journalists like Ida Tarbell, up through the present influence of corporate media and do-it-yourself blogs. Because of the media's ability to amplify, minimize, redirect, and even spark social activism, and because of the media's essential role in democratic decision-making, media history and political economy will be key elements in our investigations.

Online Learning
Enhanced Online Learning
Greener Store
Required Fees
Fall $45 for museum visits; Winter $55 for museum visits and AV recording supplies.
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
April 27th, 2011 New program offered.