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Course Descriptions

  • COMM 110: Introduction to Communication
    Communication is a word that encompasses a wide range of human activity. This course will introduce students to: the over-arching theoretical considerations that define the field of communication, fundamental questions about how best to go about the practice of communication inquiry, keystone works in the history of the field of communication, and philosophical considerations that undergird the contemporary study of communication. The course is dedicated to the two animating themes in Lake Forest College's Department of Communication: media studies and rhetoric. Readings, written assignments, and class discussion will involve these two themes and the numerous points of contact between them.
  • COMM 120: Intro to Journalism
    Introduction to Journalism presents students with the skills and information that are essential for reliable, accurate, and independent news reporting. This course addresses the fundamental skills associated with journalistic writing, and presents students with the essential issues facing journalism today. In addition to writing, this course addresses the laws, ethics, and fundamentals of news literacy, with a keen focus on the critical thinking skills required for news judgment.
  • COMM 135: Rhetoric and Speech
    Preparation and criticism of both formal and informal public speeches, including exposition, narration, description, argumentation, and persuasion.
  • COMM 212: Visual Rhetoric
    We are surrounded by visual communication in our daily lives, yet the ubiquity of visual imagery makes it difficult for us to critically evaluate the images we see. In this course we will approach visual artifacts as texts, paying particular attention to their relationship to the political, social, and economic climate in which they reside. Throughout the semester we will develop a lexicon of visual terms, engage a variety of visual texts, such as monuments, advertisements, photography, typography, and architecture, and practice evaluating visual arguments. Not open to students who have already completed COMM 112 or COMM 370.
  • COMM 250: Classical Rhetorical Tradition
    This course is an historical survey of theorizing about the role of public discourse in human affairs from ancient Greece and Rome. We consider how the functions and nature of public discourse is understood, whether its skillful use can be taught, and the relationship between public argument and reaching social consensus about issues of truth and ethics. We will apply these ancient concepts to contemporary ideas in order to explore how concepts from different periods in time can aid us in evaluating contemporary persuasive messages in public life.
    Cross-listed as: CLAS 250
  • COMM 251: Rhetorical History of the U.S.
    A historical survey of rhetorical artifacts focusing on how interested parties use discourse to establish, maintain or revive power. (Cross-listed as American Studies 251.)
    Cross-listed as: AMER 251
  • COMM 253: Argumentation and Advocacy
    This course offers an introduction to the theory and practice of argumentation. We will consider how arguments are created, presented, reframed, and refuted in contexts ranging from interpersonal disagreements to public controversies. In order to recognize how different strategies of argumentation change depending on the context, we will explore the important public dimension of argumentation and advocacy, recognizing skill in advocacy as a fundamental element of effective democracy.
  • COMM 255: Communication Criticism
    In this course we consider how texts work rhetorically to persuade audiences. The course introduces students to the fundamental concepts and tools for describing, analyzing, interpreting and evaluating a variety of forms of persuasive discourse communicated through different media. Communication Criticism is designed to provide students with knowledge about the nature, function and effects of persuasive communication, as well as to develop the skills necessary to produce analytical critiques of public discourse. Prerequisite: COMM 110 with a grade of C or better.
  • COMM 256: Communication Research Methods
    This course presents students with a wide variety of qualitative and quantitative research methods for doing research in communication, in scholarly and professional contexts. In the course of a semester, this course covers the philosophical rationales undergirding these varied research approaches. With this established, the course gives students a hands-on sense of communication research methods, including: survey research, content analysis, experimental approaches, interviewing, discourse analysis, field research, and historical methods. The course will at all times involve careful attention to how the field of communication requires a heightened sense of circumspection regarding its own methods of study. Prerequisite: Comm 255 or consent of the instructor.
  • COMM 274: Visual Chicago
    This course is a special adaptation of COMM 212: Visual Rhetoric to be taught in the College's "In the Loop" program. In this course we will approach visual artifacts as texts, paying particular attention to their relationship to the political, social, and economic climate in which they reside. Throughout the semester we will develop a lexicon of visual terms, engage a variety of visual texts, such as monuments, advertisements, photography, typography, and architecture, and practice evaluating visual arguments. What makes this course different from COMM 212 is that our visual texts and assignments will focus on Chicago based visual artifacts. Not open to students who have already completed COMM 112, COMM 212, or COMM 370. No prerequisites:
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  • COMM 281: Media and Society
    In this course, we examine the major theories and social critiques developed in response to systems of mass media and communication, including film, radio, television, and a national press. These theories and critiques range in concern from the democratic potential of mass media, to their role in manufacturing and mediating cultural values. Students engage with the major schools of thought that have become the foundation for contemporary mass communication and media research, including: early sociological approaches to communication theory, the strong and limited media effects traditions, the technology-oriented theories of the Canadian School, the Frankfurt School, British Cultural Studies, and American Cultural Studies. Students examine how definitions of mass media and communication have changed over time, and how these concepts continue to evolve alongside our interactions with modern media and communication technologies.
  • COMM 283: Race, Class, Gender, and the Media
    Race, class, and gender occupy important places in the contemporary study of the media. This course explores the connections between race, class, and gender through the exploration of the intersections between these important components of social structure and ideology. The motivating goal in this course is to show students how social structure and meaning become intertwined elements in how we experience race, class, and gender. An important element in this course will be the emphasis on the identities and positions of relatively less empowered groups in contemporary society. This will be done through a focused consideration of structural and ideological elements of contemporary culture as found in: the media industry, journalism, social constructions of reality, music, film, television, radio, and the internet. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: AFAM 283
  • COMM 285: Modern Media History
    This course provides a broad overview of the history of the media of communication. This is done through use of a chronological treatment of: face-to-face communication, writing, printing, telegraphy, telephony, motion pictures, radio, television, and the internet. Though the course begins with a review of ancient communication media, the focus here is placed on the media in Western society from the 19th through the 21st centuries. The most important goal in this course is to consider how media of communication relate to: culture, social structure, the economy, politics, and knowledge.
  • COMM 287: Media Systems and Institutions
    Behind our favorite movies, TV programs, websites, and songs exist powerful media institutions. Disney, Fox, Warner Brothers, Google, and Apple are just a few of the media industry giants upon which we have grown increasingly dependent for our everyday entertainment and information needs. In this course we examine these media institutions, including their historical development, organizational structure, and methods of production and distribution. We also analyze and compare the various types of media systems that exist in the U.S. and worldwide, including commercial, public, and state-controlled media models. Finally, we consider the issues of globalization and digital convergence, and the ways these phenomena are changing the organization and function of modern media industries.
  • COMM 350: Topics in Communication
    Intensive study of selected subjects within the field of communications. Topics vary by semester. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement, depending on topic.)

  • COMM 370: Visual Rhetoric
    Although much of the rhetorical tradition focuses on how speech and writing persuade audiences, visual elements continue to be important. In this course students will develop a strong understanding of visual rhetorical theories and the ways these theories guide critical interpretation of visual texts. Through an analysis of a diverse set of communication media--including photographs, television programs, advertisements, political campaigns, museums, and monuments - we will consider the ways that visual texts move individuals, communities, and publics to rhetorical action. Prerequisite: COMM 255 or permission of instructor.
  • COMM 372: Rhetoric of Economics & the Market
    In this course we consider the relationship between rhetorical discourse and economics. Do economists merely present empirical conclusions or do they use the techniques of persuasion to create both disciplinary and public understandings of their subject? Is the free market an 'invisible hand' that works to stabilize society or is it a construct of persuasive discourse? Finally we will examine the value of public deliberation regarding complex economic policies. Prerequisite: COMM 255 or permission of instructor.
  • COMM 373: Cultural Theory and Media Studies
    In this course students examine a variety of advanced communication theories now current in the field of communication studies, including reception theory, Marxist materialism, political economy, public sphere theory, ritual theory, technological approaches, and production of culture theory. A central goal of this course is to help students contextualize and critique political, social, and economic constructions of culture. Prerequisite: Comm 255, or another 200-level Communication course approved by the Department Chair, or consent of the instructor.
  • COMM 374: Rhetorical Chicago
    The Second City, the City with Big Shoulders, The Windy City, City in the Garden, Hog Butcher to the World, the City that Works: these are just some of the nicknames for the City of Chicago. This seminar examines the City of Chicago as both the site and source of rhetoric by using rhetorical theory and skills to explore art, architecture, geography, emblems, music, theater, sports, holidays, politics, media, museums, controversies and important rhetorical events including William Jennings Bryan's 1896 Cross of Gold speech, FDR's 1932 nomination acceptance, and Obama's 2008 victory speech. This course takes advantage of Lake Forest College's proximity to the City of Chicago in order to explore two key concepts in communication: the discursive construction of place and the impact of place on rhetoric. Prerequisite: Comm 255 or permission of instructor
  • COMM 375: Documentary Production
    This course will emphasize the power of documentaries and their potential to address issues of social significance. Specifically we will integrate critical viewings with practical documentary production. This course covers the aesthetic and technical fundamentals of producing documentaries. It provides working tools to plan and make arguments creatively, collaboratively, and artistically. The goal is to gain experience in video production while learning about the history and theory of documentary film and video.
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  • COMM 376: Queer Cinema
    This course will focus on queer cinema--films that not only challenge prevailing sexual norms, but also seek to undermine the categories of gender and sex. Gender and sexual norms are perpetuated and challenged through notions of visibility, a key tactic in the fight for societal acceptance and civil rights. How sexuality is made visible and invisible will serve as a central focus in our analysis of queer film and media, focusing primarily on explicit representations of GLBTQ characters. Through feminist and queer theory, film theory and cultural criticism, we will analyze the contested relationships between spectators and texts, identity and commodities, realism and fantasy, activism and entertainment, desire and politics. Prerequisite: COMM 255, COMM 275, or permission of instructor. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: GSWS 376, CINE 376
  • COMM 380: Black Cinema
    Black Cinema addresses a range of periods and movements in Black Cinema: the Los Angeles School (for example Haile Gerima), Blaxploitation and its critics, Women directors (Leslie Harris, Julie Dash, Yvonne Welbon, Kasi Lemmons) critiques of Hollywood (ex: Robert Townsend's Hollywood Shuffle) and a unit on Spike Lee. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: AFAM 380
  • COMM 381: Hist & Theory Freedom of Expression
    (History and Theory of Freedom of Expression) This course explores the origins of the concept of free expression and draws out the varying philosophical assumptions that influence the discussion of free expression in the contemporary world. The course compares and contrasts classical liberal and romantic theories of expression. We examine both philosophies as they are reflected in historical examples of debates concerning freedom of expression, with a special emphasis on freedom of the press, but also addressing issues related to censorship, propaganda, pornography, and hate speech. The course culminates with a consideration of how arguments about freedom of expression come to rely on the precepts of these philosophies. Prerequisite: Comm 255, or Jour 320, or consent of instructor.
  • COMM 382: Women's Rhet & Feminist Critique
    (Women's Rhetoric and the Feminist Critique) Traces the development of women's oratorical tradition and the feminist critique by looking at how U.S. women argued for the right to speak before they had the vote and then how they continue arguing for equality once the right to suffrage had been established. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: GSWS 382
  • COMM 383: New Media & Society
    This course offers students a wide array of theoretical lenses for understanding what is often called 'the information society.' The course begins with a sustained consideration of the utopian myths associated with novelty as it relates to technology. After this, the focus moves to different ways to understand how new media (always a treacherous term) relate to: the public and political engagement, journalism, interpersonal communication, popular culture, the forces of political economy, surveillance, consumption, and religion. Prerequisite: Comm 255, or another 200-level Communication course approved by the Department Chair, or consent of the instructor.
  • COMM 384: Rhetorical Presidency:2016 Election
    Examines the rhetorical nature of the office of the President of the United States. Prerequisite: Comm 255, or another 200-level Communication course approved by the Department Chair, or consent of the instructor.
    Cross-listed as: AMER 384
  • COMM 385: The Public Sphere
    In this course we take up the issue of the 'public sphere' to consider its value and operation in modern society. The classic public sphere concerned public debate that took place in small coffeehouses where locals would meet to discuss the issues of the day. Now, public debate can be found strewn across the media: in entertainment, theater, music, art, schools, and of course in journalism. The course is framed by key questions such as: What counts as 'public' and 'private'? What is the role of the public? What voices are excluded in the public sphere? What are the best ways to be public? What role do journalism, photography, film, literature, and sports have in a public sphere? Prerequisite: Comm 255 or Jour 320 or by permission of instructor.
  • COMM 386: Reading Popular Culture:Television
    Focusing on how culturally we are both producers and products of our popular culture we will try to answer the question: 'are we, as a culture, using the potential of television wisely'?
    Cross-listed as: AMER 386
  • COMM 387: Rhetoric of Law
    This course will introduce students to the idea that the US legal system is rhetorical in that it shapes and is shaped by discourse. We will begin by considering what is rhetorical about the law and will then focus our attention on the rhetorical effects of legal discourse. Bearing in mind that the law is particularly performative- that is, it has the power to produce the effects that it names- we will consider the role that the actual language of the law plays in doing the work of the law. We will examine a variety of legal texts and contexts including the courtroom, the trial transcript, appellate opinion, legal textbooks and the Supreme Court opinion in order to understand how prior legal discourses affect the outcomes of legal questions. To do so we will learn about and apply particular critical lenses to our texts including rhetorical culture, critical legal studies, narrative and the law as literature movement, and discourse analysis. In addition to reading trial transcripts and legal opinions, students will be expected to visit a courtroom and watch the proceedings during the course of the semester. Prerequisite: Comm 255, or consent of the instructor.
  • COMM 388: Rhetoric and Public Memory
    Ancient rhetoricians such as Aristotle, Cicero and Quintilian have made memory central to the study and teaching of rhetoric. However, recent work by contemporary scholars goes beyond examinations of memory as mnemonic aid to consider memory, and its construction, as rhetorical activity. The primary interest in this respect is the persuasive and communicative features of memory and memory-making. This course examines the rhetoric of collective memory by focusing on how the past is constructed to serve the present. We will explore the communicative bases of public memory and its role in experiences of place and understandings of identity. We will consider how rhetoricians have addressed the issue of memory, paying close attention to how they discuss the materiality of memory, the social and cultural politics shaping the construction of memory, and the theoretical concepts and methods used to rhetorically analyze texts and sites of memory. Prerequisite: COMM 255 or permission from instructor.
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  • COMM 389: Political Economy of Media
    This course introduces students to critical theories concerned with the political and economic authority of modern media industries. We discuss the potential impact of the consolidation of media ownership on the diversity and localism of media; the gatekeeping and agenda-setting functions of globalizing and corporatized media; the increasingly influential role of multinational media corporations in international policy and trade negotiations; the importance of institutional structure as it relates to the world of journalism; the struggle between public and commercial interests to define and control the infrastructure, content, and interactive spaces of new media; and the possibilities and pitfalls of past and present media reform movements. Prerequisite: Comm 255, or Jour 320, or consent of the instructor.
  • COMM 390: Internship
    Off-campus professional work experience. One credit acceptable, but two credit internships preferred.
  • COMM 420: Senior Seminar
    Focus of seminar changes frequently.

    Fall 2017 Seminar: Journalism, Culture, and Society. The course will deepen students' knowledge of journalism. The course will involve an extensive survey of contemporary approaches to understanding journalism, with emphases on the importance of journalism to democracy, and on the intellectual foundations of journalism criticism. Students will master analytical frames for understanding and criticizing print, broadcast, and online journalism.

    Spring 2018 Seminar: Communicating Chicago: The Two World's Fairs. We investigate the role the two World's Fairs have had and continue to have in the construction of Chicago's cultural identity. The 1893 Columbian Exposition put Chicago on World maps and the 1933/34 Century of Progress celebrated the city's centennial. Both events are memorialized as stars on the Flag of Chicago. Three of the most important tourist attractions in Chicago, The Art Institute, The Field Museum, and the Museum of Science and Industry all have origin stories intertwined with the fairs. Our focus will be on the fairs as the site and source of communication about who Chicago was, is and might be in the future. Specifically we will look at the posters, architecture, events, and souvenirs as well as race, gender, religion, and popular culture at the two Chicago fairs.

    Spring 2018 Seminar: Rhetoric of Civil Rights. This course examines primary source documents to uncover the persuasive strategies employed during the most powerful mass protest movement in modern US history. In addition to viewing documentaries, analyzing speeches and examining key events in order to discern and evaluate the rhetorical practices employed both discursively and demonstratively, the course will focus on a comparison/contrast of the distinctly different strategies used by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. In particular, close attention will be paid to how the media covered each of these individuals and their followers. As their final project, students will produce a comprehensive research paper focused on one text produced during the Civil Rights Era.