Theories of Communications- Journal Entry

THIS ASSIGNMENT IS A JOURNAL ENTRY OF THE MONTH OF OCTOBER ON READINGS YOU’VE READ AND VIDEOS YOU’VE WATCHED. This means you can do simple note taking, thoughts, analyzations, etc. on the documents and videos provided.

WEEK 1- Read Mcluhan, Understanding Media Chapters (1, 6, 12, 23)
Read Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death Chapters (1 , 4 and 5)

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WEEK 2- READ Lakoff, Robin, “Langage and a Woman’s Place”- This article is long, but focus on part I (introduction) and part II, and then in part III notice the discussion of “lady”, though some of the other words and language use by now might sound very dated, its still worth skimming through. In some ways, the least relevant to us today might be the conclusions. What does she say about language– why does it matter to attend to it and how it frames and defines femininity? (besides that Lakoff in a linguist).
This article was written in 1973. What has changed since then? What is the same? Can you see any connection to the newer debates over gendering/misgendering and the calls for a greater variety of pronouns.

Or, think about how many more prominent women politicians and political candidates we have recently– are they held to different standards in their speech, demeanor and self-presentation? At the top of Page 48 Lakoff writes, “So a girl is damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t. If she refuses to talk like a lady, she is ridiculed and subjected to criticism as unfeminine; if she does learn, she is ridiculed as unable to think clearly, unable to take part in a serious discussion”– does this help to explain the so-called “likability trap” for powerful woman (satirized regarding a current VP candidate here: in McSweeney’s, or here, on The Daily Show )

READ Butler, Judith, ​Gender Trouble,​ excerpts- This book was published in 1990 and it was incredibly influential. Be careful reading it to notice that she is NOT arguing for what we might think of as the “classic” formulation that sex is biological, and gender is cultural. She is actually deeply critical of the idea that it could be so simple and binary.

The entire book is attached here, and I encourage you to read as much of it as you want. However, for our class I am specifically assigning:
Chapter 1 beginning on page 5, and then reading through sections ii and iii (pp5-11)

Chapter 3 part iv (pp128-141)

Conclusion (pp142-149)

Do not give up if some of it in hard to grasp. Try and make sense of what she is arguing– and can you figure out why– what do you think her aim is here? What does this have to do with communication?


READ Messner, Michael, “Barbie Girls vs Sea Monsters, Children Constructing Gender.” – This article is from 2000, and it is looking at an AYSO soccer league through the lens of thinking about how children (and adults) “do” gender, and specifically how they learn to perform their roles. Now, the kids being described here are in their mid- to late-20s now, so this isn’t terribly current, but I think it can be relatable in a few ways– that these kinds of activities are probably recognizable to anyone who has participated in youth recreational sports (many of us), and also because you can see Messner using close observation and a little data collection about some very normal, every-day activities. He builds an argument drawing on his own observation and theories of gender, and I think its worth looking at how someone really tries to put these theories to work like this.

WEEK 3- Read hooks, bell, ​Black Looks ​Chapters 1, 9 and 11- The entire book is included here, and you might find other material interesting, feel absolutely free to read more than what is assigned. But think here about the work hooks is doing to connect issues of power, racism, and media representation. (for example, if you want to read about the films of Oscar Michaeux, you will be glad to know that many of his films have been digitized and are much more easily accessible to us today than when I was a student!)
As we are now in the part of the syllabus where the authors are still alive, you can find plenty of more contemporary work by hooks– her life and her evolution as a scholar are very interesting. This book is almost contemporaneous with Judith Butler’s book we read last week. But what here– from almost 30 years ago now– feels relevant and useful to today? What has maybe changed? Are the issues hooks is writing about resolved, or are they still with us?

READ Rose, Tricia, Black Noise- Read chapter 1, and if this topic interests you, feel free to also read the introduction and other chapters (4 and 5) that are included. Tricia Rose’s book was published only 2 years after bell hooks’ selection that we are reading. Rap and HipHop were still relatively new music genres, rapidly overtaking rock n roll in popular music sales, but certainly not yet achieving the kind of mainstream status as today. What is Rose tracing here? What is the overlap with what we have read so far, and where does she diverge- in focus, methods, etc?

If you like her book you can find her more current lectures and other media at her youtube channel: or at her own web page where she also links to a podcast she makes with Cornel West.

Chavez, Leo, ​The Latino Threat​, excerpts-Chavez’s book was published in 2008, so well in advance of the Trump era (and the Obama era…) but some of what he has to say about the “threat narrative” around the US-Mexico border and the movement of people across it may sound quite familiar. Where do these narratives come from? What purpose do they serve? What does it mean that they are so stable over time, and dramatically changing circumstances? Think about this in how it is also about media, and the role of media and representation.

Read Gates, Racquel, “The Problem with ‘Anti-Racist’ Movie Lists” (Op Ed)-

WEEK 4- Read: ​Peck, ​Fox Populism (​excerpts)- Read the introduction, chapter 1, chapter 4 and the post-script. What does Peck describe as the role and defining characteristics of Fox News? Whether or not you (or someone you live with) watches Fox, the influence that they have had on our politics and national life is huge– where did that come from and how did we get here?
READ Moffitt and Tormey, “Rethinking Populism, Mediatisation and Political Style- Read this article “Rethinking Populism” and focus particularly on what the authors describe as the characteristic features of the “style” of populism (there are 3: make sure you are clear on what they are) Note that in the first few pages of the article they introduce several explanations of populism that they actually want to debunk. Instead, they propose that we should focus on “Political Style”. How do they define this? What do they draw on?


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