COM 518-02 (23268) Theories of Persuasion
Steven Alan Carr, Ph.D.
Spring 2004

Course Syllabus


NF 141

Meeting Time:

W 6-8:45 PM


NF 230 H

Office Hours:

MW 1:30 - 2:30 PM, and happily by appointment

Office Phone:

(260) 481-6545




Course Objectives

To cultivate a critical and scholarly approach to communication theories that address some aspect of persuasion, propaganda, and persuasive messages as all of these phenomena occur within amass mediated context.


Intended Audience

This class is intended only for Masters candidates pursuing a graduate degree in the Professional Communication program.


Course Policies

See course policies for more information. These policies are subject to change and not all of them may apply to this class.




Paper #1 (100 points; due Wed 3 Mar)

For this 1250 – 2000 word (approximately 5 – 8 pages) argument-driven paper, you will develop a thesis regarding how persuasion takes place  - or doesn’t take place - by analyzing a mediated text of your choosing and applying one or more of the theoretical approaches covered in class as a way to better understand the persuasive process taking or not taking place.  The text may be any cultural artifact of your choosing – a film, an episode from a television series, a photograph, an advertisement, or something else negotiated with the instructor.  Be certain to choose a text with which you are familiar and which you can knowledgeably analyze its techniques and textual strategies in a detailed, specific, and logical fashion.  You may apply one or more of the theorists covered in the first half of the class: Carey, Milgram, Latour, Gramsci, Mouffe, Horkheimer, Adorno, Althusser, Barthes, or another theoretical approach negotiated with the instructor.  For more information on general expectations regarding an argument-driven paper, see the course policies.


Paper #2 (200 points; due Wed 28 Apr)

For this 2000 – 2500 word (approximately 8 – 10 pages) argument-driven literature review, you will develop a clearly stated thesis that does the following: makes a claim regarding how one or more of the theoretical approaches covered in class gets used in subsequent academic scholarship to explain how persuasion takes place within a mediated context.  You should start by selecting a theorist or set of theorists we have discussed in class, and do a simple keyword search to see how your selected theorist or theorists get invoked in which areas of the Communication discipline.  Then, select a subset of articles that cluster around specific issues.  For example, feminist scholars tend to use the work of Sigmund Freud in exposing the phallocentrism of culture.  In research on the Internet and computer-mediated communication, Marshall McLuhan tends to be cited as an important influence on this field of scholarship.  After narrowing your research, select 5-8 scholarly articles and/or books that cite your selected theorist or theorists in ways that you believe are representative, and use selected arguments derived from the work of these theorists to help you make your claim about how one or more of the theoretical approaches covered in class have been applied to explain how mediated persuasion takes place.


Group-Led Discussion (100 points; due Wed 28 Apr)

This will be an informal, group-led discussion of William J. Mitchell’s City of Bits.  The class will be split into groups in advance of presentations on that day.  Each group will be responsible for developing a list of 5-7 questions concerning a section of the book that are designed to generate discussion.



Possible Points


Paper #1



Paper #2



Group-Led Discussion



Midterm Exam



Final Exam






















Tentative Course Schedule

This schedule is subject to change. Should there be a significant change in the schedule, you will receive advance notification and an opportunity to negotiate an agreed-upon compromise.




Wed, 14 Jan

Course Introduction and Overview


Wed, 21 Jan

Communication and Culture

Read: Carey

Wed, 28 Jan

Obedience, Influence, and “Objectivity”

Read: Milgram and Latour

Wed, 4 Feb

Hegemony and Ideology

Read: Gramsci and Mouffe

Wed, 11 Feb

The Frankfurt School and the Mass Culture Critique

Read: Horkheimer and Adorno
Last Day to Submit Drafts for Feedback by 25 Feb.

Wed, 18 Feb

Ideological State Apparatuses

Read: Althusser

Last Day to Submit Contribution to Midterm Exam

Wed, 25 Feb


Read: Barthes

Wed, 3 Mar

Midterm Exam

First Paper Due

Wed, 10 Mar

Spring Recess

Wed, 17 Mar

Birth of Cultural Studies

Read: Williams

Wed, 24 Mar

Cultural Studies and the Audience

Read: Hall


Wed, 31 Mar

Propaganda and Political Economy

Read: Herman and Chomsky
Last Day to Submit Drafts for Feedback by 7 Apr.

Wed, 7 Apr

Reproduction and Technology

Read: Benjamin

Wed, 14 Apr

Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and The Gaze

Read: Mulvey

Last Day to Submit Drafts for Feedback by 21 Apr.

Wed, 21 Apr


Read: Baudrillard

Last Day to Schedule Midterm Retake and Submit Contribution to Final Exam

Wed, 28 Apr

Globalization and Cyberspace

Read: Mitchell

Final Paper and Resubmits Due
Last Day to Retake Midterm

Wed, 5 May

Final Exam 6:15 PM - 8:15 PM