COURSE OBJECTIVES: The general objective of this course is to introduce you to basic concepts of communication criticism by asking you to analyze and evaluate the oral and written communication that goes on around you. Throughout the semester we will look at a broad range of persuasive messages: Over the next 27 Class periods we will analyze messages that appear in speeches, written works, film, television, cartoons, art and music. Always our attempt will be to understand how the context and the symbols that make up the messages are inviting us to understand and possibly to act in the world. Hence our perspective is not only critical but rhetorical as well. Hopefully you will gain insight and practical skills, which will help you, appreciate and understand more fully the richness and complexity of the communication process that creates your world.
The term "criticism" as it will be used in this class has a technical meaning quite different from its more common usage. We are not simply finding faults or condemning the messages or the messengers. Instead, we are interested in explaining how a message works and how to evaluate its impact. Our goal then is to enlarge our understanding of how people communicate. As one critic explained, "Criticism is properly the rod of divination: a hazel switch for the discovery of buried treasure, not a birch twig for the castigation of offenders."