Department of Communications at John Cabot University in Italy

Communications Course Descriptions

Courses in Communications


CMS 280 Intercultural Communications

An exploration of some of the historical and political conditions that make intercultural communication possible, the barriers that exist to effective intercultural communication, and possible solutions to the problem of intercultural misunderstanding. The course examines examples of differences in communication styles not only between cultures but also within. As a result, issues of race, nation, class, gender, religion, immigration, and sexual orientation will be of significant concern. The course stresses the notion that knowledge of human beings is always knowledge produced from a particular location and for a particular purpose. As a result it encourages students to think carefully about the discipline of Intercultural Communication—its conditions of possibility, its assumptions, and its blind spots—as well the need to be mindful of the limitations and interests of our positioning as investigating subjects.

CMS 299 Special Topics in Media Studies

These courses are specific introductions to intermediate work in the field of Media Studies. They select particular issues or areas of study—such as Media and Violence, or African Cinema—and incorporate specific theories to investigate the topics—such semiotics, post-colonial theory, or postmodern criticism.

CMS 311 Media Audiences: Readers, Listeners, Spectators, Viewers, Gamers, and Fans

The course provides a general overview of the historical, critical and industrial approaches to that most elusive of components comprising the communications process: the audience, alternately characterized as ‘readers’, ‘listeners’, ‘spectators’, ‘viewers,’ and/or ‘users’. The course will look at the very particular ways in which a relationship is constructed between media texts and those who receive, consume, and interpret these while at the same time investigate, critically, the different approaches that have attempted to explain this particular relationship within the field of mass communications studies.

CMS 312 Social Media, Social Movements, Social Change

This course examines the technological capabilities, organizational structures, social effects, and ethical implications behind the use of social media platforms –Twitter, Facebook and others-- in recent social movement organizing. The course will investigate how social media have been utilized and rendered effective by a variety of social movements and in a diversity of contexts and interests, from the Arab Spring, to Black Lives Matter, to It Gets Better. Students will be offered a broad overview of the affordances of social media for mobilizing for social change or political action. Students will consistently engage with critical concepts from both classic social theory and new media studies put forward both by scholars and organizers.

CMS 314 Myth and Animation

The course investigates how myths, universal narratives and archetypal paradigms find their way into contemporary media products. Mythology, the body of inherited myths in any culture, is at the core of narrative processes, and any new text recasts one or more fundamental myths for the society that develops it, renewing its validity for the society itself. By using the animated feature films produced by Disney throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, the course traces the use of children’s media in general and how Disney products in particular make use of these traditional narratives, thus providing a valuable observation point from which to survey the relationship between media, social context, and audience.

CMS 315 European Mass Media

A study of the European mass media, including film, television, radio, the press and publishing, and new information technologies. The course will analyze the political, economic, social, and cultural forces that have shaped the particular forms of media systems in Europe, and how these same forces were affected following the end of the Cold War. Special emphasis will be placed on Italy as a particular case study, in order to observe the effects of regulation, technological development, political and ideological shifts, and the forces of globalization on a specific national media system.

CMS 316 Popular Music and Mass Culture

From the cylinders to MP3s, from Tin Pan Alley to death metal, this is a general survey course exploring and analyzing the history and meaning of popular recorded music within mass culture and society. It focuses on the historical, aesthetic, social, political-economic and technological developments that have shaped the very definition of the popular in the musical field. The course covers various aspects of recorded music from the history of the recording industry to the concept of the recorded, from rock and other nationally specific styles to the rise of MTV and beyond.

CMS 317 Television and Democracy in Italy

This course presents an investigation into the complex relationship between television and politics in Italy, whose most notorious embodiment is former prime minister and television tycoon Silvio Berlusconi. The first part of the course will provide a historical overview needed to account for the development of such extraordinary interpenetration between economic, cultural, and political powers. Special emphasis will be given to the transformations of the political public sphere under the mediating effects of commercial television. The second part of the course is centered on a close analysis of a number of contemporary examples of political communications based on the intermeshing between entertainment, information, and politics.

CMS 318 Comic Books, Graphic Novels, and Visual Storytelling

The course will be devoted to ‘comics’ (understood as both serialized comic strips and comic-books) and the more contemporary format of the ‘graphic novel’. Other forms of graphic storytelling, ranging from tapestries to children’s book illustrations to the underground graphic productions of the counterculture, will also be investigated, including traditions of sequential art in a global context. An initial historical contextualization will be followed by analyses of the form’s specificity through a number of theoretical perspectives (including visual culture studies, critical theory, narrative and narration, authorship, ideology, postmodernism, fan cultures, and reception), allowing students to critically engage the works as ‘texts’. The relation of the specific visual culture of comics with other mediums -particularly the cinema and gaming- as well as its influence in other realms of popular culture will also be explored.

CMS 320 Cultural Resistance

This course analyzes the ways in which diverse cultural practices have been used or understood as political weapons, as attempts to intervene in the historical world. The course will introduce students to a number of approaches –both theoretical and practical, through readings of source texts and analysis of specific case studies—which have investigated the possibility of cultural practice being used as a tool of conflict, dissent, affirmation of identity, and resistance. One of the areas of inquiry will be an investigation of how, in advanced capitalist societies, social and political struggle necessarily happens through an engagement with dominant culture and media forms rather than in spite of them; the course will therefore concentrate on those cultural practices that, although not apparently political in content and aim, can nonetheless be used in politically productive ways. Emphasis will be placed on popular and mass culture artifacts and on the ways in which ‘style’ is used by ‘sub-cultures’ and other social identities in both national and global contexts.

CMS 321 Contemporary Visual Culture

The course investigates current trends in visual communication, as well as the methods for how to analyze and contextualize these. Contemporary aspects of media and visual culture will be examined together with modern and historical texts for a well-rounded engagement with the medium as well as the narratives and issues it articulates. Drawing on TV, film, internet memes, contemporary art, digital media, and popular culture, the course may include topics like the impact of celebrity, selfies, postmodern visual practices, identity politics and social movements, memes, and viral media. Students will engage in advanced level visual research and analysis that will foster competencies useful for further cultural studies or media careers.

CMS 323 Media and the Environment

As we transition from an industrial model of media distribution to networked communications, corporations and grassroots environmental activists are vying to define environmental opinion in an evolving media landscape. By applying media literacy tools to examine paradigms of communication and ecology we’ll seek to understand how media impact environmental concepts, and explore media strategies for addressing issues such as global climate change. The course covers three core concepts: 1) comparing media and environmental ethics and paradigms, 2) environmental messaging, and 3) the interrelationship between the form of media systems and sustainable business practices.

CMS 324 Political Communication

The course explores the relationship between media and the electoral process. Students will examine the history and current status of media, campaigns and elections, as well as how they interact to help shape public attitudes about key events and policy decisions. The course aims to build a foundation of issues and developments in the relationship between political actors and the press, so that students gain the skills and knowledge needed to critically evaluate and contextualize contemporary elections. At the end of the semester, students will be able to 1) identify the major developments in the relationship between political actors and the press; 2) understand the current role of the news media and other forms of communications in the electoral process and 3) demonstrate the skills and knowledge needed to critically evaluate contemporary and future elections from a media and communications perspective.

CMS 328 Media Ethics

This course focuses on the study and application of ethical standards and practices in a variety of communication environments. Classical ethical frameworks and case studies in communication will be studied, as well as alternative methods and ideas aimed at evaluating and responding to communication problems in the context of global media. This course investigates how media ethics apply to professional practice and also explores how consumers and producers of media can respond to the media environment by engaging in cultural citizenship.

CMS 330 Global Media

This course is an introduction to the current debate around the relationship between globalization and the media. By linking theoretical conceptions with hands-on empirical research and analysis, students will develop a richer and multi-layered perspective around the increasingly relevant yet contested notion of globalization, and specifically on the role that the media have in advancing, challenging and representing social, political and cultural change across multiple regions of the world.

CMS 333 TV After TV: Industry Practices, Global Formats and Televisual Style

What is television’s fate in the global digital cultures of convergence? The course examines new programming and advertising strategies in the medium of television, the reconfiguration of traditional and the emergence of new roles within the industry, the development of new global production and distribution strategies and models as well as how these transformations shape actual program content.

CMS 335 Video Games: Culture & Industry

This course examines the social, cultural, economic, and political aspects of digital games, their historical development and their articulation with other media and technologies in digitally mediated environments. Topics include the socio-technical aspects of digital gaming, embodiment and space, communities, fan cultures and sub-cultures, spectatorship and performance, gender, race, sexuality, and the politics and economics of production processes.

CMS 340 Documentary Film

This course aims to provide a theoretical and historical introduction to the modes and styles of documentary film and video. The theoretical and historical focus will consider the forms and functions of non-fiction film from early Lumiere Brothers shorts to contemporary successful theatrical documentaries such as Bowling for Columbine up to the on-line distributed post-9/11 conspiracy films and YouTube. During the first half of the course, the documentary ‘canon’—a set of historically important films and established discourses—will be approached. Over the second half, discrete forms of non-fiction production and reception will be analyzed: the diary mode, the film/video essay, the use of documentary film for social and political movements, the issue of re-enactments and the effects of digital media.

CMS 345 Ecocinema: Environmentalism and Film

This course examines a growing subfield of cinema studies, ecocinema, which is devoted to exploring the intersection between film and environmental issues. Ecocinema encompasses a range of movie genres, including documentary, Hollywood blockbusters, eco-horror, indigenous films, and animation. This course investigates how themes like environmental catastrophe, wilderness, animal rights, climate change, the construction of human-nature relations, ecojustice, and environmental politics are communicated through the particular medium properties of film. This course also examines the material impact of film on the environment. During the semester students will study films by combining traditional methods of film criticism with ecocriticism to explore production, aesthetics, narrative, reception, and culture in relationship to environmental themes.

CMS 353 Women in Film

This course introduces the issues that feminist theories pose for the analysis of films and culture. These issues are usually framed in reference to women’s access to and roles in the production of media and women’s representation within these media. Correspondingly, the course offers two major sections of investigation. First, we will explore the historical development of women’s roles in the cinema as creative artists. Second, we will explore the various ways in which women’s roles in the film industry intersect with the wider identity political issues of race, class, sexuality, and national identity.

CMS 360 Race and Gender in Popular Media

Using contemporary theoretical approaches, this course examines both Race and Gender as social constructions, and the role and function of Cinema and Television texts in circulating and contesting those constructions. Focusing on analyzing Cinema and Television texts for their construction of meaning, this course looks at the complex ideological operations at stake in the operations, maintenance, and resistance to meanings constructed around race and gender.

CMS 381 Independent Research in Media Studies

CMS 398 Communications Internship

The For Credit (FC) Internship course combines academic learning with a short-term (generally 3 to 6 months, full or part-time with a minimum of 120 hours) employment opportunity. Field experience allows participants to combine academic learning with hands-on work experience. For-Credit internships may be paid or unpaid. The organization or firm must be sponsored by the JCU Career Services Center (CSC). After being selected for an internship and having the CSC verify the course requirements are met, the intern may enroll in the Internship course corresponding to the academic discipline of interest. Course requirements include: attending the internship class which will is scheduled for 10 in-class hours over the semester, verification of the minimum number of hours worked in the internship by the CSC; completion of a daily internship log; in-depth interview with the internship sponsor or organization; and a 2500 to 3500 word “White Paper” presenting a position or solution to a problem encountered by their employer. This course is graded on a “pass/no pass” basis. The course will begin the 4th week of each semester. Students will determine with the Registrar’s Office or their Advisor which semester corresponds most closely with the timing of their internship. This course may be taken only once for academic credit.

CMS 399 Special Topics in Media Studies

These are upper level courses which focus on special areas and issues within the field of Media Studies that give students in-depth exposure to particular theories within the field.

CMS 528 Media Ethics

This course focuses on the study and application of ethical standards and practices in a variety of communication environments. Classical ethical frameworks and case studies in communication will be studied, as well as alternative methods and ideas aimed at evaluating and responding to communication problems in the context of global media. This course investigates how media ethics apply to professional practice and also explores how consumers and producers of media can respond to the media environment by engaging in cultural citizenship. Students are expected to conduct extensive graduate level research on a case study that underlines the course themes.

CMS 533 TV after TV: Industry Practices, Global Formats and Televisual Style

What is television’s fate in the global digital cultures of convergence? The course examines new programming and advertising strategies in the medium of television, the reconfiguration of traditional and the emergence of new roles within the industry, the development of new global production and distribution strategies and models as well as how these transformations shape actual program content. This is a graduate level course where students are expected to do higher level work and develop an advanced research project in consultation with the professor.

CMS 545 Ecocinema: Environmentalism and Film

This course examines the social, cultural, economic, and political aspects of digital games, their historical development and their articulation with other media and technologies in digitally mediated environments. Topics include the socio-technical aspects of digital gaming, embodiment and space, communities, fan cultures and sub-cultures, spectatorship and performance, gender, race, sexuality, and the politics and economics of production processes.

CMS/BUS 361 Social Networks and Media Management

This course explores the significance of social networks in business and social life. The focus of the course is to critically appreciate social media platforms across a variety of contexts. The course investigates issues related to the management of social media in terms of the strategies and tactics related to successful deployment and cultivation of business/social initiatives and the redefinition of the customer/user as a central element in value creation. Issues related to participatory culture, communication power, collaborative work and production, privacy and surveillance, and political economy of social media are explored in depth through the use of contemporary cases.

CMS/BUS 385 Surveillance, Privacy and Social Identities

CMS/BUS 385 Surveillance, Privacy and Social Identities: Practices and Representations

The course provides an in-depth analysis of the technical, social, cultural and political contexts and the implications of increasingly ubiquitous surveillance practices. The focus of the course will be in analyzing the deployment and implementation of specific surveillance practices within mediated digital environments and the other spaces of everyday life. Concepts such as privacy and secrecy will be analyzed as they relate to the general field of surveillance. The course will focus on the ways in which these practices circulate within the spaces of culture, cut through specific social formations and are disseminated in the global mediascape. Particular attention will be placed on the ways in which the concept and procedures of surveillance are imagined, represented and contained in popular culture.

CMS/CW 329 Writing Criticism

This course offers the student practical and theoretical experience in the field of cultural criticism and writing reviews for print and online publications. Topics will include looking at the history of criticism and the review, critical theory, analyzing a work of art, research, different forms of writing, pitching articles to publications and the craft of writing itself. Students are required to read critically and spend class time in lectures, discussions and workshops. Students will have the opportunity to develop straightforward review writing skills as well as more critical and nuanced essay/long form criticism skills. Students will develop a criticism project, pitch an idea to a publication and write short and long form essays.

CMS/EN 326 Postcolonial Literature and Cinema

This course will provide students with an introduction to postcolonial studies. The first part of the course will offer an overview of the most important topics constituting the field of postcolonial studies. These will subsequently be analysed through the theoretical debates that have grown around them. Furthermore, the course will look at how such issues have been expressed in literary and filmic texts. Topics include colonial discourse analysis; the issue of language; physical and mental colonisation and oppositional discourses; the concepts of 'nation' and nationalism in relation to culture and media; questions of gender in relation to empire and nation; diaspora, cosmopolitanism and identity; the problems of decolonization and the post-colonial state. Emphasis will be placed on colonial and postcolonial texts in the Anglophone and Francophone world.

CMS/ITS 241 Italian Cinema

This course surveys films, directors, and film movements and styles in Italy from 1945 to the present. The films are examined as complex aesthetic and signifying systems with wider social and cultural relationships to post-war Italy. The role of Italian cinema as participating in the reconstitution and maintenance of post-War Italian culture and as a tool of historiographic inquiry is also investigated. Realism, modernism and post-modernism are discussed in relation to Italian cinema in particular and Italian society in general. Films are shown in the original Italian version with English subtitles.

CMS/ITS 243 Cinematic Rome

An analysis of the social, aesthetic, political, and rhetorical implications of cinematic representations of Rome, from silent films to the present. This course will evaluate and discuss ten primary films, along with excerpts from a number of others. We will consider five main topics: Images of Ancient Rome; Before and After World War II; "Americans" in Rome, and Rome in America; Fellini’s Rome; and Urban Angst, Roman Style. As the semester progresses, we will consider how Rome functions as a "character" in the movies, as well as how The Eternal City comprises the mise-en-scène. We will assess the artistic representations of Roman monuments and streetscapes on movie sets, as opposed to location shooting. Special attention will be given to memory construction, as well as the rhetoric of "places and spaces" (how the physical/symbolic setting influences us). In this course, students will visit cinematic landmarks in Rome and write about their experiences

CMS/ITS 244 Popular Italian Cinema

This course seeks to provide frameworks for understanding the popularity of Italian cinema, its historical and cultural development, and the variety and pleasures that the category includes. This course seeks to examine the extraordinary historical popularity of cinema in Italy, providing the scholarly tools to analyze entertainment from the beginning of the sound era to contemporary cinema and will include examples of horror, peplum, melodrama, western and commedia all’italiana. It will enable students to develop critical tools of analysis both for cinema and for cultural studies, and is designed to complement – although not overlap with – other film courses on offer in the university.

CMS/ITS 322 Italian Media and Popular Culture

This course will introduce students to contemporary Italian media and popular cultures. The course has a thematic approach and applies the analytical theories of critical cultural studies. Students will be exposed to development of various media forms as they have been shaped by and their impact on Italian culture and society. The press, film, radio, television, popular music, comics and graphic arts, sports and digital networks will be investigated from a variety of angles with particular attention on the media’s role in the construction of collective identities, the role of power and capital in shaping national identity, media use by social movements, the question of representation, popular protest and subcultural and subaltern expressions within the national space. Italy’s role within the global media economy will also be investigated.

CMS/LAW 271 Argumentation and Debate

This course is an advanced study of the principles and foundations of debate as a critical decision-making process structured around reasoned discourse. It examines the formal structures of debate and debate format, the use and evaluation of proof, the technique of advocacy, and specific argumentation strategies. Expanding on the formal logic introduced in Public Speaking, it also covers in-depth analysis of fallacies of reason. Using the construction of a Debate brief, students learn the intellectual foundations upon which legal briefs are made.

CMS/LAW 399 Special Topics in Communications and Law

May be taken more than once for credit with different topics.

CMS/PH 320 Posthuman Studies: Philosophy, Technology, Media

This course introduces students to some of the most important ethical, philosophical, and artistic questions raised by the rapid technological, scientific, and cultural changes of our era. Students will tackle issues such as biological and genetic enhancement, artificial intelligence, the impacts of new media, and the future of employment in a technology-based society, and explore how these issues take us beyond the standard capacities and dualistic concepts of ‘human’ beings (as disembodied ‘minds’, for instance) into a ‘posthuman’ future. Students will examine the approaches that thinkers such as Kathrine Hayles and Julian Savulescu have proposed for grappling with these questions, and develop their capacity to discuss, reflect on, and defend their own views on these challenges to ‘human’ life.

CMS/PL 322 Free Speech in a Comparative Perspective

An introduction to the major problems posed by the right to free speech: the origins and scope of this right, the problems in defining it, the values that it promotes as well as the values that it compromises. This course examines the political and cultural variables shaping the right to free speech by examining its role in many different jurisdictions. Focusing on concrete conflicts over political speech, freedom of religious conscience, hate speech, sexually-explicit speech, the protection of privacy, reputation and intellectual property, we look at constitutional case law and commentary in many different liberal democracies and the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights. Through intense engagement with primary legal materials, class debate and a mock trial, this course will be especially useful for potential law students, journalists, philosophy and religious studies students, and anyone seeking a better understanding of his or her rights in a democratic society.

CMS/PL 331 Media in the Arab World

This course examines the various media systems, both news and entertainment, from the southern Mediterranean all the way to Iran through screenings of films and television programs from the region. The topics to be covered include the motion picture industry, news and entertainment media, including satellite TV, magazines, newspapers, internet, and alternative media and their role in the perception and practice of Middle Eastern politics and culture. Special emphasis will be put on questions of gender as well as the use of the media by social movements and the ways these transform the  institutional arrangements between the media, publics and governments, both nationally and transnationally.

CMS/PL 348 War, Terrorism, and Violence in Visual Culture

This course examines violence and terror as inherent structural components of contemporary politics and media. Students will study how the performance of violence in the contemporary media landscape has shaped new visual cultures, such as emergent modes of producing evidence, bearing witness and archiving personal and collective memories of traumatic events. Conversely, the course examines how visual culture has dramatically impacted on the way in which we understand and consume violence and terror. Subsequently, students will examine the relationship between violence and visibility, the performance of terror and its representational regimes, through a variety of global visual media from around the world. Example include Hollywood movies; art documentaries; amateur films; photographs; art projects and performances; user-generated videos (including audiovisual material produced by armed groups and terrorist organizations); and state produced media.

CMS/SOSC 325 Advanced Intercultural Communication

In a world in which sharp inequalities often accompany cultural differences, what kinds of intercultural communication theory and practice can aid us in building constructive relationships among unequally positioned cultural identities? This course examines theoretical and practical issues in intercultural communication, as an increased awareness of asymmetrical power relationships and their historical contexts can lead to improved communication between persons from differently situated cultural identities. Drawing on case studies, this course will provide students with the opportunity to investigate how mediated power influences intercultural communication. Through lectures, screenings, written assignments, exploring Rome’s’ environment, class discussion, and engaged methodology, students will explore some of the societal issues and conflicts that are often framed as cultural and attempt to uncover the relationships of power and inequality that may reside within them.

CMS/TH 246 Russian Cinema

This course covers the development of Russian cinema from the Revolution of 1917 to the present, with attention focused both on the aesthetic features of the periods under consideration and the political, social and cultural factors that affected the efforts of Russian filmmakers to create their works. We examine the innovative 1920s of Soviet Russia, the clampdown on art under Stalin of the 1930s, the patriotic films of the World War II period, thawing of artistic controls of 1953-1985, and the evolution of Russian film in post-Soviet Russia in the early twenty-first century.