Department of Communication
Current Graduate Courses

Current Grad Classes - Spring 2015

COMM 6342
Small Group Communication

Katherine G. Hendrix

Tuesday/Thursday, 9:40-11:05AM

Our society is built upon not only the decisions made by individuals but those generated by members of small groups.  Primary groups satisfy our needs for inclusion and affection whereas secondary groups bring us together for a designated purpose such as coordinating an activity or finding a solution to a shared problem.  Even though groups are everywhere and we all belong to some, our participation  does not automatically equate with a clear understanding of the communication process nor does our membership mean we are effective in interacting with others. This course is designed to enhance our understanding of the types of small groups (with an emphasis on secondary task-oriented groups), member roles and responsibilities, and leadership styles appropriate for a group's format.  My ultimate goal is for all of us to end the course doing a better job of communicating within a group and, at least, being able to recognize the effective and ineffective styles of ourselves and fellow group members.


Beebe, S.A., & Masterson, J.T. (2010). Communicating in small groups: Principles and practices (11th  ed). New York, NY: Pearson Publications

Beebe, S.A., & Mottet, T.P. (2012). Business and professional communication: Principles and skills for leadership. New York, NY: Pearson Publications

COMM 6363

D. Gray Matthews

Monday/Wednesday, 5:30-6:55

Dialogue seeks to overcome the constraints of discussion and the aggressiveness of debate to offer a deeper mode of inquiry and relation-building.  The values of openness, collaboration, respect, listening, presence and communion have perhaps never been needed more than in this cultural era of fragmentation, division and mediated living.  Dialogue is at once a very old tradition and yet a fresh style of communicating that fosters trust, insight and creative thinking.  This course will be balance theory and practice as we attempt to experience what we are studying conceptually.  We will also explore, through class conversations, the essential differences between discussion and dialogue.  Once we have attempted, and hopefully experienced dialogue for ourselves, we will move to consider creative applications of dialogue to a variety of communication settings, issues and problems.  The course is risky, though, for dialogue exposes us to the possibilities of change and transformation. 


Bohm, David.  (1996).  On Dialogue.  NY:  Routledge.

Buber, Martin.  (1970).  I and Thou.  NY:  Scribners.

COMM 6365

Tony de Velasco

Tuesday/Thursday, 9:40am-11:05

What does it mean to live in Memphis? How do such place-specific meanings change across time? Across the range of different peoples for whom “Memphis” has signified such different truths? Are you interested in symbols, stories, and strange twists? Do you have good analytical and writing skills? Then take this course, which looks at case studies in the language of “place, community, and communication” as it relates to Memphis, Tennessee. We’ll use contemporary news media texts, tourist brochures, personal narratives, museum exhibits, histories, films, and songs to consider how Memphis – as both a material place and as an imagined space – assumes symbolic importance.


At the River I Stand, Beifuss

Memphis in Black and White, Bond and Sherman

Alice + Freda Forever, Cole

Additional readings. 


Weekly quizzes, book report, final paper

COMM 6380
Communication in Conflict

Katherine G. Hendrix

Tuesday/Thursday, 1:00-2:25PM

This course in interpersonal conflict emphasizes both communication theory and the experiential application of the course content.  The course content will be explored through exercises and discussion designed to develop and/or enhance skills such as: listening, the effective presentation of ideas and emotions, and conflict resolution. Practical application within the classroom should increase the likelihood of retention and use of the concepts outside of the classroom as part of a life-long process. This life-long process should include growth and movementtoward quality-based, confirming interaction with others as well as recognizing circumstances where interpersonal behavior is inappropriate. 


Wilmot, W. W., & Hocker, J. L. (2013). Interpersonal conflict (9th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Additional class readings as assigned.

COMM 6853 
Documentary Form Film

David Appleby

Monday/Wednesday, 12:40pm-2:05

We will discuss the development of non-fiction film as both a rhetorical and expressive form. The course will provide a broad overview as well as allow for the analysis of individual films, genres, eras and filmmakers. Readings and discussions will address such questions as, “How do we come to know others and the worlds they inhabit?... What strategies are available to us for the representation of people?” (Bill Nichols) “Who are these visitors, these avowed doers of good, these earnest documentarians, and what are they up to… and what will come of this, for us and for them?” (Robert Coles) “When does fact veer toward fiction – and how are those words to be understood with respect to one another?” (Robert Coles)

COMM 6851 
Film History II

Steven Ross

Tuesday/Thursday 2:40-5:10

We will study major films in the history of motion pictures during the period from 1941 through 1980.    Although we will concentrate mostly on American fiction films, a number of foreign language films, particularly those that had a strong impact on American film, will be studied as well.  We will study films in terms of their social and political  contexts (World War 2; The Cold War; The Civil Rights Movement; The Vietnam War; Watergate, etc.) and as the work of notable individual directors (Ford, Wyler, DeSica, Fellini, Polanski, Lean, Kazan, Sirk, etc.).   We will look at diverse genres (The Western, Film Noir, Melodrama, The Gangster Film, Epic films, Neorealism, The French New Wave) and at various theoretical and critical approaches to all of these films.  


A History of Narrative Film, David Cook (Norton) and selected essays.


Three papers (7-10 pages each); two objective exams

COMM 6856 
Women and Film 

Marina Levina

Monday 5:30-8:30pm

Using film studies, media studies, and cultural studies approaches this course will analyze representations of women in various film genres. The class focuses on films produced from the 1940s to the present.  The course puts representations of women in the historical contexts of race, class, and sexuality. 

COMM 6970

Craig Leake

Tuesday 5:30-8:30pm 

An introduction to writing fiction for the film medium. Students will read and analyze screenplays from memorable movies, and each student will complete all the steps necessary to create his or her own original first draft screenplay.


No one textbook is required. Instead, each student will be assigned from the dozens available a different well known screenwriting text to read and report on to the class.


Graduate students in the Film & Video concentration, in addition to the normal assignments, will be encouraged during the course to write the screenplay for one of the short films they are required to direct as part of the MA requirements.

COMM 7/8012
Seminar in Health Communication: Communication and Rhetorical Choices in Medical Research

Amanda Young

Thursday, 5:30 – 8:30 pm

When inviting people to participate in health communication research, we hear protests about “experimenting on people.” When writing consent forms, we are challenged by legal requirements that can result in 20-30 pages of text. When trying to ensure that our research fairly represents a diverse community, we are often stymied by an innate distrust of the medical system. To address each of these factors, we must scrutinize our communication through the lens of foundational ethical principles both in medical research and in communication. And, as we develop skills in designing, implementing, and reporting our research, we must develop our personal standard of ethical communication with participants, review boards, and colleagues. In this seminar, we will examine the communicative strategies and rhetorical choices in research-related documents, and then, through the lens of communication ethics, discuss the implications of those choices. Beginning with an historical perspective, we’ll examine documents from the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, starting with the original proposal in 1928 and moving through letters, reports and other documents defending the study; newspaper coverage of the study in the 1970s; and President Clinton’s apology for the study in 1997. From there, we’ll briefly examine studies in the 1940s and 50s, moving then to the implementation of the Belmont Report in 1978. Finally, we will explore public perceptions of medical research as shaped by the media. The semester will culminate in writing a research proposal and accompanying consent form, along with an analysis of how your work is informed by communication strategies and rhetorical choices that promote foundational communication ethics principles.


1. To explore the historical shift in applying ethical principles in designing and implementing research that includes patients and family members

2. To understand how specific communication and rhetorical choices uphold or undermine the incorporation of ethical principles in research. (For example, the term “human subjects research” undermines the ethical principles of autonomy and dignity.)

3. To develop and articulate your own personal ethical standard as a health communication researcher


Reverby, S. (ed.)  (2000). Tuskegee’s Truths. Chapel Hill, NC: U of NC Press

Jones, J. H, (1992). Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, New and Expanded Edition. New York, NY: The Free Press.

O’Neill, O. (2002). Autonomy and Trust in Bioethics (Gifford Lectures). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP

COMM 7/8322
Persuasion and Influence

Craig Stewart

Monday, 5:30 – 8:30 pm

This course will survey traditional theories and approaches to persuasion research from social psychology and communication studies, as well as how concepts and problems in persuasion have been critiqued and reconfigured by researchers working in the traditions of discursive and rhetorical psychology. Theories will be applied to various contexts, including public, interpersonal, health, and media.

COMM 7/8362
Seminar in Public Address: The debate over the Equal Rights Amendment, 1920 – present

Sandra J. Sarkela

Tuesday, 5:30pm-8:30pm

The passage of the 19th amendment in 1920 gave women the right to vote but did not end the debate over gender equality in the United States.  In 1923 Alice Paul inaugurated the campaign for an Equal Rights Amendment by introducing the resolution to Congress.  The Amendment has been introduced in every congress since then, but has never achieved passage.  In this public address seminar, we will familiarize ourselves with the history of the debate over the equal rights amendment in the United States, critically assess the rhetorical effectiveness of arguments and persuasive strategies among the various participants in the debate and consider where the debate should go in the 21st century.  It is hoped that final papers for this class will lead to conference presentations and publications.

The significance of this debate for American society is highlighted in a call for papers to be published in a special issue of Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies, which states in part:

The ERA serves as a conduit for critical dialogues about equal rights, because while the cultural, legal, political, and intellectual heritage of the United States is rooted in the “self-evident” precept of equality, it has prevented the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment for 90 years. Furthermore, the topic of the ERA sometimes alienates supporters of equal rights who criticize its complicity in marginalizing race, class, gender, and sexuality through its heteronormative focus on women’s rights. The subject of the ERA has also caused some intergenerational conflict. Some activist feminists who have been working on the ERA for decades—who were in the trenches when it failed in 1982—believe that they have a more true idea of the significance of the loss. Other activist feminists see the amendment as less relevant today than ever before, and are ready to rally efforts in other spaces. Academics are highly critical of the political, economic, and legal shortcomings of the past, of the failure to unite in the present, and of the ways that the rhetoric of women’s equality that is so tightly intertwined with the ERA is, in turn, marginalizing others (particularly in terms of its lack of connection to intersections of race, class, gender identity, and sexuality).

I look forward to joining with many interested graduate students in stimulating discussion about this important topic. 

*Course satisfies the humanities requirement for the Graduate Certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies.

COMM 7/8804
Seminar in Media Theory/Criticism

M. Allison Graham

Wednesday, 5:30pm-8:30pm

This seminar explores some of the most influential ideas concerning the construction, perception, and functions of film and television narratives.  We begin with works that address the relationship between reality and representation, and move through a spectrum of theoretical perspectives on specific topics:  the logic and ideology of sound design, editing, digital recording, film and television genres, and the representation of gender, race, and social class in mass media. The course will study several films closely; in most cases, this will necessitate rental fees for streaming or DVD viewing.  Students will participate in class discussions, make at least one class presentation, write several analytical reports or essays, and will complete a final exam.The seminar is open to all Communication graduate students and has no prerequisite.  No previous coursework in media studies is required. 


Braudy and Cohen (eds.), Film Theory and Criticism (7th ed.)

Additional reading will be linked on eCourseware and available online free of charge. 

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Last Updated: 10/23/14