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FYS Communication and Power (Norris)

This is a course guide for the First Year Seminar Communication and Power taught by Professor Norris.

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Resources to Think About

Research Topics

  • James Lull, in his book Evolutionary Communication, calls communication "the motor of evolution." What does he mean by that? What evidence can you cite in support of or against his position? 
  • It has been observed that Homo Sapiens comprise the only species that kills others of its kind over ideas. Why do you believe such a trait developed? What purpose, if any, do you believe is served by it? 
  • What do you believe are the relative strengths and weaknesses of phonetic vs. character-based writing systems? Cite several writing systems in your answer.
  • Claude Levi-Strauss said, "[Writing] seems to have favored the exploitation of human beings rather than their enlightenment." Do you consider that to be a fair and balanced conclusion? What evidence can you cite in its support or opposition?
  • See the quote from Pope Gregory VII on page 109 of your Masters of the Word text, where he maintains that holy scripture should be kept secret from all but those qualified to read it. Why do you believe he took that position? Can it be defended? Are there circumstances under which you would take a similar position on that or any other text? 
  • In reference to the Reformation, The Catholic Encyclopedia says of Pope Leo X, "He recognized neither the gravity of the situation nor the underlying causes of the revolt." Knowing what you do today about communication, how would you have countered Martin Luther's movement if you had been Pope in place of Leo X in 1518?
  • Of what significance was the arrival of paper? How was it made, what market demanded it, and what impact did it have? Consider paper's origins in China and its spread through Asia to Europe. 
  • It has been said that theatre and politics are different expressions of the same concept: both convince people by leading them to certain conclusions. Select a play that illuminates the political power structures that existed when it was staged or that advocates for new political power structures. Analyze the play for its dramatic content, political influence, and its reception by the power holders of the day. 


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