DMS 259: Introduction to Media Study and Analysis


1. Choose ONE COMMERCIAL from the attached list. WATCH IT AT LEAST THREE times before you begin.

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2. RE-READ Roland Barthes, MYTH TODAY and one of the other theorists we have read during this unit (from week that you decide will help you to analyze the specific commercial you have chosen :: Adorno & Horkheimer, Williams, Althusser, Fanon, Baudrillard, hooks, Mulvey, Doane, Feuer, Sterne, or Couldry.

3. YOUR 3-4 page paper will offer a CLOSE READING of the commercial you have chosen. Your essay needs to answer the questions: 1) What FORMAL and RHETORICAL strategies does the commercial use to sell its product and the associations with the product? 2) How does your commercial illustrate the role of ideology in society that Barthes and one other theorist explain?

In other words, What is the commercial is SELLING and HOW is it selling it? In addition to a product, WHAT ELSE is the commercial selling in terms of its AFFIRMATIONS of SOCIETY, IDENTITY, STEREOTYPES, MYTHS through its representation of the product?

In order to do this, you must connect a detailed description of WHAT YOU SEE and HEAR ON SCREEN (the style of the editing, cinematography, the way things are framed and presented, etc.) with an analysis of the IDEOLOGICAL CONTENT – or what Barthes refers to as MYTHIC SPEECH. The point of the essay is to ground an understanding of the function of commercials and advertising in a detailed analysis of ONE COMMERCIAL – to do this you will need to identify the RHETORICAL strategies that are used in the commercial to connect DENOTATIVE MEANINGS with MYTHIC SPEECH and the way in which the commercial INTERPELLATES the viewer.

4. THE BODY OF YOUR ESSAY will be comprised of detailed FORMAL descriptions of the scenes from the commercial, calling attention to what is significant about the SOUND and IMAGE and how that figures into the VARIOUS LEVELS OF MEANING / MESSAGES of the COMMERCIAL. Each paragraph should focus on ONE of the messages of the commercial and how it is constructed formally and rhetorically. This means that you will need to identify the SPECIFIC strategy/strategies that the commercial uses to naturalize its message (what Barthes refers to as FIGURES of RHETORIC on pages 150-156 in “Myth Today.” (See handout).

In your analysis of the rhetorical strategies of the commercial, you need to refer to BARTHES text explicitly by including AT LEAST ONE QUOTATION from BARTHES.

5. The final paragraph of the essay should summarize your thesis and then point to how this connects to the function of ideology in society more broadly. In this paragraph – you need to choose ONE of the OTHER theorists to support your argument – and include a QUOTATION from that text. (So your paper needs to have a minimum of TWO QUOTATIONS from TWO DIFFERENT TEXTS — one from Barthes and one from another theorist that WE HAVE READ IN CLASS). You can refer to the other theorist in the body of the essay — but you need to use another theorist in the last paragraph.

6. Be sure to proofread your paper by reading it aloud. AND Be sure to indicate WHICH COMMERCIAL you are responding to in the TITLE OF YOUR PAPER.
7. Papers will be graded on the strength and originality of your analysis, organization, your grasp of Barthes’ argument, clarity of writing, and grammar. This paper counts for 15% of your grade. Late papers will be penalized.



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