In COM 601, Communication Fluency, at Queens University, I have learned a great deal about myself and how I process information, as well as how others receive it. The seven traditions of communication theory have given me the tools to question to whom I am communicating and from whom I am receiving communication. In addition, I have learned how much communication behind the communication there is by studying the seven traditions, such as the sociopsychological, rhetorical and critical (Littlejohn & Foss, 2011).
The ability to discern the type of communication required of a situation from what I consider to be a psychological position will help me with my communication skills in all areas of life. A deeper learning of my own perception in all communication has reinforced my beliefs about the sociopsychological tradition, that we all see the world through individual lenses and those lenses affect all we see.
One of the most interesting concepts presented in this course is Kenneth Burke’s (1973) concept of art serving as “equipment for living.” I have always watched TV, movies and read books, all the while identifying with a particular character and wondering how I could be more like them in life. As an adult later studying Jungian psychology, I learned there was a reason for this feeling. It is explained by the notion of archetypes, or patterns of human behavior. A Jungian teacher once told me to think of favorite book and movie characters and to question what it was that I love about them. I have found that a helpful tool for me in my spiritual and life journeys.
In COM 601, this concept really clicked for me. It was taken to a new level by learning about Burke’s concept. It may seem obvious, but it deepened my connection profoundly to put a definition and a theory to the feeling of identifying with characters and their stories, especially in film, as sources of learning for life. I have always felt it but couldn’t articulate it.
In the dream work I do, we assume that everything and everyone in the dream is the dreamer. From that position, dreams serve as “equipment for living,” as we have something to learn from every part of the dream.
But the value of stories cannot have a price put upon it. Humans depend on story to define their existence. In this class, the students each had to choose a film that spoke to them as “equipment for living.” It would have been possible to choose one that did not provide “equipment for living” and argue that case, but my classmates, like me, seemed to wish to express passion about films that have touched their lives.
We all did a good job with our theses and presentations. Some of the presentations were a bit text-heavy and might have benefitted from some visuals and a more conversational, storytelling style. Most of us could have stood to stick by the time restriction for the presentation (2 – 5 minutes) more diligently. However, each student’s work made me want to watch all the movies either again or for the first time.
The presentation that struck me the most was on one the film Little Women (1994) offering “equipment for living” as feminist response to society. I haven’t seen that film in years but remember it fondly. However, I was impressed and inspired by the thesis of Jo’s working through her right to be equal as a woman in society (the definition of feminism presented in the paper) through the wartime absence of men and through the development of her writing. I want to go back and watch with this new lens as this thesis appeals to me in my personal life.
The personal side of my own presentation was about my desire to “become Elizabeth Bennet,” from the film Pride and Prejudice (1995). Elizabeth is her own person, strong and self-confident in an age that makes women secondary to men. The Little Women presentation has given me another film to look to as a resource on my life’s journey to self-confidence and being true to myself. I also found the presentation on the film Because of Winn-Dixie (2005) compelling as this film strikes another chord for “equipment for living” for me – that of having compassion for those considered “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40, NIV) in society, a concept important to me in my faith and in my work in the Church.
Overall, this course has afforded me the opportunity to hone my technical skills in blogging, podcasts, and YouTube presentations and in writing papers in APA style. In addition, it has enriched my life by learning from my fellow students’ resources for “equipment for living” and enlivened my perception of myself as a communicator in society. Thank to you to Tracy Schaffer for being an excellent and available professor. I’m not sure in how many Master’s programs you can term the first course “life-changing,” but this is certainly one. Best of luck to everyone on their continued higher ed journeys. I hope to see you in the next class!
Austen, J., Birtwistle, S. (Producer), Langton, S. (Director), Firth, C., & Ehle, J. (1995). Pride and Prejudice [Motion picture]. London: BBC Production.
Burke, K. (1973) The philosophy of literary form. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Littlejohn, S. W., & Foss, K. A. (2011). Theories of human communication. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.