Courses

My teaching at undergraduate and graduate level is largely in the field of Language and Communication or Discourse Studies. At the University of Bern, courses are taught either as lectures (typically larger, more general, and more instructor-driven with a final exam) or seminars (typically smaller, more specialist, and more discussion-based with a final paper/presentation or cumulative coursework). Here is a list of the courses that I have been regular teaching and/or am currently teaching, followed by some indicative, recent course descriptions:


LANGUAGE AND SOCIETY (lecture)
Any academic exploration of the relationship between language and society must always be broad and far-reaching in its scope, but typically it is a relationship of special interest to academics working in fields such as linguistic anthropology, sociology of language and discourse studies. This Focus Module lecture series will offer a broad survey of the social life of language from the baseline perspective of sociolinguistics. We will address a new issue or cultural domain each week as a way to focus on different sociolinguistic concepts, theories and research methods. For example, we will examine how language expresses regional identity, ethnicity, and gender; and we will look at the nature of language in the workplace, in the media, and in new media. There will also be a week which considers the nature of language under the sway of globalization as well as one on the ‘linguistics of sex‘ and one on the ‘linguistics of things‘.

DISCOURSE STUDIES (seminar)
Language is arguably the most important human communication code and it is central to all social life. Language shapes the way we talk, the way we behave and, to some extent at least, the way we think. Even more importantly, however, we use language to do things: to construct our identities, to establish and maintain our relationships, and, unavoidably, to exert power and control over others. Language is thus a form of social action. To differentiate this type of language study from the sort of ‘formal’ language linguists typically study, many scholars use the technical term discourse. In these terms, this seminar is not about the way language is formed (e.g. grammar and syntax), but rather about the way it functions in everyday contexts to do everyday things. This could be gossiping with friends about people in your class while sitting in front of the TV, or it could just as easily also be TV news-reporting about major social issues like globalization. In this course we look at discourse across a range of micro and macro contexts like these; we also examine a range of spoken and written practices. Discourse Studies is both a philosophical framework for understanding how language works, but it is also a methodology – a way of investigating the workings of language. For this reason, this seminar is both a theory class and a methods class. And the best way to understand how discourse works is to examine it in action and to try to analyse it for yourself.

LANGUAGE AND MATERIALITY (lecture)
In this lecture series we will consider a range of ways in which language has material consequences for our everyday lives. By the same token, we will also examine how language is itself something material and how it shapes and is shaped by material culture. We will start by thinking through the “hardcore” economies and politics of language/s nowadays, before looking at how language functions multimodally as a spatial, embodied and tangible practice. In this regard, and following an initial introductory lecture, the course will be organized into bi-weekly cycles addressing five major thematics: commodification, global semioscape, space/place, embodiment and objects/things. Lectures will be structured around a series of framing and case-study readings, and, where possible, we will hear first-hand from some of the case-study authors themselves. Every other week, our class time will involve a short in-class exercise in order to apply some of the ideas covered in the readings.

VISUAL COMMUNICATION (seminar)
This seminar is all about ways of seeing - literally and metaphorically – and about looking at language in its broader communicative (or mediated) contexts. We will be exploring different perspectives on the everyday world of images, image-making, design and visual discourse. In particular, we will be learning to understand visual discourse by viewing it through different academic theories/methods (e.g. social semiotics, visual rhetoric, cultural studies), while examining a range of "real world" sites of visual production (e.g. advertising, fashion, fine art) and a number of different visual modes (e.g. typography, photography, colour). A critical understanding of visual discourse is, as Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen indicate, essential for contemporary life and, therefore, for contemporary scholars of language. Understanding how other semiotic modes work helps us to understand how language works; this also helps us recognize the inherently multimodal nature of all communicative action.

DIGITAL DISCOURSE (lecture)
"So called Web 2.0 and so called social media are everywhere and there is talk of them everywhere. What are we – as citizens and as scholars – to make of widespread discourses about this latest round of new media? Are we making anything of them?" (Thurlow, 2013). This lecture series offers a survey of contemporary research on digital discourse, examining the practices and politics of language-use in new communication technologies. Looking at instant messaging, textmessaging, blogging, photo-/video-sharing, social networking and gaming, we will cover a range of domains (e.g. journalism, tourism, entertainment, politics), communicators (e.g. professional and lay, young people and adults, intimates and groups), and languages (e.g. Irish, Hebrew, Chinese, Finnish, German, Greek). Following an initial introductory lecture, the course is organized into bi-weekly cycles addressing five major thematics in digital discourse studies: “mediation”, “language ideology”, “multilingualism”, “multimodality” and “technologization”. In-class lecture presentations we examine case studies drawn from the core text and, where possible, we hear first-hand from the authors themselves. Every other week, our class time is centred around a featured article and a related in-class exercise drawing on students' own experience of digital discourse.

TOURISM DISCOURSE (seminar)
As a truly global service industry tourism is all-pervading. There are few people whose lives remain unaffected by tourism, be it people privileged enough to tour or people who are "toured." It is precisely because of tourism's scale and influence that scholars in such fields as anthropology, sociology, history, cultural studies, geography, discourse studies and others have increasingly been interested in exploring the cultural practices by which tourism is organized and experienced. This diverse body of research reveals tourism's powerful role in shaping and reflecting such things as the performance of identity, ideologies of difference, the meanings of place, and the production and consumption of visual-material culture, all of which intersect with relations of power/inequality. Indeed, tourism seldom merely represents a place or reflects a culture; tourism is instrumental in producing the very places and cultures that visitors seek to know. From a fully interdisciplinary perspective, this seminar examines tourism as discursive formation – a way of knowing and organizing the world establishing through language, communication and other social processes. Throughout the quarter we look at tourism from various historical, critical, and cultural perspectives. In addition to following a series of independent (but guided) reading and research demonstrations from Professor Thurlow’s own sociolinguistic/discourse analytic work, students are invited to undertake their own applied research as a way to experiment with various disciplinary modes of gathering and analysing data.

LANGUAGE AND SPACE/PLACE (excursion seminar)
This seminar takes students on a carefully designed scholarly and cultural journey whose main focus is the way human communication (e.g. language/s, visual images, social interactions) is organized in contemporary urban settings. The seminar considers the way different modes of communication are used to represent and construct these urban spaces. This is what some scholars refer to as the study of “semiotic landscapes” and draws on cutting-edge ideas from across the social sciences and humanities. In understanding the situated nature of urban communication, there is no substitute for moving through cities first-hand, observing the flow and organization of spatial practices, listening to and recording interactions, etc. To this end, the ethnographic focus is on Berlin as an ideal site for exploring and understanding urban communication and the social production of space/place. Through a combination of hands-on fieldwork, scholarly reading and class discussions students learn about the representation, organization and discursive production of Berlin in ways that go well beyond the usual touristic ways of seeing. Before students start digging around in other people’s spaces, however, they also learn to look at their own back yard (i.e. Bern) with news eyes and with a sharper, more critical awareness.