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Propaganda and Persuasion

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This module explores the language and iconography of propaganda, the rise of mass communication, and the ways in which our understanding of the world around is shaped by the language of persuasion.

‘War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.’ This iconic slogan from George Orwell’s 1984 captures the way propaganda reinforces a way of thinking that is often contradictory to our understanding of ‘truth’.

Topics discussed include warfare and conflict, women’s work, and fake news, as well as international concerns such as global warming and healthcare. In a world where communication is instant, and its reach unlimited, understanding the ideology of persuasion seems more vital than ever.

This module forms part of the Pathway to a degree in Media, Journalism and Culture and as a standalone option.

Learning and teaching

This module is taught in nine, two-hour sessions, delivered on a weekly basis.

Classes will be taught through a variety of lectures, workshops, discussion exercises and group work. Students will be issued with handouts and a reading list, allowing them to read up on relevant topics, as well as allowing them to develop their own interests and identify the key questions which they need to answer in their assessments.

Topics are likely to include:

  • Propaganda and persuasion: Essential definitions and historical contexts
  • The role of the mass media: Print, film and radio
  • The propaganda machine: Models, processes and new technologies
  • Propaganda and political systems: Election campaigns and fake news
  • Propaganda and warfare: From ‘Your Country Needs You’ to ‘The War on Terror’
  • Propaganda and gender: ‘We Can Do it!’ and women’s work
  • Propaganda and healthcare: Obesity, immunisation and scare stories
  • Propaganda and the Planet: Global warming, pollution, and politics.

Coursework and assessment

Students will complete a short analysis of approximately 500 words, followed by a short essay of 1,200 words. Alternatively, students can complete a single essay of 1,700 words.

Reading suggestions

  • Chomsky, N., 2002. Media control: The spectacular achievements of propaganda. New York: Seven Stories Press.
  • Curran, J. and Seaton, J., 2009. Power without responsibility: press, broadcasting and the internet in Britain. London: Routledge.7th ed
  • Jowett, G.S. and O'Donnell, V. 2015 Propaganda & Persuasion. London: SAGE. 6th ed.
  • Pratkavis, A. and Aronson, E. 1991. Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion. New York: W.H. Freeman.
  • Shaw, T. 2000. Hollywood's Cold War. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Stanley, J. 2015. How Propaganda Works. Princetown, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Taylor, P. 2002. British Propaganda in the Twentieth Century. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Thomson, O. 1999. Easily Led: A History of Propaganda. Stroud: Sutton Pub.

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.