I’ve had the fortune of teaching large survey courses and small, special topics seminars while at the University of Alabama. Click the links below to see brief course descriptions, and feel free to contact me if you have any questions about these classes.
CIS 650: Video Game Research (doctoral seminar)
TCF 100: Introduction to Storytelling (formerly Intro to Telecommunication)
Welcome to TCF 100! Until recently, this course served as a general survey of modern telecommunications history, policy, and technology. It was changed recently, however, to better differentiate it from the college’s required Mass Communication 101 course (MC101), and to introduce TCF students to the major’s various tracks and course offerings. As the title suggests, the primary focus of this class is the important element that unites the TCF major: storytelling. Accordingly, this class will introduce students to how story and narrative function in film, television, and new media, as well as why media matters. TCF 100 is designed for those students who have not taken previous work in media studies but who are considering majoring in TCF and wishing to study and make media.
From the first day, I fell in love with this class. We watched films but not just to take up time, we studied many aspects of film, TV, and new media. I can honestly say I am starting my TCF journey with the right foot forward thanks to Dr. Payne.
I’m a post-graduate student and have had many instructors. Dr. Payne is one of the best professors I’ve ever had. His level of knowledge & effective communication style is second to none.
TCF 112 is an introductory survey of motion picture history. This course is designed for the student who has not taken previous work in the history and aesthetics of motion pictures. The course will focus on the evolution of motion picture technology, the development of the medium as a business and mode of artistic expression, its movements and genres, and the work of major filmmakers.
This course is meant to give the student an introductory understanding of the history of cinema. It will provide an understanding of the development of film as a narrative medium, of key filmmakers, films, and the main elements of film grammar.
I thoroughly enjoyed this class. Learning so much in this course about film history, production, and the industry, I have a new appreciation for the movies I watch. In fact, I don’t just watch them now, I observe. I would definitely recommend this course and instructor to other students. Well worth the time and money spent. Thank you, Dr. Payne!
TBD … This course is under construction.
This special topics class examines the long career of Alfred Hitchcock and the cinematic techniques that earned him the title of “Master of Suspense.” We will closely analyze his major Hollywood films and discuss how he developed his signature cinematic style. In particular, we will deconstruct his approach to editing, cinematography, lighting, and mise-en-scène, and explore his oeuvre’s major themes including narrative suspense, mistaken identity, obsessions, and voyeurism. We will also discuss and examine movies by other filmmakers that are distinctly “Hitchcockian” in their design.
This course will introduce undergraduates to scholarly analyses of Alfred Hitchcock’s major films, and equip them with interpretive strategies for better understanding his movies, and why they continue to influence contemporary filmmakers and filmmaking practices. The course readings will draw from a variety of sources: critical film reviews, academic critiques of his work, and Hitchcock’s own words.
If I had a chance to do it all over again, I would… that is saying A LOT coming from someone who is typically glad to be finished with each and every course I have ever taking in college! Much love to Hitchcock and Dr. Payne.
TCF 389: Media & War
The military/war/combat genre is a trans-media genre that has been popular for centuries, if not millennia (consider Homer’s epic Illiad, authored in the 9th or 8th century BCE). This seminar examines the major cinematic, televisual, and ludic representations of real and fictional American military interventions produced in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In particular, we will analyze how postmodern warfare – the dominant warfighting mode and production logic of advanced Western nations since the mid-20th century – has evolved during the late Cold War and post-Cold War eras, and how these material and cultural changes are reflected in the cultural industries’ products. The class will pay particular attention to the manner in which post-Vietnam texts are constructed to produce narrative, visual, and ludic pleasures, contextualize what these pleasures mean for their historical moments of production, and critically interrogate the discourses about who should (or should not) wield lethal military power, and to what end.
Great teacher who is personable and loves to learn from his students. Not afraid to give you honest advice on your papers, which has helped me a lot as a writer. Small class which means more class discussion and less mindless book work, which I appreciate.
This special topics class examines the creative filmmaking partnership of Joel and Ethan Coen – a.k.a., the Coen Bros. We will closely analyze the majority of their Hollywood projects and discuss how the duo has crafted an enigmatic and idiosyncratic oeuvre that incorporates slapstick comedy, Judaism, dark humor, pastiche, nihilism, irony, and the meaning of life. In particular, we will deconstruct their narrative strategies by attending to their creative choices regarding editing, cinematography, lighting, mise-en-scène, etc., and we will examine their films’ major thematic concerns. We will also discuss how their work complicates auteur theory and genre theory as theoretical frameworks for understanding film authorship that defies easy definition and categorization.
This is my favorite course that I have taken in my entire 4 years of college. I have never had a class that was so interesting and rewarding. This course took movies that I already loved watching and made me think about them deeply and learn things about them that I would have never imagined.
There are more ways to tell stories and to have them heard today than at any other point in human history. Professional story scribes, cultural producers, commercial firms, and throngs of fans have harnessed the power of digital technologies and the internet to both craft and distribute new tales and – more importantly for this course’s purposes – to extend existing narratives and fictional universes across media; a practice commonly referred to as “transmedia storytelling.” According to media scholar Henry Jenkins, this is “a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.”
This course examines how storytellers (understood broadly) navigate the industry and medium specificities of modern media – film, television, comics, webseries, video games, social media, etc. – when extending their intellectual properties across platforms. This class will also look at the often unpredictable ways that fans re-imagine those same properties; free labor which may amplify the market value of a property, or which may jeopardize its narrative cohesion and commercial viability. Students in this class will critically examine a range of experiments in transmedia storytelling to assess the underlying commercial logic of industry franchising, the challenges and opportunities posed by fandom, and how transmedia entertainment is a dynamic process emblematic of a vibrant, twenty-first century participatory culture.
Clearly a great professor who cares whether his students learn or not. He gets excited when we all converse academically and I think his excitement about us learning made me write better papers.
This course is an introduction to the history and study of digital games, media theory, and the global interactive entertainment industry, and it is intended for advanced students who are conversant with the techniques and concerns of media criticism (i.e., junior/senior dept. majors). The class will also give students the opportunity to try their hand at designing their own games. Accordingly, the class has two major components: one dedicated to the critical analysis of games, and the other to the creative choices that go into successful game design. The former is organized along historic and thematic lines; the latter is organized procedurally so students can work together on their game projects. By understanding the technological and cultural history of games, and by working together to create our own rule systems, we will better appreciate how games function as popular interactive and cultural texts, and how they influence and reflect contemporary society.
Zombies. For a monster that doesn’t actually exist, they seem to be everywhere. They are in movies. They are on television screens. They are in games and in comic books. There are even children’s films and books starring the walking dead. Here, in the early decades of the 21st century, there is no escaping this undead menace. We are in the midst of a cultural infestation of epic proportions. And whether you view this surge positively – “It’s a zombie renaissance!” – or negatively – “What’s with all this undead junk?” – it remains useful to know just what makes them tick (culturally speaking, of course). After all, your life could just depend on it…
This course will introduce students to the critical and systematic analyses of media culture. As the title suggests, the focus of this upper division studies class is on the zombie. It is our object of study. The zombie is not, however, our object of fandom. I encourage you to harness your enthusiasm about zombies to fuel your academic exploration of the topic, and to advance your skills as researchers, storytellers, and media-makers.
The course materials are organized historically and thematically. We will begin by studying monster’s origins in Haitian folklore, how it changes shape in the 1950s, and its subsequent evolution (or devolution) after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The class will also examine how the zombie functions as a symbolic vessel for a range of social problems and anxieties, including racism, sexism, militarism, and class inequities.
Zombies are cool, but now they’re cooler knowing that there’s political and social messages being mediated through them. Such an amazing course. I called my mom almost every night after that class to talk about what we discussed and what I learned. Great course and would recommend Dr. Payne & this course to anyone & everyone!
This doctoral seminar serves as an introduction to the history and study of digital games, media theory, and the global interactive entertainment industry. This course is designed for graduate students who are conversant with the techniques and concerns of media research and criticism generally, but who may not (as yet) be game scholars or avid game players. Thus, in addition to reading foundational game research from a primarily humanistic perspective using mostly qualitative methodologies (e.g., textual/content/discourse analyses, critical industry studies, ethnographies, etc.), students are also expected to play video games alone and together throughout the semester to gain a better appreciation for why the industry continues to grow, how it is evolving artistically, and what is so intellectually stimulating about playing and studying digital games.
Dr. Payne is clearly an expert in the field of video game research. He was very knowledgable of the discipline, and well-versed in the literature. He also has practical experience in the field, and can give insight to the business of video game research.