Defining Visual Rhetorics

Defining Visual Rhetorics. Eds. Charles A. Hill and Marguerite Helmers. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004.

Rhetoric is “becoming focused on visual objects and on the visual nature of the rhetorical process” (20 of 6169).

Visual rhetoric “used in many different ways by different scholars” (23 of 6169).

Visual rhetoric is “rich with possibility” and “puzzling in its breadth” (31 of 6169).

“little agreement on the basic nature of the two terms visual and rhetoric” (31 of 6169)

Looking at the visual has been problematized and the idea for the book was to “have scholars working with visuals discuss the definitional assumptions behind their own work” (42 of 6169).

In this way it reminds me of RAW.

“[W]e want to prompt readers to think about, and to talk to each other about, what these terms mean to them and what they could mean…” (54 of 6169).

Lightmatter_wtc World Trade Center by Quadell WC CC2pt5Introduction
Introduces and discusses Franklin’s iconic image of the three fire fighters raising the American flag on Ground Zero on September 12.

“exemplary actions of common men” (231 of 6169)

“represents hope” (258 of 6169)

“a battle of specificity and symbolism” (286 of 6169)

Some artist/interpreters have avoided the licensing fee by creating an image that echoes but does not reproduce Franklin’s photograph. Is this plagiarism? Or intertextuality? (296 of 6169)

Or is it appropriation?

“nostalgia for the masculine American hero” (324 of 6169)

“‘the distortion of memory traces’ occurs at the level of the interpretant, at the moment that the visual image or event is encoded (Winter and Sivan, War and Remembrance qtd. 333 of 6169).

“photograph does not reveal truth” (341 of 6169)

“Peirce’s distinctions” = “triadic theory of icon, index, and symbol” (369 of 6169)

“the interplant is associative and connotative” (378 of 6169)

“each term describes ways that different types of images may be understood” (383 of 6169)

Index “points but does not tell” (Barthes, 62 qtd 389 of 6169).

“Why not wipe out the difference between literature and painting in order to affirm more powerfully the plurality of ‘texts’?” (Barthes, 55 qtd 409 of 6169)

“Rather than depict reality accurately, or event impressionistically, the creator assembles and arranges ‘blocks of meaning’ so that the description becomes yet another meaning” (421 of 6169).

I know I’m on a kick about this right now, but I thought of my tenure and promotion portfolio when I was transcribing the quotes.

“[T]he assembling of these ‘blocks of meaning’ is a rhetorical act” (423 of 6169).

“Visual representation gives way to visual rhetoric through subjectivity, voice, and contingency” (Zelizer qtd 429 of 6169).

“Rhetorically, ‘as if’ has the greatest power…” (434 of 6169).

To differentiate rhetorical analysis of images (or visual rhetoric), the authors argue we should be “studying material as rhetoric” (439 of 6169).

“Mitchell proposes a term… cross-disciplinary work of rhetoric, the mingling of verbal and visual emphases, and the exciting possibilities for inquiry. That term is indiscipline” (452 of 6169).

“previously [sic] unquestioned hegemony of verbal text is being challenged by what Mitchell labels the ‘pictorial turn’ (Picture Theory)–a growing recognition of the ubiquity of images and of their importance in the dissemination and reception of information, ideas, and opinions…” (458 of 6169).

Having multiple working definitions, rather than attempting to codify a single definition, has more heuristic value, the authors believe (478 of 6169).

“[E]very contributor rejects the notion that a clear demarcation can be drawn between ‘visual’ and ‘verbal’ texts” (484 of 6169).

“‘hybrid’ literacies” (489 of 6169)

expanding “visual rhetoric to include the study of constructed spaces” (492 of 6169)
Since one of the best theses out of my university last year was on the rhetoric of constructed spaces, I would say that visual rhetoric has now expanded to include this.

The authors believe that folks should “maintain the current unsettled state of visual studies for at least the near future” (514 of 6169).

The book seeks to make “explicit the seemingly infinite range of possibilities” (517 of 6169).

3 students studyingReferences:
Palimpsests by Gerard Genette
Matei Calinescu. Rereading. New Haven: Yale UP, 1993.
James Elkins. The Domain of Images. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1999.
W. J. T. Mitchell. “Interdisciplinarity and Visual Culture.” Art Bulletin 70.4 (1995): 540-44.
Barbara Maria Stafford. Good Looking: Essays on the Virtues of Images. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997.


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