Graduate Preliminary Syllabus: Visual Rhetoric

“When the visual and verbal dance in step, the power of each is magnified.” Kathleen Jamieson

Introduction to the Course
Aristotle defined rhetoric as the faculty of discovering in any given case the available means of persuasion. His inclusion of the phrase “available means” indicates that rhetoric includes modes beyond those of speech or writing, though most rhetorical scholarship and instruction has concentrated on these two modes. The study of rhetoric has always given some emphasis to visual modes through delivery (focusing on, for example, speaker’s looks, textual presentation, and use of visual aids) and style (“showing, not telling” and thereby creating images within the imagination of the audience). Eloquence also was sometimes conceptualized in visual terms, for example as “lively portraiture” (Augustine).

Communication technology advances provide new and more accessible means for creating and distributing visual images and artifacts, though the rhetorical impact remains an under-studied phenomenon. It is important to examine what rhetorical theory can offer to our understanding and interpretation of visual rhetoric.

Visual rhetoric encompasses graphic novels and comics, fashion, body art, cosplay, memorials, sculptures, icons, document design, art installations, political cartoons, and more. If you can see it, it can be understood and examined as visual rhetoric.

In this course, students will:
1. Develop an understanding of the concepts and methods used to rhetorically analyze and interpret visual images and artifacts.
2. Demonstrate ability to engage in rhetorical analysis of visual images and artifacts.
3. Demonstrate an understanding of the rhetorical strategies employed in various primarily visual forms of ?communication including photography, visual art, advertising, and public commemorative activities.

Texts
Eisner, Will. Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist. W.W. Norton and Company, 2008.

Defining Visual Rhetorics. Edited by Charles A. Hill and Marguerite Helmers, Routledge, 2004.

Writing the Visual: A Practical Guide for Teachers of Composition and Communication. Edited by Carol David and Anne R. Richards, Parlor Press, 2008.

Assignments
Artifacts: Bring in visual rhetoric that relates to (through agreement, through reference, or by contradicting) the readings for that class. Each student must do this at least once per semester.

Posts and Comments: Once a semester you will be asked to respond to the reading in a blog post. Everyone in the class will comment on this post.

Analysis: Choose an artifact and discuss its rhetorical significance twice in the semester—once as a paper (4-6 pages) and once as a digital presentation (5-7 minutes).

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