ENGL 564 – Contemporary Rhetorical Theory – SP 13

George L. Dillon

Savory 140 TuTh 1:30-3:20; Off Hrs. 9:30 Tu,11:00 F

Focus topic: Visual and Multimodal Rhetorics


Carolyn Handa. Visual Rhetoric in a Digital World. Bedford-St. Martins. 2004. ISBN: 0312409753

Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen. Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design, 2nd ed. Routledge, 2006. ISBN: 0-415-31915-3

Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites. No Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracy. University of Chicago Press, 2007. ISBN: 0-226-31612-2

Ann Marie Seward Barry. Visual Intelligence: Perception, Image, and Manipulation in Visual Communication. SUNY Press, 1997. ISBN: 0-7914-3436-2

This course focuses on two fundamental questions in the areas of Visual Rhetoric and Visual Semiotics, namely, how language-like are 'visuals' and how do certain images acquire exceptional power to rouse our feelings and even convey our cultural identity(ies)? We will begin with Roland Barthes' famous claim that photographs communicate without a code and question whether that claim still holds in this age of ever increasing digital image manipulation. We will look closely at Kress and van Leeuwen's Reading Images to consider whether and in what ways it is useful to speak of a grammar of visual design. And we will look at different claims about 'visual literacy'.

We then move from signification to embodiment and power (particularly cultural power), beginning with the first few chapters of Ann Marie Seward Barry's Visual Intelligence. This takes up the ancient theme of emotion v. reason in relation to modern neurophysiology of vision and the power of images to manipulate and persuade. We then turn to the Hariman and Lucaites book on iconic photographs and a portion of Benedikt Feldges' book on iconic figures created in American TV, where generally it is argued that certain images come to convey our cultural identities by the way they are deployed rather than by their intrinsic visual qualities. This will also engage us in issues of witnessing, documentary, and the ethics of viewing.

Written work for the seminar will include collecting and analyzing images and a seminar paper addressing one of the controversial issues touched on in the course.

WARNING! The word icon is used–differently– in almost everything we read.



Written work:

Schedule of Assignments
Date Reading Topics Due
2 April (none) Organization&Issues:
Semiotic v. rhetorical approaches
4 April Barthes, in Handa 151-63 [Panzani]
cf. Scott McCloud, p.153, p. 154, p. 155
Word v. image Project #1 assigned: Limits of Images
9 April KvL: Intro, c.1
Colin Ware on Flow Diagrams
[Project #1]
11 April McCloud in Handa, 195-208
KvL, c.2
Writing with Images: Naturalism vs. Abstraction
(Mishra in Handa)
Modality, abstraction, color  
16 April KvL, c. 5 Modality and Models of mundane life
Some Flickr Links and HDR
Project #1 due
18 April KvL,c. 7 Materiality, Color [Project #2]
23 April KvL, c.4
Iraq War Images
social actors and agency; the gaze
25 April Kvl, c. 6
(Peled-Elhanen, 2009)
View:Rheim Alkadhi: Artist's Statement:My Lover in Unequal Parts (2006)
Composition and Layout Project # 2 due
30 April Barry, Intro and c. 1 Visual Perception, Gestalt Laws  
2 May Barry, c. 2 The power of images  
7 May Barry, c. 3 The Language of Images  
9 May Birdsall & Groarke, in Handa 309-320
J. Anthony Blair in Handa 344-363
The rhetorical perspective:
Argument, Genre, Cases
14 May Kenney, in Handa, 320-42
And again
Kevin Carter PP-winning pic
Hobbs in Handa, 55-70
Themes from the old rhetoric
16 May Azoulay, c. 3
Background for Azoulay
Morality of viewing
Rachel Corrie (see wiki)
21 May Hariman &Lucaites, cc. 1-2
Ethel Rosenburg
Matthew Brady: Bodies at Gettysburg
Sanna Dullaway
Loan again
Icons and iconoclasm in public culture
23 May Hariman &Lucaites, cc. 3-4 The Borders of the Genre
Performing Civic Identity
Big Kiss
Enacting the Masters
Cruising Manet
Florence Thompson pic
Raising the Flag At Ground Zero
28 May Hariman &Lucaites, c. 6:
Sturken, in Handa, 401-16
Trauma and Public Memory
Another kind of response: Martha Rosler
Suburban Napalm
Freedom of Speech
The Citizen Visits the Wall
The Falling Man
30 May Rhetoric for the Web:Documentary
Kim Stringfellow,Invisible 5-Audio Project (2009)
Kim Stringfellow, Jackrabbit Homestead(2008)
Russet Lederman, Barely Skin Deep: an on-line documentary on feminine beauty(2009)
Memoir and Reflective/exploratory writing:
Kristin Arola, Rhetoric, Christmas Cards, And Infertility: A Season Of Silence(2011)
Your rhetorical anaylsis and critique on your site for the day posted to the Bulletin Board
4 June Memoir cont. Erin R. Anderson, The Olive Project: an oral history composition in multiple modes(2011)
Joyce Dallal, Finding Home(2004)
Criteria for Evaluation:
The Movement of Air, The Breath of Meaning: Aurality and Multimodal Composing
Madeleine Sorapure: Between Modes: Assessing Students' New Media Compositions
6 June Presentations of paper topics   Papers due: 13 June, my office by 5pm (earlier will be welcomed)

©2012 George L. Dillon
Last modified: Wednesday, 29-May-2013 23:54:51 PDT