Thursday, January 13, 2011

_Defining Visual Rhetorics_ (Part 1)

Notes on "The Rhetoric of Visual Arguments" (BLAIR)
*Claims that, since Aristotle, rhetoric has been about verbal persuasion
-->B wants to retain the focus on persuasion but show visuals can persuade and thus function as arguments in their own right
-Rhetoricians have typically understood persuasion as “causing someone to believe [or behave differently] by means of speech” (42)
-The ability of an audience to freely support or resist a rhetor’s message is a necessary condition for persuasion.
((Visual images often incite us to infuse them with (our own) narratives))
In the traditional sense, argument is assertion plus rational evidence.
--> Do images claim to assert truths?
-B claims visuals do perform arguments in this traditional sense (i.e., rational persuasion)
-Common objections: vagueness and ambiguity are enemies to argument and images are often ambiguous
-B counters by saying verbal discourse can be vague/ambiguous too (and still communicate effectively)
-B also believes that images often contain/imply propositions, claims, and reasons, which we can enumerate in our verbal descriptions of them (He believes images can't quite maintain the high level of complexity of verbal argumentative conventions such as presenting objections and stipulating qualifications--visuals thus tend to be driven by enthymeme.)
-For B, images have special rhetorical powers: evocative/visceral, quick/minimalist, don't have to rely too much on audience's imagination, and they can carry a sense of realism...for these reasons, visuals tend to be better than words at evoking involuntary reactions
-Genres of visual argument: cartoon (iconic imagery); film (credible narratives)...B says TV ads are generally not visual arguments in his sense because they seek to establish certain associations with a particular brand/product and usually don't forward elements of rational persuasion: "the symbols do their work precisely by making contact with our unconsciously held, symbol-interpreting apparatus, not by engaging our capacity to assess reasons and their implications" (58).

Notes on "Framing the Fine Arts Through Rhetoric" (HELMERS)
*H wants "explore the persuasive qualities of painting as a fine art" (63).
-The Sister Arts tradition in literary criticism emphasized correspondence among lit and painting why visual rhetoric is more interested in the image itself as a carrier of meaning.
-Kenneth Burke as a pioneer in visual rhetoric, urging scholars to study a multitude of symbolic forms, abstracting "both text and image to the level of signs" (64).
-H claims "looking is always framed by past experiences and learned ideas about how and what to see" (65).
-H discusses the relation between image and narrative--narrative animates the static image (66-67).
-H argues that painting can be understood as a rhetorical/transaction act that is the result of an artist's choices and created for particular audiences; and that viewing paintings is also a transaction process (69).
-H wants to view painting spatially and temporally, not just as a spatial art. Temporal narrative surround the spatiality of the painting as viewers view them.
-H asserts the importance of the curators work (eg, selecting works and writing text-labels/panels) in framing and shaping museum visitors' experiences of paintings (78).  (The curators are responsible for crafting a "way of seeing" painting in the museum space.)
-H discusses an exhibit of Winslow Homer paintings, showing the his work invites viewers to imagine narratives to round out the meaning of a given image/scene (80).
-H quotes Michael Baxandall: "most of the better things we can think or say about pictures stand in a slightly peripheral relation to the picture itself" (we present out experience of and thinking about the painting) (83).

Notes on "Visual Rhetoric in Pens of Steel and Inks of Silk: Challenging the Great Visual/Verbal Divide" (GOGGINS)
-Most definitions of visual rhetoric draw a dividing line b/w words and images, but G wants to argue that the relationship b/w words and images is fluid and not really divisible
-Exclusive attn. to verbal language has caused us to neglect other kinds of semiotic resources and practices
-Alphabetic writing is already itself utterly visual
-Each writing technology (and the cultural place of that technology) grants certain affordances to writers (89)
-G then explores needleworking as a semiotic practice that has existed on the margins of scholarly/cultural rhetoric and has thus gone un-theorized as a (visual) rhetorical practice on the grounds of its materiality
-In needlework, the semiotic resources used to make images and words are the same resources (eg, thread); the material process of stitching words is no different from that of stitching images (91)
-Generalizing from needlework's history, G claims, "The relationship between the means of semiotic production and circulation is symbiotic" (102)

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