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Image Credit: Entertainmentwise
Celebrity fashion is a no-holds-barred spectators’ sport, and, like the fashion industry itself, it features and targets women as its primary audience. Free Thought blogger Greta Christina described the language of fashion succinctly in her recent post “Fashion is a Feminist Issue”, arguing that if we interpret fashion as a “language of sorts…an art form, even,” we can begin to view fashion as “one of the very few forms of expression in which women have more freedom than men.” But, she continues, “it’s [no] accident that it’s typically seen as shallow, trivial, and vain. It is the height of irony that women are valued for our looks, encouraged to make ourselves beautiful and ornamental… and are then derided as shallow and vain for doing so. Like it or not, fashion and style are primarily a women’s art form. And I think it gets treated as trivial because women get treated as trivial.”
This post seeks to read the rhetoric of celebrity fashion coverage in light of remarks like those of Greta Christina. How can we read celebrity fashion as an arena that in principle grants women more freedom than men, but in practice consistently limits the freedom of both men and women to express themselves? How do the voyeuristic, hypercritical impulses of celebrity media intersect and inform the world of fashion, particularly women’s fashion? I take as my case study here the much-photographed couple Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, sometimes known as a couple by their nickname “Kimye.”
American Mine (Carlin, NV 1), 2007
Image Credit: David Maisel
You must be thinking, "Gosh, that's marvelous! What is it?" Well, I'll give you some hints about what it's not. It's not a computer-generated image (so you can rule out "digital vat of candy for a Willy Wonka film"). And it wasn't captured by NASA on a trip to Neptune. If you guessed geode, then you're getting warmer, but you're still way off in terms of scale. Perhaps it looks to you like a place where a leprechaun might stash his gold. Well, strangely, that guess may be closest of all.
It turns out this absolutely mesmerizing photograph by David Maisel is an aerial view of a toxic manmade pond in Carlin Trend, Nevada, "the most prolific gold mining district in the Western Hemisphere" according to Maisel's website. The disorienting quality of the photo is a hallmark of Maisel's environmental photography, which explores the visually haunting, otherworldly transformations humans inflict on the Earth's surface. For decades, Maisel has been flying over and photographing sites of environmental wreckage, like the scored and chemically soaked basins of America's pit mines or the wasted lakebeds that once supplied Los Angeles with water. Beyond increasing awareness about these environmental disasters, Maisel's photographs enact a terrifying tug-of-war between ethics and aesthetics. As viewers experience and take pleasure in their sublime beauty, they are forced into the uncomfortable knowledge that these environmentally ruinous conditions have an irresistably attractive dimension.
I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to view a trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby adaptation yet, but I think I’ll see the film. This comment says nothing about my expectations for the film’s critical success, but rather reflects what a visual feast this production is sure to be. From what I can tell, the movie attempts to marriage a 1920s aesthetic with the sorts of gratuitous celebrations I remember last seeing 1990s rap music videos. The parties in the Great Gatsby film, as you can glimpse above, seem to be indulgent and overly choreographed affairs. At times the frame rate even appears to slow down a bit (like the polo shot in the trailer above), and I think this is meant to give viewers an opportunity to take it all in. I remember first seeing this technique in rap music videos, when the director would give us a slow-motion pan shot of an eclectic street party. It’ll be interesting to see how successful Luhrmann’s marriage of this 1990s aesthetic is when added to the necessary narrative components of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. One of my reservations is that there’s a way in which the novel is anxious about gratuitous wealth, especially about the ways wealth can potentially corrode moral fiber, and idealizing such parties seems out of step. My other reservation is that, judging from the trailers alone, the movie looks like a 2010s fashion catalogue.
About 2 months ago Austin was lucky enough to be among the handful of cities selected as a stop on a one-day presentation and workshop featuring Mr. Edward Tufte. What's more: The DWRL agreed that covering the cost of admission for a few of their staffers to be money well spent (thanks, Will Burdette).
For the uninitiated, Mr. Tufte is the granddaddy of all things related to visual representations of large amounts of data, complicated concepts, historical trends, and- quite literally- just about anything else you could think of. Hailed as “The Leonardo Di Vinci of Data," by the New York Times. Tufte was synthesizing massive amounts of information into beautiful visuals before the term “big data” had even pushed “the cloud” out of the way as the buzzword(s) of the moment.
An Arnold Newman "selfie" from 1987. Image credit: The Jewish Museum
One of my favorite parts of the Harry Ransom Center’s current exhibition on Arnold Newman is the way it resists chronology. Newman’s photographs are organizes by particular attention to one of ten elements of Newman’s photography as artistic practice: “searches,” “choices,” “fronts,” “geometries,” “habitats,” “lumen,” “rhythms,” “sensibilities,” “signatures,” and “weavings.” What results is an exhibit that resists a notion of Arnold Newman’s transformation over time. Instead, the exhibit suggests, audiences might read Newman by his unique manipulation of photography’s formal elements throughout his entire career.
The resistance to chronology is apparent, too, in the weaving, wandering nature of the physical exhibit. Temporary half-walls throughout the exhibition space designate no beginning or end point for audiences. Instead, the exhibit inspires audiences to accept Newman’s particular artistic practice across ten themes as definitive criteria for photographic excellence, and therefore evidence for celebrating the photographer himself.
Such a construction has encouraged me to think about the relationship between celebrated photographer and celebrated subject. Are there ways that these two categories inform each other in the case of Arnold Newman? Can we trace, even amidst the Harry Ransom Center’s achronological curation, a chronological shift in fame from photographer to photographed? How does fame work as a mechanism for those who garner fame by representing it and perhaps cultivating it? Can those who represent fame create it as well?
(Image credit: Harry Ransom Center)
It shouldn’t be surprising, but I was drawn to the photographs of architects in the Harry Ransom Center’s ongoing exhibit, Arnold Newman: Masterclass. They made the exhibit for me. Those of you who’ve kept up with my blogging in recent months know that I appreciate the art of designing interior and exterior spaces, and so to see photographs of architects in the Arnold Newman exhibit…it was a highlight. Jim and Rachel posted earlier this week about how Newman liked to place his subjects in front of something relevant to their work. Thus Igor Stravinsky was photographed next to a Steinway. I suspect this strategy served two purposes. First, and perhaps most importantly, framing subjects with their objets d’art allowed Newman to establish an aesthetic through which his own audience could gage his portraits. (We’d assume the JFK portrait was by Newman even if the photograph wasn’t attributed, because of the contrived way the White House sits in the background.) This surely eased Newman’s routine, as he had a formula to bring to each new shoot. Secondly, framing subjects with their objets d’art allowed Newman to comment on his subjects’ work, in much the same way that we might consider a modern Shakespeare production to be an interpretation of a Renaissance text. All of this is obvious and provocative in Newman’s photographs of architects.
Image Credit: The Harry Ransom Center
Porch and Chairs, West Palm Beach Florida, 1941
In between portraits of famous luminaries at the Harry Ransom Center's Arnold Newman Masterclass exhibit, there are a group of images from the photographer's early career that feel anonymous and private. They include pictures of landscapes, nameless figures, and modest structures--all subjects that seem to have been chosen for their compositional character rather than the associations they bring to mind. The above photograph from that period of a decontextualized porch and chairs resists our curiosity to see the whole house and place it in a particular setting, focusing us instead on form and line. The un-forthcomingness or formal starkness of this picture seems dramatically foreign to the photography of Newman's later career, the period of his well-known "environmental" portraits, which situated iconic individuals in settings that explained or extended their identities. (Rachel's post further glosses and complicates this term). Despite this, I'd like to point out some unifying threads between this quaint little study from West Palm Beach and a few, more recognizably Newmanian photographs, all of which are currently on display at the Ransom Center.
Image Credit: The Harry Ransom Center
Walking through the Harry Ransom Center’s Arnold Newman: Masterclass exhibit with a photographer friend helped me notice more than Newman’s numerous famous subjects. Creating a portrait requires more than just telling someone to smile or to stand in fair light; good photographers must understand how composition affects the final product. Framing matters, whether that’s done by putting wood around a picture or deciding where and how you crop the shot. The exhibit allows visitors to examine Newman’s artistic process, showing the evidence of how he edited his raw photographs into finished portraits. I want to look at in this post both his famous shot of Igor Stravinsky and his created “portrait” of Marilyn Monroe to think more about what we can learn about visual and non-visual editorial practice.
Image Credit: Photo from Arnold Newman Exhibit, Harry Ransom Center, taken by author; protected under Fair Use.
On February 12th, the traveling exhibition Arnold Newman: Masterclass began a four-month stop at UT’s esteemed Harry Ransom Center. As Newman was a prolific photographer with a strong belief in the instructional potential of photographs, the chance to see his life’s work first-hand was nothing short of spine-tingling to those of us with an unusually strong interest in visual culture and artifacts, especially when they have pedagogical implications! (Pretty dorky, I know.)
Louisville Cardinal players react to Kevin Ware's leg injury during March Madness. Image Credit: Yahoo Sports
I’ll admit, I stayed up way past my bedtime last night listening to the Boston police scanner, following as closely as I could the developments in the Boston Marathon bombing. In the wee hours of this morning, I thought about documenting the dozens of news items (as well as widespread speculation across message boards and social media) to take a tally of how much of the information proliferating in the uncertainty of Friday morning would be disproved by Friday afternoon.
As I began the project, it soon proved futile—there was far too much information and I ran into (as I might have anticipated) problems discerning journalistic fact from fiction right from the get go. It was only when I stopped documenting and trying to quantify the evidence that I began to think about the relationship between violence and speculative practice and assemble a quite different archive. [GORE WARNING: the images beyond this cut are NSFW and may shock and disturb some viewers. Discretion is advised.]
SG BaileyTags: FallaciesQuick ActivitiesReviewBrief Assignment Overview:
This assignment is designed to check student comprehension of rhetorical fallacies. It can also be used to begin to discuss rhetorical analysis of images.Lesson Plan Content: Rhetorical Anlysis Type of Assignment: In-class ExerciseAssignment Length: Partial Class PeriodTimeline for Optimal Use: Mid-SemesterPedagogical Goals:
This is a quick activity that can follow a lecture on rhetorical fallacies. Students learn to recognize fallacies and discuss how they are operating. Some of the images themselves are useful for analysis which is a nice transition into visual rhetoric.Media Requirements: Media Console/ProjectorRequired Materials:
Some sort of projector & slideshow.
Copies of bingo card (attached)
Slideshow (attached as a powerpoint, but easy to print out & use with a standard projector or doc cam)Course Type: Introductory Writing CourseCourse Description:
Rhetoric 306 is a course designed to introduce students to the fundamentals of research and argumentation. They are asked to research a controversy, summarize and analyze the arguments of the major stakeholders in that controversy, and then develop their own arguments.Full Assignment Description:
This is an assignment that can expand or contract -- it might be as short as ten minutes or could go an entire class period (though that seems a lot of time to practice recognizing rhetorical fallacies). I included it immediately after my lecture on rhetorical fallacies and used it to transition to visual rhetorical analysis as well. Reviewing their notes, students were asked to copy the names of the rhetorical fallacies covered in lecture onto their bingo cards. (I used Scare Tactics, Either/Or, Slippery Slope, Sentimental Appeal, Bandwagon, False Authority, Dogmatism, Moral Equivalence, Ad Homenim, Hasty Generalization, Faulty Causality, Begging the Question, Straw Man, Equivocation, Non Sequitur, & Faulty Analogy). They could choose any layout they liked, and repeated two or three terms if they chose to.
As a class, we then went through the rhetorical fallacy slide show. Students were asked to identfy the fallacy at work in the image -- some contain more than one -- and then justify their choice. This led to some useful class discussion and clarification as students advocated for an image falling into one category or another. Once we decided what fallacy each image represented, students marked it off of their cards and we moved on to the next slide. We stopped when someone hit bingo (it took us about ten slides).Suggestions for Instructor Preparation:
Print & copy cards. The slideshow is easy to modify depending on which fallacies you want to address.
I did made sure that my lecture contained written examples of fallacies, so students could see how fallacies work in both text and image.Instructions For Students:
Please fill in the squares with the names of rhetorical fallacies.
Call it when you have bingo.Evaluation Suggestions:
This activity itself functions as a check for understanding, so there's no real evaluation necessary (other than calling on quieter students to bring them into the conversation).Notes on Reception, Execution, etc.:
This went great for me -- I've found that students generally like doing fallacies anyway, but once it was a competition they got pretty serious about it. They made some great points about why an image should qualify as a particular fallacy, and there was good back & forth as they defended their calls.Additional Resources:
Image Credit: plus.google.com
At the end of my last post I promised to examine Brad Paisley and LL Cool J's controversial duet "Accidental Racist" in light of Paisley's 2011 "Camouflage" homage. This follow-up post offers that analysis as well as some context from Paisley's pop-country contemporaries and a recent national dialogue about race.
Doug CoulsonImage Credit:
I’m teaching an upper-division rhetorical theory course about legal rhetoric that requires students to write a 2,500-4,000 word research aper in which they rhetorically analyze two or more opposing arguments regarding an evidentiary controversy in a forensic dispute (typically this will be a trial or similar proceeding), and critique or extend a particular theory of forensic rhetoric as it applies to the rhetorical analysis they provide. This is a staged writing assignment that begins about a thirdd of the way through the semester and is concluded at the end of the semester. During the second half of the semester, I have students deliver oral presentations on the papers in progress.
This semester, rather than have students present their own papers to the class, I've paired them with a peer and asked each to present the other's paper instead. The detais of this exercise may be found here: http://lessonplans.dwrl.utexas.edu/content/oral-presentations-peers. After participating in such a peer presentation format myself at a professional workshop, I became convinced that such a format could facilitate a deeper level of peer review and collaborative learning as well as facilitate classroom discussion regarding the writing process in undergraduate and graduate student environments as well. No classroom technology is required for this assignment, although a media consolae/projector facilitates students who want to use technology in their presentations.
The assignment requires students to deliver an 8-12 minute oral presentation to the class (1) restating their peer’s paper, (2) identifying the conversation in which their peer’s paper is situated, and (2) offering constructive feedback or questions regarding their peer’s paper that might be helpful for the class to discuss to assist the author. Their peer in turn delivers a presentation regarding their paper. After each presentation, a brief Q&A period is permitted for the class to discuss the paper and ask the author questions if desired. The author may respond to questions during this period, but otherwise the author is discouraged from intervening to explain their work during the presentation but encouraged instead simply listen to the restatement and commentary offered by the presenter and the class. Part of the pedagogical value of the assignment is to liberate the author from the defensiveness that often accompanies presenting their own work and allow them to carefully listen to their peers' interpretations and comments on their work.
Students are encouraged to approach the presentations as writer sharing a peer’s work with fellow writers and to not be overly formal. The presentations are required to follow a formal outline, contain the content called for by the protocol below and be in the order set forth in the protocol, and be delivered within the stated time limits. When the time limit is up, the presentation is stopped. Students are allowed but not required to use audio-visual materials during their presentations as long as they’re not used to substitute for extemporaneous commentary.
The protocol I provide to students as an arrangement device is to spend the first 4-6 minutes describing the paper and identifying its central arguments and contributions. What appears to be the central question that the paper seeks to address? How would the presenter state the author’s central argument or thesis? How does the author develop the paper? In what debates or discussions does the paper situate itself? What does the author contribute to the conversation the paper engages? The presenter is then asked to spend a couple of minutes identifying the evidence and methods the author uses to support the claims made. Finally, the presenter is asked to conclude with 2-6 minutes of constructive feedback identifying one or two broad areas in which the paper might be improved and raising issues for the group to discuss to assist the author.
The assignment is graded based primarily on the basis of completion, contingent only on the students meeting the minimum requirements that the presentation follow a formal outline, contain the content called for by the protocol and in the order set forth in the protocol, and be delivered within the stated time limits.
Students have reported some aanxiety both as author and as presenter of a peer's paper, particularly regarding losing control of the presentation and not being in a position to defend their work as author or mischaracterizing their peer's work as presenter. My experience is that students take the presentations more seriously when presenting a peer's work than when presenting their own, however, and in some ways experience less anxiety because they don't have to defend their work. They also appear to value the experience of hearing a peer restate their paper's content. Requiring them to read a peer's paper in sufficient depth to deliver a presentation regarding it has also proved educational about the writing process.
All in all I've been impressed with the results of peer presentations as opposed to author presentations of student work in the classroom. It offers presentations with some perspective for the benefit of the class and offers student authors a much deeper experience of peer review of their work while liberating them to carefully listen to how a peer is reading and interpreting their writing. It also challenges presenters to develop their skills of offering metacritical commentary for a larger audience. Students have approached the assignment with great care and discipline, and I expect the format contributes to this improved presentation ethic over author presentations.Tags: rhetoricWritingPresentationPeer Review
Doug CoulsonImage Credit:
Jbrazito's PhotostreamTags: RhetoricWritingPresentationsPeer ReviewBrief Assignment Overview:
Students deliver oral presentations to the class of each others' work and offer constructive commentary on their peer's paper.Lesson Plan Content: Writing ProcessAudiencePeer ReviewPresentations Type of Assignment: In-class ExerciseAssignment Length: Partial Class PeriodTimeline for Optimal Use: Late in the SemesterPedagogical Goals:
This assignment is intended to facilitate a deeper level of peer review and collaborative learning as well as facilitate classroom discussion regarding the writing process.Media Requirements: No Classroom Technology RequiredRequired Materials:
No classroom technology is required for this assignment, although a media consolae/projector facilitates students who want to use technology in their presentations.Course Type: Advanced Writing CourseIntermediate Writing CourseIntroductory Writing CourseCourse Description:
In his book On the Contrary, rhetoric scholar Thomas Sloane writes, ”Rhetorical thought is—let us admit it—highly perverse and lawyerly in nature.” In this statement, Sloane not only alludes to the closely intertwined history of rhetoric and law from the earliest days of Western thought to the modern era, but highlights the shared promotion by both of these fields of an agonistic “art of controversy” which seeks to facilitate controversy through the practice of arguing both sides of a case, a practice classical rhetoricians called in utramque partem (“on either side”). The principal theorists of classical Greek and Roman rhetoric promoted agonistic contests in which speakers argued opposite sides of disputed issues, often with specifically judicial contexts in mind, and the American legal system’s adversarial system of justice is founded on a contest of accusation and defense between parties in which each seeks to persuade a judge or jury of disputed issues on opposite sides of a case.
Despite the close relationship between rhetoric and law, however, and the fact that the lawyer remains, in the words of legal scholar James Boyd White, “the modern rhetorician in its purest form,” the modern professionalization of law has frequently attempted to deny or repress the rhetorical aspects of legal discourse and the agonistic conflict on which the adversarial system of justice is founded. Instead, modern law has promoted a view of legal discourse as a value-neutral “science” based on logical deduction and immune to social and political influence. This paradoxical relationship between law and rhetoric in modern legal discourse has produced a recent revival of questions about modern law’s denial of rhetoric, including important questions about the role of character and emotion in legal argument, the role of narrative in the analysis of legal evidence, the effect of the adversarial system of justice on social cohesion and division, and the relationship of legal rhetoric to democracy, coercion, and violence.
We’ll study these questions by first examining the forms of argument used in the legal profession today, focusing on arguments regarding the interpretation of circumstantial evidence in legal cases and the analogical, or case-based, form of legal argument known as “legal reasoning” which is used to argue for or against the application of judicial precedent to new cases. Specifically, we’ll study arguments regarding the evidence in controversial trials such as the 1976 Patty Hearst trial, the 1982 Lindy Chamberlain (“Dingo”) trial, the 1992 Randy Weaver (“Ruby Ridge”) trial, and the 1994 trials of Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, Jr., and Jason Baldwin (the “West Memphis Three”), as well as arguments and judicial opinions in U.S. Supreme Court cases regarding the Fourth Amendment’s search and seizure clause and the minimum standards of effective legal advocacy found in the Sixth Amendment’s right to assistance of counsel. After examining the forms and purposes of legal rhetoric as it is actually employed in the legal profession, we’ll then consider contemporary critiques of the adversary system and the agonistic rhetoric on which it depends, including critiques implicit in public perceptions of the legal system and cultural representations of lawyers.Full Assignment Description:
In this assignment, you will deliver an 8-12 minute oral presentation to the class (1) restating your peer’s paper, (2) identifying the conversation in which your peer’s paper is situated, and (2) offering constructive feedback or questions regarding your peer’s paper that might be helpful for the class to discuss to assist the author. Your peer will in turn deliver a presentation regarding your paper. After each presentation, a brief Q&A period will be permitted for the class to discuss the paper and ask the author questions if desired. The author may respond to questions during this period, but otherwise the author should not intervene to explain their work during the presentation but should instead simply listen to the restatement and commentary offered by the presenter and the class.
You should approach your presentation as a writer sharing a peer’s work with fellow writers and not be overly formal. Your presentation must follow a formal outline, contain the content called for by the protocol below and in the order set forth in the protocol, and be delivered within the stated time limits. When the time limit is up, the presentation will be stopped. You should practice the presentation before you deliver it live to ensure that you can deliver it within the stated time limits. Please note that a paper outline is required and must be handed to me before to your presentation on the day it is scheduled. You’re allowed but not required to use audio-visual materials during your oral presentation as long as they’re not used to substitute for your own extemporaneous commentary during the presentation. You can present sitting down or standing from any location in the classroom that you wish.
*Authors are obligated to deliver a copy of their paper to their presenter no less than 72 hours before the scheduled presentation so that the presenter has adequate time to prepare.
Your presentation should closely approximate the following format:
(1) Describe the paper and identify its central argument(s)/contribution(s) (4-6 minutes). What appears to be the central issue/puzzle that the paper seeks to address? How would you state the paper’s central argument or thesis? How does the author develop the paper? (Provide a very brief summary of the paper and its arrangement.) In what debates/discussions does the paper situate itself? What does the author contribute to the conversation the paper engages.
(2) Identify the evidence/methods the author uses to support the claims made (2 minutes).
(3) Offer constructive feedback (2-6 minutes). Identify one or two broad areas in which the paper might be improved. What might be helpful for the group to discuss to assist the author?Suggestions for Instructor Preparation:
No instructor preparation is required.Instructions For Students:
Students are provided the full assignment description set forth above.Evaluation Suggestions:
The assignment is graded based primarily on the basis of completion, contingent only on the students meeting the minimum requirements that the presentation follow a formal outline, contain the content called for by the protocol and in the order set forth in the protocol, and be delivered within the stated time limits.Notes on Reception, Execution, etc.:
Students have reported some aanxiety both as author and as presenter of a peer's paper, particularly regarding losing control of the presentation and not being in a position to defend their work as author or mischaracterizing their peer's work as presenter. My experience is that students take the presentations more seriously when presenting a peer's work than when presenting their own, however, and in some ways experience less anxiety because they don't have to defend their work. They also appear to value the experience of hearing a peer restate their paper's content, and requiring them to read a peer's paper in sufficient depth to deliver a presentation regarding it haas also proved educational about the writing process.
A few weeks ago a 2001 press conference with Bob Dylan emerged on youtube. Dylan, usually cagey and recalcitrant with reporters, is unusually earnest in the interview. He says a lot about his career and his Love and Theft album, which he was promoting at the time. You can check out a clip above, and the interview’s other five segments can be found on youtube. The reason I choose to bring this to the attention of the blog is that in the interview Dylan makes some interesting comments about the state of literature in America, and in particular some comments about how digital media is affecting the ways we feel. The comments, which I’ll outline below, are particularly relevant after yesterday’s massacre at the Boston Marathon, but I’ll leave that connection to your own reflections – we’ve all seen coverage of that tragedy, and I don’t want to add to the noise. As the version of Bob Dylan who appeared on the day of that interview might suggest, this post isn’t a work of art and thus I have no business telling you how to feel.
Katherine CoxImage Credit:
Image Credit: viz.Tags: ObjectivityEvaluating writingToneRegisterViz.Writing examplesBlogsInventionBrief Assignment Overview:
By reading and browsing Viz. posts, students learn the difference between objective analysis and value judgment. This assignment also uses Viz. to teach students that the topics and tone used for rhetorical analysis can be wide-ranging and non- “academic.”
Lesson Plan Content: Visual AnalysisAudienceInventionTopic SelectionStyleRhetorical Anlysis Type of Assignment: Class DiscussionAssignment Length: Single Class PeriodTimeline for Optimal Use: Early in the SemesterMid-SemesterPedagogical Goals:
- Foster rhetorical analysis skills by distinguishing objective from opinion-based writing
- Enlarge students’ concept of what is an effective tone for a non-expert audience
- Encourage students to choose unique artifacts for analysis and/or draw inventive connections
- Provide examples of rhetorical analysis
Ideally each student will be able to access the Internet on his or her own computer (but this is not required)Course Type: Advanced Writing CourseIntermediate Writing CourseIntroductory Writing CourseLiterary Studies CourseCourse Description:
This assignment is chiefly designed with a beginning to intermediate rhetoric and composition course in mind. It can easily be adapted to an introductory literature course, however, by approaching Viz. posts as “close readings.” This would work especially well in a Lit. course with a multi-media requirement (since Viz. posts often incorporate on mixed media).Full Assignment Description:
Start by explaining to students the goals of the day’s discussion.
Next explain what Viz. is: “A blog about visual rhetoric and visual culture whose contributors write short, analytical posts about rhetorically meaningful visual phenomena in the news, in popular culture, in their communities, digital environments, etc.”
Reference Viz.’s audience and compare it to the audience students will be writing for. Point out the similarities (neither audience is necessarily knowledgeable about the subject being discussed) and differences (Viz.’s audience my have an inherent interest in visual media whereas students may not be able to assume this about their audience).
Part 1: Distinguishing Objective Analysis from Value Judgments (20 - 25 minutes)
Explain that bloggers, columnists, editorialists, and non-fiction writers often mix objective analysis with statements that are more subjective. Talk about genre and why or why not this “mixed” form of writing is appropriate for these generic categories and venues.
Spend some time going over how to recognize and distinguish each kind of analysis. The following tables might be useful for this part of the exercise:
- are substantiated
- do not reveal personal bias
- consider multiple perspectives
- depend on personal opinion
- depend on values with shifting definitions (goodness, badness, morality, effectiveness, successfulness, beauty, etc.)
Have students read a pre-selected Viz. post in full. Here are a few good choices:
Next, find a passage that contains an objective statement and one that contains subjective statements. Point out and explain the difference. Ask students to identify other objective and subjective statements in the same blog post. Give students 10 minutes to do this. Afterwards, ask them to report back to the class and explain their determinations. Write one objective claim and one subjective claim on the board and ask the class to compare and contrast.
Explain how students should use objective and subjective claims in their own writing. When is it appropriate to offer one’s opinion? When is it only acceptable to offer a balanced, objective analysis? Can you do both in a single piece of writing?
Part 2: Exploring a Range of Rhetorical Subjects and Tones (30-35 mins)
This part of the activity involves a 10-15 minute lecture and class discussion followed by a 20-minute period in which students find an image and compose their own analysis paragraphs.
Remind students that rhetoric (especially visual rhetoric) can be found everywhere, not just in academic or political arenas. Show them the following Viz. posts to demonstrate that media as diverse as popular film, celebrity gossip magazines, fashion blogs, and architectural drawings can be good sources for rhetorical analysis.
“Reading Django Unchained as Camp”
“Ads on Bodies and Bodies in Ads at SXSW”
“Bel Geddes, Surprising Office Buildings of the Early Twentieth Century, and an American Work Ethic”
“Negotiating Modesty: Reading Mormon Fashion Blogs as Visual Rhetoric”
Next, address tone. What kind of tone is appropriate for deconstructing the press coverage of nude English royals? How about a rhetorical analysis of religious fashion blogs?
After a general discussion, ask your students to break off and find an image from an unusual corner of the Internet (perhaps from a site they visit for recreational reading). Ask them to compose an analysis paragraph about the image’s argument and rhetorical techniques. Tell them to be mindful of tone while they compose the paragraph. Are their issues (of a sexual, political or racial nature) they should be sensitive to? Does the image provoke humor, and should their response mimic its humor? Etc.
These paragraphs may be collected for a grade or shared verbally with the class.Suggestions for Instructor Preparation:
For Part 1: Set aside about 20 minutes to select a sample viz. post, read it, and extract examples of subjective and objective statements.
For Part 2: Set aside about 30-45 minutes to select and pull out illustrative language from a handful of viz. posts.Instructions For Students:
In this activity you will refer to a UT blog called Viz. Viz. is a blog about visual rhetoric and visual culture. Its contributors write short, analytical posts about rhetorically meaningful visual phenomena in the news, in popular culture, in their communities, digital environments, etc.
Part 1: Distinguishing Objective Analysis from Value Judgments
Bloggers, columnists, editorialists, and non-fiction writers often mix objective analysis with statements that are more subjective. Please read the following post [insert link to pre-selected Viz. post] and answer the following questions.
1. Transcribe two examples of statements that make value judgments.
2. Transcribe two examples of objective analysis.
3. Discuss the difference between the examples you wrote down for 1 and 2. What makes one set subjective and the other objective?
Part 2: Exploring a Range of Rhetorical Subjects and Tones
Rhetoric (especially visual rhetoric) can be found everywhere, not just in academic or political arenas. Media as diverse as popular film, celebrity gossip magazines, fashion blogs, and architectural drawings can serve as good sources for rhetorical analysis.
Think about the variety of blog posts we looked at today. Use the remainder of class to
1. Find an image from an unusual corner of the Internet (perhaps from a site you visit for recreational reading).
2. Compose a paragraph that analyzes the image’s argument and rhetorical techniques as if you were writing for Viz. (Be mindful of tone. Are there issues (of a sexual, political or racial nature) you should be sensitive to? Does the image provoke humor, and should your response mimic its humor? Etc.)Evaluation Suggestions:
The paragraphs from Part 2 may be collected for a grade or shared verbally with the class.
Above: An example of books serving in Ancillary Capacity #422: "The To-Do List"
In his book, “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable,” Nassim Nicholas Taleb unapologetically and only somewhat jokingly points out some of the “superficial” benefits of the printed book versus the e-reader:
[I have realized] the foolishness of thinking that books are there to be read and could be replaced by electronic files. Think of the spate of functional redundancies provided by books. You cannot impress your neighbors with electronic files. You cannot prop up your ego with electronic files…Objects seem to have invisible but significant auxiliary functions that we are not aware of consciously, but that allow them to thrive- and on occasion, as with decorator books, the auxiliary function becomes the principal one. (Taleb at 319)
While the ability to impress your friends with your lofty collection might not be seen as a terribly compelling argument in the print/e-book debate, implicit in what he says is an acknowledgment of a separate, secondary (or tertiary, and so on) “meaning” that books can have that is entirely detached from the words written therein. Books, precisely because they are physical, tangible objects, lend themselves to a connection with the reader on multiple levels.
Image Credit: Deeras23
In my previous post, I outlined DeCordova’s arguments about the emergence of a discourse on acting in the early 20th century, and the contributions that discourse made to modern conceptions of celebrity, beginning in silent film. In this post, I’d like to translate those arguments into a discussion of 21st century media and attempt to outline a discourse on “gifing,” and what that can tell us about the intersections of gifs and celebrity in the 21st century public sphere.
Image Credit: Mark Humphrey, AP
The media reacted volubly to Brad Paisley's song "Accidental Racist," a ballad on his newly released "Wheelhouse" album that openly tackles the problem of racism. Staging a dialogue between Paisley and rapper LL Cool J, the song imagines the tense process of "remembering and forgetting" slavery, as one critic put it, from highly stereotyped white and black perspectives. Many voices from the blogosphere last week, including Stewart and Harris from Jezebel and Slate, fumed at the song's presentation of racial history and relations, while others viewed it as simply a provocative song characteristic of Paisley's other work. That it was selected by the NYTimes.com for one of the online "Room for Debate" forums is, perhaps, an indication of how ripe the song's lyrics are for critique and how generative they are of competing rhetorics.
Here I will consider how controversial lyrics from "Accidental Racist" alongside resonant verses from Paisley and other mainstream country artists foreground surfaces and appearances--clothing, physique, and color, for instance--to talk about identity, race, and social perceptions.
Katherine CoxImage Credit:
Image Credit: Richard Allaway
When I was studying for my field exam I sometimes fantasized about crowdsourcing my reading. I wished I could divvy up my list of books between friends and family and have write summaries for me. Though ultimately an ineffective way to study for a high-stakes, graduate level exam, it strikes me that collaborative research might be worth promoting in the classroom, especially when teaching content is not the primary focus of the course. This post considers when, how, and why students should be encouraged to pool their time and resources on research tasks.
The introductory rhetoric courses that many of us pedagogy bloggers teach usually begin with a research unit. Students gather materials focused around select topics and attempt to synthesize the positions represented in them. To my mind, this is when students should make an independent effort to find credible sources that interest them. (By the same token, this is when my instruction regarding research is the most formal and comprehensive.) Each student should come away from this unit able to sift through a body of literature on their topic, and do so on their own. The value and necessity of having independent research skills can’t be overstated.
However, later in the semester, after students have proven they are personally capable of researching their own topics, I encourage them to think of their peers as knowledge sources and the class as a human database. Depending on your class and your students’ needs, collaborative research can take a couple different forms. The first is what I like to call “crowdsharing.” This method has students post research from earlier in the course in a digital repository (e.g. a course wiki or blog). This broadens the base of ideas/sources/perspectives at their fingertips without asking them to perform more searches “from scratch.” Assignments may be designed with these student-powered repositories in mind. For instance, you might ask students to choose two articles from different classmates’ projects and compare their rhetorical strategies.
The second kind of collaboration I encourage in my classroom is of the “crowdsourcing” variety. This technique is useful when the entire class needs to quickly familiarize itself with a new body of literature or data set. To accomplish this, I have students break up into groups, perform Internet searches, and work on filling in a shared Google Doc spreadsheet. I use this activity to get them thinking about the sheer number and variety of audiences they might address in their final persuasive essay. In my course potential audiences include entities that students have little or know prior knowledge of, i.e. angel investors, angel networks, startup accelerators, incubators, venture capitalists, etc. So, they appreciate having access to a shared “cheat sheet” about these groups when it comes time to choose an audience for their argument.
This kind of research actually comes quite naturally to students who may already be pooling resources outside of the classroom. Moreover, it strikes me as a good behavior to reinforce, as this is how research generally happens in professional settingsTags: research skillsstudent collaborationaudience