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Read Chapter 8 – Echoes of Camelot: How Images Construct Cultural Memory Through Rhetorical Framing by Janis L. Edwards Write two paragraphs of summary capturing what the Edwards is trying to say about how the media uses images & photographs rhetorically? Are their images that come to your mind that have defined a narrative (in history) through the use of symbolism and prompted public engagement in some way? Include an image or link to an image that you feel has been used historically to tell a narrative. How has this image been used to tell a narrative? How? Reply two two other student posts.

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Edited by
Charles A. Hill
Marguerite Helmers
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Mahwah, New Jersey
This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2008.
“To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s
collection of thousands of eBooks please go to”
Copyright © 2004 by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any
form, by photostat, microform, retrieval system, or any other
means, without prior written permission of the publisher.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Publishers
10 Industrial Avenue
Mahwah, New Jersey 07430
Cover photograph by Richard LeFande; design by Anna Hill
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Defining visual rhetorics / edited by Charles A. Hill, Marguerite Helmers.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-8058-4402-3 (cloth : alk. paper)
ISBN 0-8058-4403-1 (pbk. : alk. paper)
1. Visual communication. 2. Rhetoric. I. Hill, Charles A. II. Helmers,
Marguerite H., 1961– .
P93.5.D44 2003
ISBN 1-4106-0997-9 Master e-book ISBN
To Anna,
who inspires me every day.
—C. A. H.
To Emily and Caitlin,
whose artistic perspective inspires and instructs.
—M. H. H.
Marguerite Helmers and Charles A. Hill
1 The Psychology of Rhetorical Images
Charles A. Hill
2 The Rhetoric of Visual Arguments
J. Anthony Blair
3 Framing the Fine Arts Through Rhetoric
Marguerite Helmers
4 Visual Rhetoric in Pens of Steel and Inks of Silk:
Challenging the Great Visual/Verbal Divide
Maureen Daly Goggin
5 Defining Film Rhetoric: The Case of Hitchcock’s Vertigo
David Blakesley
6 Political Candidates’ Convention Films:Finding the Perfect
Image—An Overview of Political Image Making
J. Cherie Strachan and Kathleen E. Kendall
7 Gendered Environments: Gender and the Natural World
in the Rhetoric of Advertising
Diane S. Hope
8 Echoes of Camelot: How Images Construct Cultural
Memory Through Rhetorical Framing
Janis L. Edwards
9 Doing Rhetorical History of the Visual: The Photograph
and the Archive
Cara A. Finnegan
10 Melting-Pot Ideology, Modernist Aesthetics,
and the Emergence of Graphical Conventions:
The Statistical Atlases of the United States, 1874–1925
Charles Kostelnick
11 The Rhetoric of Irritation: Inappropriateness as Visual/
Literate Practice
Craig Stroupe
12 Placing Visual Rhetoric: Finding Material Comfort
in Wild Oats Market
Greg Dickinson and Casey Malone Maugh
13 Envisioning Domesticity, Locating Identity: Constructing
the Victorian Middle Class Through Images of Home
Andrea Kaston Tange
14 Framing the Study of Visual Rhetoric: Toward
a Transformation of Rhetorical Theory
Sonja K. Foss
About the Contributors
Author Index
Subject Index
A few years ago, we noticed a major shift in the field of rhetoric, one in which
an increasing amount of the discipline’s attention was becoming focused on
visual objects and on the visual nature of the rhetorical process. The phrase
visual rhetoric was being used more frequently in journal articles, in textbooks,
and especially in conference presentations. However, it seemed equally obvious that the phrase was being used in many different ways by different scholars. There seemed little agreement on what exactly scholars intended when
they used the term, and no reliable way to distinguish the work being done under the rubric of “visual rhetoric” as a coherent category of study.
Some scholars seemed to consider visual elements only in relation to expressing quantitative relationships in charts and graphs. Others concentrated
solely on the ubiquity of visual elements on the Internet, which might give the
impression that visual elements are important only in online communication.
Much of the more culturally oriented work was based in art history and art
theory, sometimes using the terms visual rhetoric and visual culture to refer to
artistic images exclusively. In still other cases, the use of the word visual included visualizing, the mental construction of internal images, while other
scholars seemed to use it to refer solely to conventional two-dimensional images. Add those scholarly pursuits to the study of print and film advertising,
television, and cinema, and suddenly a new field of inquiry emerged, rich with
possibility, but sometimes puzzling in its breadth.
The larger problem was not that rhetoricians were analyzing a wide variety
of visuals—we saw this diversity of efforts as exciting and productive. The
problem was that there seemed to be very little agreement on the basic nature
of the two terms visual and rhetoric. To some, studying the “visual” seemed to
consist solely of analyzing representational images, while to others, it could
include the study of the visual aspect of pretty much anything created by human hands—a building, a toaster, a written document, an article of clothing—
making the study of “visual rhetoric” overlap greatly with the study of design.
To still others, the study of visual rhetoric seemed to necessarily involve a
study of the process of looking, of “the gaze,” with all of the psychological
and cultural implications that have become wrapped within that term.
Scholars engaged in visual analysis have also (with notable exceptions)
largely neglected to discuss the ways in which their work is truly rhetorical, as
opposed to an example of cultural studies or semiotics. What seems clear is
that the turn to the visual has problematized any attempts to distinguish between these methodologies, blurring further what were already quite fuzzy
and often shifting boundaries between them. But while it would make little
sense to try to draw any rigid boundaries between these methodologies, we
think it is still useful to ask of any scholar what aspects of his or her work make
it legitimate or useful to label such work “rhetorical.”
As we thought about the definitional problems surrounding the study of
visual rhetoric, it became immediately clear that the appropriate response was
not to try to “nail down” the term, to stipulate a set of definitions that all rhetoricians would agree to abide by (a naïve notion, to say the least). Rather, we
thought that it would be more interesting and productive to have scholars
working with visuals discuss the definitional assumptions behind their own
work, and to exemplify these assumptions by sharing their own rhetorical
analyses of visual phenomena. Our own assumptions behind this approach
are two-fold. First, any discussion of definitions from which one is operating is
necessarily post-hoc; that is, one discovers such definitional assumptions
through the work, rather than explicating them (even to oneself ) before approaching a scholarly project. Second, at this very early stage in the contemporary study of visual rhetoric, we assume that people are more interested in
writing about and in reading about specific scholarly projects than in lengthy
arguments about definitions.
We asked each contributor to this book to explain how his or her work fits
under the heading of, and helps define, the term visual rhetoric. Using this approach, we hoped to capture the diversity of the work being done in this area
while providing—for readers and, by extension, for the rhetoric community—
some explanation of how this wide variety of work can be seen as complementary and part of a coherent whole. Our goal is not to promote any particular claims about what terms such as visual and rhetoric and visual rhetoric should
or must mean. Rather, we 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—about how they can be productively used in creative ways to explore a
broad range of phenomena, but without being diffused to the point where
they lose their explanatory power.
We intend this book for anyone who is involved in or interested in such conversations. This includes not just those who are working explicitly on projects
in visual rhetoric, but anyone interested in the rhetorical nature of visuals or in
the disciplinary issues surrounding the increasing overlap between methodologies (rhetoric, semiotics, cultural studies) and disciplines (rhetoric, communication, art theory, etc.) by which and in which visual phenomena are
studied. It is, perhaps, this refusal to be restricted by disciplinary and methodological boundaries that many of us working in this area find so exciting about
visual rhetoric, and we hope that the chapters in this volume exemplify that inherent breadth and diversity, and that they express some of that excitement.
All books are collaborative efforts, and thanks are due to many individuals who
assisted in the preparation of this one. First and foremost is Linda Bathgate at
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, whose belief that visual rhetoric was a developing area of rhetorical study led directly to the production of this volume. Debbie
Ruel at Erlbaum provided us with valuable editorial assistance in the production
of the manuscript. Robie Grant created the indexes. Richard LeFande was enthusiastic when we contacted him about the use of his photo as a cover piece.
Peggy O’Gara at Corbis helped us secure the use of Thomas P. Franklin’s September 11, 2001 photograph for the Introduction. Anna Hill developed several
striking cover designs, and conversations with Anna about art history and
graphic design played no small part in the original inspiration for this collection.
The Faculty Development Board at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
funded research that led to the development of parts of this work. In addition,
the authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the Alberta Kimball Endowment at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Large sections of the Introduction to this work were completed during a summer seminar on literature
and the visual arts, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities
and held at the Boston Athenaeum in 2002. The seminar group, led by Director
Richard Wendorff, included Anna Arnar, Laura Bass, Megan Benton, Ellen
Garvey, Michelle Glaros, Christine Henseler, Margot Kelley, Jim Knapp, Lori
Landay, Vincent Lankewish, Jennifer Michael, Peter Pawlowicz, Laura Saltz,
and Thaine Stearns. All of these colleagues deserve praise for their insightful observations, without which this work would not have taken the shape that it did.
We thank our colleagues in the English Department for their friendship, encouragement and support, as well as for stimulating conversations about the
use of images in rhetoric and literature pedagogy, and our students, who traveled with us as we explored some of the initial ideas behind this volume.
Marguerite Helmers
Charles A. Hill
In this book, we study the relationship of visual images to persuasion. But
where do we begin? Which images do we select to tell our story or to prove our
case? Which authors do we cite as pioneers in the field of visual rhetoric? We
could extend ourselves as far back in time and place as ancient Egypt and cite
the role of hieroglyphs in conveying meaning and recording memory. Or we
could call up the painted caves at Lascaux. We could invoke the famous example of Xeuxes’ painted grapes that tricked the birds into pecking at them. Or
we could fast forward to the stained glass windows of medieval churches and
the role they played in educating the peasantry about Biblical texts. We could
name the exuberant paintings of the Hudson River School of American painters, whose images helped to broaden people’s imaginations and pushed them
westward across the country, or survey images from Life magazine or National
Geographic and discuss how they shaped a national consciousness of America’s
place in the world. Any of these visual artifacts could shed light on the primary
question that drives the essays in this volume: How do images act rhetorically
upon viewers?
This inability to begin comfortably, much less securely, at a point in time
with a particular class of images was a cue to begin the work of defining visual
rhetorics. Images surround us in the home, at work, on the subway, in restaurants, and along the highway. Historically, images have played an important
role in developing consciousness and the relationship of the self to its surroundings. We learn who we are as private individuals and public citizens by
seeing ourselves reflected in images, and we learn who we can become by
transporting ourselves into images. We refer to our sense of our own personality as a self-image, and we critique celebrities and politicians when they tarnish their images with poor judgment. Yet images are treated with distrust; in
Western culture, images have often been placed in a secondary and subordinate relationship to written and verbal texts and the potential dialogy between
images and words has been especially neglected. “One of the crucial mediations that occurs in the history of cultural forms is the interaction between
verbal and pictorial modes of representation,” writes W. J. T. Mitchell. “We
rarely train scholars, however, to be sensitive to this crucial point of conflict,
influence, and mediation and insist on separating the study of texts and images
from one another by rigid disciplinary boundaries” (“Diagrammatology”
627). Mitchell’s caution, about which we will have more to say later, provides
us with a rationale for undertaking this type of interdisciplinary work. For this
book, we invited contributions from authors who situate themselves at the
crossroads of more than one discipline, and we have chosen to survey a wide
range of sites of image production, from architecture to paintings in museums and from film to needlepoint, in order to understand how images and
texts, both symbolic forms of representation, work upon readers.
Rhetoricians working from a variety of disciplinary perspectives are beginning to pay a substantial amount of attention to issues of visual rhetoric.
Through analysis of photographs and drawings, graphs and tables, and motion
pictures, scholars are exploring the many ways in which visual elements are
used to influence people’s attitudes, opinions, and beliefs. There is a diversity in
these efforts that is exciting and productive, but which can also be confusing for
those who are trying to understand the role of visual elements in rhetorical theory and practice. Some people seem to think of visual elements only in relation
to expressing quantitative relationships in charts and graphs. Other scholars
concentrate solely on the ubiquity of visual elements on the Internet. Much of the
more culturally oriented work is based in art history and art theory, giving the impression that, when speaking of “visuals” and “images,” we mean artistic artifacts
exclusively. In English studies, there is no vocabulary for discussing images, or perhaps we might say that there are so many disciplinary-specific vocabularies that
we in English have to borrow extensively. In fact, despite his assertion that
“transferences from one art form to another” are “inescapable” (“Spatial Form”
281), Mitchell encourages cross-disciplinary rhetoricians and cultural critics to develop a “systematic” method for investigating the relationship between arts and
words in order to avoid charges of “impressionism” (“Spatial Form” 291). This
systematic approach would demand a theoretical basis and a set of terms common to the field of visual rhetoric. One of the most important lessons from the
Sister Arts Tradition in literary studies from the late 1950s is that “A student of the
sister arts must learn to work twice as hard” (Lipking 4), training as a scholar in
two disciplines—linguistic and visual—in both primary and secondary materials. Mitchell’s warning draws attention to the institutional fact that, just as earnestly as we seek to join the study of verbal rhetoric with the study of visual
material, so also others earnestly seek to separate the disciplines from “contamination,” a perception that the study of images is soft or non-rigorous because
images are commonly construed to be illustrative and decorative. In order to
counter what has been called a paragonal relationship between word and im-
age—a struggle for dominance over meaning between verbal and visual discourse—we suggest that readers and scholars working with visual rhetoric
attend to the notion that word and image are used by writers and illustrators to
accomplish different aims. Printed verbal material is conveyed to us in visual
forms, whether electronically or through traditional paperform methods. Thus
rhetoric encompasses a notion of visuality at the very level of text; it is mediated
by visuality, typography, even the somatic experience of holding the book or
touching the paper.
Art historian Barbara Stafford draws attention to the ways that images are
often considered to be subordinate to written text, logical argument, and
truthful exposition: “In spite of their quantity and globalized presence, for
many educated people pictures have become synonymous with ignorance, illiteracy, and deceit. Why?” (110). In “Material Literacy and Visual Design,”
Lester Faigley explores a similar point, citing an 1846 poem by William Wordsworth that, with characteristic Romantic era angst, bemoans the initial publication of the Illustrated London News in 1842. Wordsworth’s concern is with
progress: It was the word that raised the English from their earliest beginnings
to an “intellectual Land.” The image, because it is mute, or “dumb,” cannot express either truth or love, but rather has a profound national and psychological
effect of reverting the country “back to childhood.” He concludes his poem
with the exclamation, “Heaven keep us from a lower stage!” Faigley’s essay recaptures the notion of progress, however, and records the irrepressible movement of images into our society through various technologies from the
printing press to the World Wide Web.
Where, then, should the rhetorician who is interested in analyzing visual
images begin? What bodies of scholarship are essential to master? What terms
should rhetoricians adopt? Are some images more suitable than others for the
study of images in rhetorical theory?
As we worked together to identify a suitable cover image for this volume,
these questions surfaced. The image we chose to represent a volume of work
on vision and representation had to be multilayered and complex, but not so
detailed as to be inscrutable or to require excessive verbal explanation. On the
other hand, the image had to foster verbal discourse, debate, argument, and
thoughtful reflection while in itself having a visual impact. Furthermore, we
believed the image could not be tied too strongly to one event because its own
rhetorical work was to represent the themes that the authors in this book address: vision, revision, representation, media, memory, presence and absence.
Richard LeFande’s (cover) image of a photograph held against the Manhattan
skyline spoke to these themes, while drawing attention to the strongest visual
event of this new century: the devastation of the World Trade Center in New
York City on September 11, 2001.
Points of crisis in American culture since the Vietnam War have been visually
recorded and widely disseminated to the public. The use of television cameras
and the evening news to broadcast the battles of Vietnam gave it the name “the
living room …
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