Visual Rhetoric: Arugument, Persuasion, Narrative Banner

syllabus | calendar | links | info

syllabus available as PDF


Materials   Required Texts
Latour & Weibel Iconoclash MIT Press ISBN 026262172X
Martin Picasso’s War Plume ISBN 0452284155
Tufte Envisioning Information Graphics Press ISBN 0961392118
Gibson Pattern Recognition Berkley ISBN 0425192938

Choose one or more
Kress Reading Images : The Grammar of Visual Design Routledge ISBN 0415106001
Mitchell. Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation. U Chicago P. ISBN 0226532321
Barry Visual Intelligence: Perception, Image, & Manipulation. SUNY P ISBN 791434362

  Additional readings are linked from Calendar.

Course Description   This course focuses on articulating rhetorical opportunities present in the visual turn; the role of perceptual processes, time, movement, and memory in the act of seeing; the interanimation of the verbal and the visual in representation; the circumstances of visual culture and art; visual communication in print and on the Web; and identification as a visual/rhetorical process. Is there potential to create critical verbo-visual literacy? The course explores what such definitions of literacy mean for communication, argumentation, persuasion and narration.

Throughout this course students will be asked to both analyze and design images and to think about ways in which visual representations are part of their field of study. Readings are drawn from various fields including literary theory, information design, fine arts, art history, advertising and cultural studies, and students are asked to think about and represent the relationship(s) between and among these fields and their work and develop ways to teach visual rhetorical analysis and design. We will be thinking not only about ways of seeing and appreciating rhetorical-visual texts but designing and creating images and texts with attention to the visual, verbo-visual, and visually rhetorical design of those texts.

What does it mean to be visually literate? What does it mean to compose visually? How do these definitions differ from print literacy and electracy – is the visual a component of or does it contain literacy? Is it possible to make a visual argument? Can a visual have persuasive power? What role do visuals play in design? What role does design play in rhetoric? Has the relationship between text and the visual shifted? How visual is print? Can these changes interrupt the teaching of literacy? How does the teaching of writing change in a visual age?

Each of these questions represents a trajectory of inquiry for the class, and the class will explore the relationship between the verbal and visual in a variety of paper and screen-based texts. Students are required to participate both online and during class meetings. For the first half of the semester, students will read a variety of texts and complete short weekly assignments. Then attention will shift to creating a longer complex document. Final projects in new digital media forms are encouraged.


Assignments   Found Image 1, 2, 3
Find an existing image in the world. Write a short (1-2page) description and analysis of the image, its context, its purpose and its effectiveness using one or more of the major theorists we are reading. One should be a still image. Two should be a moving image from film, video, or digital source. Three should be a map of some sort. Look for unusual, intriguing, or inspiring images that will encourage discussion, exploration or debate in class.

Theory Statement: Visual Rhetoric Is (Not)
In a short (2-3 page) document, argue for a definition of visual rhetoric (Visual rhetoric is …). Argue in the negative as well as the positive (Visual rhetoric is not …). Support these claims with warrants pulled from the reading as well as from on-line and face-to-face discussion. Analyze your and others’ found images and address their visual rhetorical content.

Mapping Fields 1, 2
In step one, create a map of your chosen field of study by including contributing discourses and disciplines as they impact your field of study. For step two, imagine what you want your field of study to be without constraints of reality or history.

Visual Articulation: Visualizing an Idea
Take a short quote (1 sentence, 3 sentences, a paragraph, a page) from a written source you find to be influential in your own work, life or studies. Visualize this influential piece of writing and create an image that “captures” the meaning. Use any appropriate media. Do not be shy about altering, layering, or otherwise remixing elements of existing images.

Native Image
Create a digital image (native digital photograph or video, analogue image scanned or otherwise digitized) that accomplishes something print cannot achieve. Represent motion, emotion, or action. Juxtapose images. Shake up images. Represent something you have known and/or felt but could not put into words. Produce 1-2 of writing describing and contextualizing your image.

Interpret Guernica
After reading Martin’s Picasso’s War you have read numerous historically-situated interpretations of Picasso’s painting. Offer your own 2-3 page opinion of this 20th century modernist image from your 21st century postmodern perspective. What might Guernica mean to the 21st century?

Project Proposal
Write a 2 page proposal describing an appropriate semester-ending project for Visual Rhetoric. The scope should be roughly equivalent to a 20 page seminar research paper. If you plan to work in visual media and/or digital hypermedia, think about how many typed pages would equal the effort you have expended to produce those *.mov, *.htm, or flash files.

Project Draft
Prepare to discuss your final project in detail with accompanying visual presentation materials. Your project may still have gaps, holes and fissures, but you should be able to talk about how you plan to complete the project in the time you have left.

Final Project
The final project should be a substantial analytic document exploring visual rhetoric or a substantial multimedia/hypermedia exploration of visual rhetoric in visual form.


Policies   Attendance
You are expected to be in class every Wednesday evening and to participate in email and online discussion throughout each week. Each missed class is significant: communicate with the instructor regarding any missed class time. After two absences, student grades will be significantly impacted. Please discuss multiple absences with the instructor.

Early in the semester, you will be asked to demonstrate your ability to:
• Access to your Career Account and use your email address,
• Send and receive email messages to the class list, email and open attachments, and follow email decorum,
• Check the course calendar before the beginning of each class, and
• Back-up your work via your home directory, disks, and/or email attachments to yourself.

Online Discussion and Classroom Participation
Email allows students to pursue topics and ideas outside of class time. Every student is required to participate in online discussion. Online and classroom participation will be evaluated as 20% of the final grade. I read many posts to class email. However, I try to limit my participation so students have an opportunity to develop their own understanding of the material. Please keep in mind that Email discussion is an extension of classroom space: post material you feel is appropriate for classroom discussion. Generally, if you check email a few times each week and post questions and concerns as they occur to you during your preparation for class, you will maintain an appropriate level of participation. Do not hesitate to ask questions online: chances are that someone in class has the same question, and often someone in class has an answer. Sometimes the question you are asking is far more complicated than you had imagined. There is no single “right” way to have an online discussion. You must participate in the online discussion in order to receive a grade in this course.

Due Dates and Grading
Please submit assignments when they are due. Late work is not acceptable. While I am happy to discuss grading practices and policies and will do my best to explain why students receive certain evaluations, grades are rarely changed. Please visit me during my office hours, and use email to contact me between class meetings.

Academic Integrity
Academic dishonesty is a serious crime. If you are suspected of academic dishonesty, you may be reported to the Office of the Dean of Students to receive disciplinary action. Forms of academic dishonesty include: Collusion - lending your work to another person to submit as his or her own; Fabrication - deliberately creating false information on a works cited page; and Plagiarism - the presentation of another person's work as your own, whether intentional or not. Please read and familiarize yourself with Purdue's student guide to academic integrity located at: [].

The Writing Lab
The Writing Lab (located at 226 Heavilon Hall) offers a variety of writing resources for all students and teachers at Purdue, including half-hour tutorials, workshops, handouts and books, public use computers, a collection of tapes and software for writers of English as a Second Language (ESL), and an inexhaustible supply of animal crackers. Many of these resources can be accessed from their Online Writing Lab (OWL) (not the crackers) at []. For more information, call 494-3723. Graduate students should use the writing lab, and please encourage the undergraduates you teach to use the lab.

The Digital Learning Collaboratory (DLC)
The DLC (located in the lower level of Hicks Undergraduate Library) offers an active learning environment with a number of resources that you can access to help create multimedia projects. As a student, you can check out equipment, use the high-speed Macs and PCs, learn new software, or reserve space to work collaboratively on a class project. For more information, go to, send e-mail to, or call 494-3751.

Adaptive Programs
The Adaptive Programs division of the Office of the Dean of Students (ODOS) can arrange for assistance, auxiliary aids, or related services if you think a temporary or permanent disability might prevent you from gaining access to departmental or university resources listed above. Contact them at 494-1247 or with any individual concerns.

The instructor will not knowingly infringe anyone’s rights and will do his best to maintain access and safety for all students.


syllabus | calendar | links | info