Communication and Culture | Rhetoric and Visual Culture
C617 | 27525 | Kaplan, M.

M, 10:00 AM-12:30 PM, C2 272

Meets with CULS-C 701

Open to Graduates Only!

Instructor: Michael Kaplan
Office: C2 219
Phone: 856-1365

Life in late modernity is lived with, among and through a staggering
array of images—visual discourses that define the world and render
it sensible, if not always unitary, stable and coherent. This mutual
co- implication of the social and the visual is increasingly coming
to be understood as at once the scene and effect of rhetorical
operations, calling for theoretical approaches and critical methods
that integrate but also push beyond the historiographic,
institutional, formalist, philosophical, and sociological modes of
inquiry typically associated with the study of images. In this
course, we will examine several prominent attempts to theorize the
rhetorical dimensions of the visual, focusing especially on the ways
visual discourses engender and mediate relations of power that
animate social life in late modernity. We will endeavor to identify
and consider the challenges to and opportunities for approaching the
visual culture we inhabit as radically rhetorical. Accordingly, we
will have occasion to attend both to the processes of visual
signification and to questions of social structure, dynamics of
identity and difference, and forms of agency as these emerge in the
context of the visual constitution of social sensibility.

Seminar participants will write and present one or more position
papers (3-4 pages) on course readings, as well as a seminar paper
(15-20 pages) that performs a theoretically inflected,
methodologically reflexive and critically productive analysis of
some instance of visual rhetoric. Students will be encouraged to pay
special attention to the ways problems related to citizenship,
nationality, ethnicity, race, class, gender, and sexuality are
negotiated in visual discourses.