Communication and Culture | Rhetoric and Visual Culture
C617 | 1100 | John Lucaites
Some, like W.J.T. Mitchell, suggest that the "visual turn" has
replaced the "linguistic" turn in recent years, and certainly the
cottage industry of historical, critical and theoretical work on
visuality, visual culture, technologies of vision, specularity and the
gaze, scopic regimes, the seen (scene), ocularcentrism, etc. would
seem to support the claim. Such a shift - implicated as it is by the
tension between the quotations from Aristotle and Foucault cited above
- raises interesting and complex questions about the history of the
relationship between rhetoric (understood broadly as the capacity of
language-in-action to constitute being and identity towards the ends
of social and political interaction) and consciousness, both in theory
and in practice. In what sense(s) do the relationships between visual
rhetorics, verbal-visual rhetorics, and ocularcentric rhetorics
correspond to the experience of consciousness at particular moments in
time? And what, if anything, is the governing experience of the
relationship between rhetoric and the visual in late modern society?
How does the metaphor of the "text" - grounded in a hermeneutics of
"reading" - effect our experience and understanding of visual
rhetoric? Or alternately, how does the metaphor of the "visual"
implicate our understanding of the relationship between rhetoric and
consciousness in general? Further, how does the "materiality" of the
seeing experience impact upon our rhetorical consciousness? Does
architecture or city planning require different hermeneutical or
rhetorical strategies than cinematography or documentary photography?
Paintings? Museums and monuments? Personal scrapbooks?
Speechmaking? In this class we will address the above and related
questions both historically and conceptually as we strive to identify
the problems and possibilities of visual rhetorics in the contemporary
world. We will begin by briefly examining how rhetoric and the visual
have been articulated at several key moments in their respective
histories from classical antiquity to the present. We will then turn
our attention to recent efforts to theorize the relationship between
rhetoric and the visual, paying careful attention to both the
representational systems (or discourses) within which visual culture
is constituted and experienced, and to the ways in which such
systems/discourses are implicated by differences of nation, class,
race, ethnicity, age, gender, and sexuality.
Coursewill cover the gamut from classical antiquity to the renaissance
to the twentieth century, but will emphasize contemporary efforts to
theorize the relationship between rhetoric and the visual as it is
constituted and experienced in late modern society. Members of the
seminar will be expected to several position papers (3-4 pp.) on
class readings and to prepare a seminar paper (15-20 pp.) in which
they address the problematics and readings of the course in their own
study of an instance of "visual rhetoric."
* Students may also enroll for this course as G751 Seminar in American
Studies of C701 Seminar in Cultural Studies.