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					Visual Culture: Reading Its Rhetoric

English 110 Group Project

The Power of Signs
Rhetorical analysis may also yield interpretations that foreground ideology and the power of representation (including the production and circulation of texts) Ideology: The beliefs, interests, and values that determine one's interpretations or judgements.

Objectives
Focus on icons as rich sites for rhetorical and cultural analysis Model how the range of associations and observations for interpreting icons are governed by context

Icons
Icon (n), iconic (adj), an icon is someone (often a celebrity) who enjoys a commanding or representative place in popular culture. Aaron Betsky, curator at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, defines icons as "magnets of meaning onto which we project our memories, our hopes, our sense of self"

Pop Culture Icons
Match-Up Quiz (individually) What values are attributed to iconic figures? What does the People Magazine list suggest about the process of anointing certain public figures iconic status? Which icons speak to whom and why? What kind of people are not on the list?

Pop Culture Icons--Match-Up Quiz
Answer Key (page 1 of 2)

Elvis Presley Oprah Winfrey Marilyn Monroe Ellen Degeneres Michael Jackson Princess Diana Michael Jordan Madonna Superman

the pelvis "If she can do it, anyone can." blonde bombshell "Yep, I'm Gay" invented the moonwalk "She was a diamond" "He became larger than his sport" "She's done whatever she wanted" "a man's man"

Answer Key (cont.)
Mister Rogers John F. Kennedy Jr. "The last of the good guys" "prince of privilege and tragedy” "The closest thing we have to American royalty” "I'm the greatest” "I did not have sex with that woman” "Your basic tall, dark, and handsome” "I'll be back"

Elizabeth Taylor
Muhammad Ali Bill Clinton

Ben Affleck
Arnold Schwarzenegger

The American Flag
The American Flag is entirely semiotic. The American Flag substitutes signs (stars and stripes) for things (13 original colonies--stripes; 50 stars=states) These signs achieve their meaning through association with a system--the network within which signs function.

The American Flag as Image Icon
Generate associations with your students: Patriotism Independence Freedom Nationalism what else? Varying contexts in which image icon appears: National monuments Protests where else?

American Flag as Icon Advertisement

Generating an Interpretation
patriotic image of multicultural affluence an image of the American Dream and social class mobility an image of leisure and prestige and culture an image of independence

Generating Analytical Claims
 That advertisers depend on the fact that we know a great deal about the messages that certain images convey.  They count on a few generalized meanings (patriotism, opportunity, independence, and so on).  In order to relay meaning, visual language depends on familiarity, patterns of use, composition, references to other images, and the context in which the image

appears.

Rhetorical Contexts

Generating a Thesis
 Weak Thesis: Context shapes the meaning of an icon.  Stronger Thesis: A comparative analysis of a Tommy Hilfiger ad and Faith Ringgold's painting "Flag of the Moon" reveals how context alters the meaning ascribed to images of the American flag.  Even Stronger: While advertisers such as Hilfiger use the image of the American flag to convey loyalty, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, Faith Ringgold’s painting reveals a profound irony in the use of this icon by exposing those aspects of American culture, such as inequality, racism, often rendered invisible.  [See pages 122- 135 in Writing Analytically]

Generating a Working Thesis
A theory about the meaning of evidence search for something that raises questions treat as hypothesis evolve your thesis-move it forward ask “So what?” don’t abandon conflicting evidence or interpretations qualify thesis after initial formulations

5 kinds of weak theses (Writing Analytically, Ch 7)
 Makes no claim  are obviously true  restate conventional wisdom  offer personal conviction as the basis for the claim  make an overly broad claim  Raise specific issues  Find an area of inquiry  Seek to complicate  Try on other points of view  Convert broad categories and generic claims to more qualified assertions

Activity: Reading Icons
a class: Generate an interpretation of distributed images What icons are present in each image? What ideas, events, ideologies do you associate with each image? Does the meaning of the icon shift from one image to the other? If so, what accounts for such differences? In pairs:  Generate two thesis statements that emerge from your analysis: a weak and a strong example.  Turn in your thesis statements (to be posted on WebCT) As a class:  Share observations about group activity  Question and Answer As    

Analyzing Icons

Examples: Weak Thesis

Examples: Strong Thesis


				
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