From commodity advertisements to artwork, from films to YouTube, from memes to architecture and fashion, visuals are used to argue values, priorities, identity expressions, and much more. As a handout form Purdue OWL explains: “The goal of any rhetorical analysis is to demonstrate your understanding of how the piece communicates its messages and meanings. One way of looking at this process is that you are breaking the piece down into parts. By understanding how the different parts work, you can offer insights as to the overall persuasive strategies of the piece” (see additional info at https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/725/01/).
Choose an image that somehow ties to our historical legacy that you would want to examine. You can choose a statue, a flag, currency, a political cartoon or even a meme. If you want to stretch your thinking and writing, you can analyze a film, documentary, animation, or even a short YouTube video. Try to pick a visual that speaks to how we want to remember or past. How does that visual work rhetorically? Provide a close analysis that supports a thesis.
When using analysis to think and write about your topic, you must break the “message” down into its elements. For visuals, you will want to consider how the author uses the appeals of ethos, pathos, and logos to express, inform, argue, and/or persuade an audience into accepting the purpose of the message. Other elements to consider when analyzing 2D texts would include terms such as we discussed in class and from the world of art and design: line, color, composition, tone, copy (the words used). If you are looking at a moving, 3D texts, consider: the camera position, setting, characters, costumes, music, dialogue, etc. “Read” closely how the author is communicating the message and evaluate the effectiveness of the message.
Writers always have lots of choices, but one way of thinking about setting up this paper might be using this formula: “Author X’s purpose in creating this text is to Y; she is/is not fully effective because . . . “
Rhetorical analysis can be tricky!
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