Foss and Visual Rhetoric

Foss’ article on the particularities of visual rhetoric explored the subject thoroughly and seemed to mention more profound topics than the past articles. Foss determined that visual rhetoric was used to communicate with humans in a symbolic way that is expressed and received in an extremely different way than verbal or textual rhetoric.  She first investigated what past scholars have speculated about rhetoric, making assumptions about their views and academic specialties. This helped her come to the conclusion of what their opinions and views have branched from.  For example, she quoted Neil Postman when he stated that television “pollutes public communication and contributes to a decline in the seriousness, clarity and, above all, value of public discourse”. She ultimately disagreed with the view that visual rhetoric was only obtrusive to textual rhetoric, but outlines basic ‘markers’ in which made a visual constitute as rhetorical. The image must be symbolic in some way, maybe originally arbitrary, but now holds a certain symbolic meaning to a person. The image must also include a human’s conscious intent to communicate a certain meaning in a certain way through styles, media, form, etc. Finally, the image must ultimately be directed towards an audience with the intention of communication.

I particularly appreciated the point of the article in which she explained rhetoric scholar’s unacceptance to visual rhetoric. She credited their viewpoints to be simply their nostalgia for their times and refusal to accept the dominance graphics and images have in today’s culture. This general subject often makes authors more credible in my perspective, as they accept and acknowledge the vast change in times and how this might influence the adjustments of literature exploration. She said that while they were not accustomed to today’s use of imagery, they were isolating a detrimental portion of today’s communication. To do so obstructs a thorough and effective exploration of rhetoric in today’s society.

What guidelines could you use to determine whether a visual is a symbol or just an image?

This painting poses an argument and stimulates communication, because of its various symbols and ambiguous messages.

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