In Charles Hill’s 2004 article “Reading the Visual in College Writing,” he advocates a change in pedagogy to include the teaching of the visual in writing classes. His point is that students do not spend their days reading written texts; they spend them being bombarded by visual texts, and because of this, these texts become important as far as critical examination is concerned. Visual text, which has been undervalued in its power since the shift to the word, is set to share equal billing with written text as technology improves and multimedia forms of communication continue to develop.
Hill’s statement, “Because persuasive images are most often used, not to support arguments with logic and evidence, but to prompt viewers to develop new associations, the logical apparatus that has been developed to analyze and evaluate verbal arguments does not seem to apply to visual forms of persuasion” took me aback, however (121). Why is there a misalignment between the visual and its usage and the written and its usage in argument and in the teaching of argument analysis in pedagogy? To my knowledge, it does not appear to be a stretch to apply the logistics of the written argument to visual argument, and I would have thought this would have been easily accomplished and established in pedagogical practices. Realizing that teachers balk at change for fickle reasons like the latest in technology trends, one can understand that progress has been slow, but to be missing an important part of composition classes, seem more than just balking. It seems negligent. I argue that there is a way to take the analysis and evaluation of verbal arguments and apply or modify them to include visual forms of persuasion and that these are necessary actions to be taken, if we are to prepare students to be critical thinkers and not passive consumers.
Using W. J. T. Mitchell’s book as the pivotal text for visual rhetoric, this paper will be an examination of the differences between written and visual texts in rhetorical analysis pedagogy in composition classes. First the two types of analysis will be defined. Then commonalities will be found, and from those commonalities, a pedagogical plan of unification will be proposed for the composition classroom. I believe that there are trends that the two seemingly disparate pedagogies follow, and therefore the two may be unified in a common pedagogy to better meet the needs of students in classrooms. This modification or combination of pedagogy would not negatively impact already occurring instruction, would be easily implemented, and would have significance beyond the English classroom across the curriculum as those skills of analysis of both written and visual texts can be utilized by all disciplines and in the community at large.
Anderson, Phil and Anne Aronson. “Visualizing the Academic Essay.” Questioning Authority: Stories Told in School. Ed. By Linda Adler-Kassner, Linda and Susan Marie Harrington. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2001. 115-134.
Hill, Charles A. “Reading the Visual in College Writing Classes.” Visual Rhetoric in a Digital World: A Critical Sourcebook. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins 2004. 107-130.
Mitchell, W. J. T. Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1994.
New London Group. “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures.” Harvard Educational Review 66 (1996): 60-92.
Ott, Brian, and Greg Dickinson. “Visual Rhetoric and/as Critical Pedagogy.” The SAGE Handbook of Rhetorical Studies. Ed. By Andrea A. Lunsford, Kirt H. Wilson and Rosa A. Eberly. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Pub. Inc., 2009. 391-405.