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What: Rhetorical analysis is a way of understanding and interpreting “texts” by examining the components of their construction.  You will choose an image to analyze considering its rhetorical situation and explain how the different elements of the image work together to try to make its audience do, think, or feel something.  Your goal is to create an argumentative thesis based on your interpretation of the image explaining how the specific aspects of the “text” support your interpretation of the image.

“Why”: Most of the texts we consume are visual in  nature, and much of what we read is accompanied by images.  These images are rarely neutral and often contain implicit arguments connected to specific cultural contexts.  By analyzing an image, you will develop your visual literacy skills and critical thinking skills.  You will also gain a deeper understanding of the ways different modes of composition can advance arguments.  This is an essential life skill.

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“How”– to be done before writing:

Begin byselecting an image–this can be a product advertisement, propaganda, public health campaigns, movie posters, photographs, t-shirts, videos less than one minute in length, memes etc. As long as the text is primarily visual, it should work for this assignment. You must turn in a copy of the image along with your final paper.

  1. Next, you must determine the rhetorical situation of the image including the author, audience, purpose, context, tone, genre and, design.
  2. Now analyze how the image is composed to produce a specific effect–use of color, layout, contrast etc.
  3. Third, identify the rhetorical appeals that are present in the image (logos/pathos/ethos), or the way the image seeks to engage its audience.
  4. After you’ve considered these aspects, think about how the appeals and strategies used in the image are connected to its rhetorical situation.  Be able to explain how the strategies you’ve identified enable the particular appeals. You should be able to fill out the graphic organizer at this time.  You must turn in the graphic organizer along with your final paper.
  5. Finally, You need to compose a thesis that argues your interpretation of the image based on the choices made in its construction and connect it to the  larger contexts–the “so whats” surrounding it.