Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Although some scholars in the field of rhetoric studies continue to “man the barricades” in defense of words, continue to study television (whether TV news, advertisements, or talk shows) while ignoring the “vision thing,” or continue to believe that images can be tamed by captions and antiquated rhetorical terms, a growing contingent of scholars is engaging images in ways that allow them to fundamentally transform rhetoric and rhetorical studies. They recognize that the “pictorial turn” as characterized by W.J.T. Mitchell in 1995—the turn toward the influence and rhetorical prowess of images rather than logocentric debate and dialogue—marks a certain catastrophe in our work, an “irruption of something which no longer functions according to the rules [of the past], or functions by rules we do not know, and perhaps never will” (Baudrillard 18). At this point in our field’s evolution, questions about whether rhetoric may or may not include images within its scope and within its purview are, quite simply, naïve. The more provocative questions in our field today instead revolve around how rhetorical studies will account for images and how images, in their ubiquity and persuasive power, tend to disrupt conventional and traditional notions of rhetoric. Surely, as Baudrillard suggests, the old rules—in this case, those regarding rhetoric, its function, and its scope—must be re-written to account for the visual. And if “the eye no longer sees” as much as it “reads,” as Deleuze and Guattari claim, students of rhetoric must ask themselves if they can learn to see again. A restricted view of rhetoric—that is, the historical and conventional view—concerned itself with persuasion through words. Our turn toward the visual suggests a more general (and expansive) view of rhetoric as it is characterized by contingency, arrangiasti, the art of making do in civic space. Rhetoric is, as Theresa Enos and Stuart Brown suggest in the introduction to Defining the New Rhetorics, “a history of changes, inventions, reformulations, extensions, and rediscoveries” (vii). In technical terms, rhetoric is dependent on emergent forms and, as we shall see in the essays included in this collection, it is dependent on emerging technologies, those of production, of mediation, and of delivery. In fact, we want to suggest that the most interesting aspect of rhetoric is its emergent character, its contingent quality. As a unifying definition that operates throughout the essays in this collection, we consider rhetoric the art of discerning and deploying the available contingent means of constructing, maintaining, and transforming social reality in a particular context. We contend that image events, or “staged acts of protest designed for media dissemination” (Delicath and DeLuca 315), are prime examples of how those constructing, maintaining, and transforming processes work. The process of learning to see again has been underway in our field for some time, as a cursory review of scholarly literature in both English and communication studies reveals. . . . [from the Foreword, by Kevin Michael DeLuca and Joe Wilferth] Download the issue here: http://enculturation.gmu.edu/6.2.

No comments:

Post a Comment