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CAS 597 - Visual Rhetoric

Professor: Anne Demo
Office: 219 Sparks
Email: atd1@psu.edu

In the twenty years since W.J.T. Mitchell argued for a “pictorial turn” in the humanities, the study of visuality has preoccupied diverse disciplines and inspired a number of subfields. With the rise of immersive technology and ubiquitous documentation, approaches to mediation, spectatorship, and circulation are being reconfigured with increasing attention to sensation, materialism, and ethics. This seminar will look back on key points of overlap between visual rhetoric, mass communication, and visual culture as a foundation for surveying the current transition in theorizing about vision and affect in contemporary public culture. Course readings will feature recent work by Robert Hariman and John Luciates, Lila Chouliaraki, Laurie Gries, Roger Stahl, Lisa Parks, as well as the forthcoming edited volume, Unwatchable.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this class, students will be able to …

  1. Delineate the lineage of rhetorical approaches to visuality and key ways that that visual rhetoric differs from mass communication and visual culture.
  2. Identify challenges to conventional (ocularcentric and text-based) approaches to mediation, spectatorship, and circulation posed by increasing attention to materiality and sensation.
  3. Develop a conceptual vocabulary for analyzing the political, civic, and ethical entailments of public culture in its increasingly diverse modes.