Accounting for Visual Rhetoric

Co-authored with Christa J. Olson

Winner of the 2022 University of Michigan Press/Sweetland Digital Rhetoric Collaborative Publication Prize in Digital Rhetoric

“Accounting for Visual Rhetoric” offers a cumulative theory of the visual’s rhetorical affordances. This project addresses a gap in a subfield that has numerous rich case studies and concepts explaining specific instances of visual force but few overarching accounts of vision’s capacity to influence. This born-digital project traces these existing theories and extends the purview of visual rhetoricians to three neglected functions.

Beginning with three chapters on well-established functions, namely the visual’s pedagogical, iconic, and catalytic aspects, this project then articulates three additional functions of the visual that move beyond the sub-field’s Aristotelian tendencies. These functions—oversight, noticing, and sight itself—are less tied to concerns for democratic public spheres in order to take seriously the conditions, including embodied and technological power structures, that pre-exist the possibilities for and extend beyond democratic participation and persuasion.

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