For this assignment, students will post an essay (roughly 1000 words or 3-5 pages double-spaced in a word document) rhetorically analyzing what we will call an “online artifact.” You will sign up for a date to post this essay (it will count in lieu of a blog post), and your artifact must in some way be related to the novel we’re currently reading. An online artifact could be a website devoted to vampire lore or history, a social networking site for “vampire” fans, an online art exhibit, a youtube video and/or a discussion of a youtube video, a chat forum, an article from a periodical, a piece of fan fiction, an advertisement, and so forth. I urge you to be creative and original in choosing your online artifact. Don’t just go for the obvious, but find something original and interesting for the class to look at and discuss.
Once you have found your online artifact, you will compose an essay rhetorically analyzing this artifact and relating it to the novel. A rhetorical analysis is NOT a summary or a description, but a concerted effort to understand and breakdown the ideas expressed in a text. It is also an occasion to analyze the motivations behind a text—why is the writer writing this and what does she hope to gain? More importantly, how is this writer trying to persuade her audience?
The following are some questions to help you compose your essay. You do not have to use these questions. They are simply here to help inspire your writing and provide some direction for you.
Questions for Analyzing Visual Rhetoric:
What is the historical, cultural, social or economic context of the visual? How might I determine it? How does absence of or misunderstanding of this context contribute to misreading? Do I feel compelled to speculate about the creator’s gender, ethnicity, creed, age, etc. as I interrogate the work? How might answers to these questions change or complicate my reading? What is the work’s creator trying to accomplish; can I summarize the work’s purpose or message? Why did the creator organize the work in the way that s/he did? What clues do I have to answer this question? What feature of the work first captured my attention and why? How might that response be made relevant to the reader? What do I like best/least about the work? Is my personal “reaction” relevant to the assignment? If not, can I reframe that response with scholarly assessment criteria? What is the overall tone and mood of the work? What is the point of view of the work; how might I infer it?
Can I infer the creator’s state of mind when s/he drafted this work? What role, if any, should biographical knowledge of the creator play in my reading of the work? How does the work reveal the creator’s attitude toward the subject and its audience? Why did the creator choose this medium rather than another? Is there a secondary message in the work? If the creator included print text, how does that text add to or possibly complicate the visual text? If the work was constructed with color, what do the hues convey? How can this visual further a claim I want to make in my argument? Is there a comment function for this work? What is the nature of the discussion?
What is the relationship between the novel we’re reading in class and this online artifact?
How could this online artifact better inform one’s understanding and interpretation of the novel?
Adapted by Sherry Wynn Perdue for the Write Space Resource Guide (2007) from Shirley Counsil’s English Language and Composition Advanced Placement Consultant Handout, “Questions for Visual Works.” Lester Faigley’s Picturing Texts is the inspiration for both resources.
I expect this essay to be clear, articulate, and well-documented. Students should provide a link to their online artifact, but should also be prepared to quote extensively from the text, provide descriptions of pictures, key scenes in youtube videos, etc. In short, while you can use visual aids in your essay, this essay should still be able to stand alone by itself. Students should avoid merely “reporting” what a website says, but rather work to analyze the persuasive aspects of the website/online artifact and what social, political, cultural, and economic conditions inform its construction.
You will also be graded on how well you explain the relationship between the online artifact and the novel we are reading. In part, it will be your job to explain how this online artifact can inform our interpretations of the novel. In this way, you should be prepared to link the online artifact to key passages by quoting the text.
I expect this essay to meet academic expectations for spelling, grammar, and mechanics. I also expect you to cite your sources correctly (I suggest using MLA for documentation, but talk to me if you would prefer to use another documentation style), and I expect your essay to have a works cited page.
Here are some good websites that can give you an example of how to analyze visual rhetoric:
Students will choose a day to post their essay online (see first-week checklist). Your online artifact essay must coincide with the novel we are currently reading in class.
Along with posting this essay on your blog, you must EMAIL your essay to me at email@example.com.
While you will be posting this essay online and students and I will be able to comment on it, I will be evaluating your assignment privately through email.