The second unit of our course has narrowed its focus, moving from the components of argumentation broadly conceived to thinking about the arguments contained within images and visual media. Because ours is a visual worldâ€”think of the prevalence of social media in our lives, whether we use it or notâ€”knowing how to critically evaluate art, images, advertisements, commercials, video, snaps, and other sight-related forms is crucial.
This is especially important because, as John Berger has taught us, we â€œsee before we speak.â€ If our brains are hardwired to take in images before we employ language, then seeing is our primary mode of knowing the world around us. Being aware of this biological predisposition can perhaps explain why images have long contained ideas and have long served as platforms for ideas: images speak to us in ways that words do not. Additionally, familiarizing ourselves with the histories of seeingâ€”of the â€œmale gaze,â€ for exampleâ€”can help us critique what we take in and question what images compel us think, feel, and do.
It is for these reasons that we have studied how to â€œreadâ€ images, focusing on useful modes of appraisal and questioning. Paying attention to focus, framing, light, balance, repetition and color, for example, can help us in our interpretive role as viewer. Asking questions such as, â€œDoes the image tell a story? Or is it a part of a story already told?â€ can help us understand the imageâ€™s engagement with the world around it. Lastly, interrogating the relationship between visual media and the written word, can help us forge connections between and among other forms of cultural production, like poetry.
For your second essay, please find, print, â€œread,â€ and analyze an image; this can include any aspect of art or visual media like painting, print commercials, or a Facebook post. When I say analyze an image, I mean to use the techniques we have studied to come to an interpretation of the image. These techniques involve many aspects of critical inquiry, such as asking questions, like those presented in the Reading Images Handout, which help us look closely at the composition and visual elements of an image. Additionally, A Brief Guide provides methods for interpreting visual arguments on the internet, including, for example, ways to become more aware of the strategies at work in images. Finally, Bergerâ€™s Ways of Seeing gives you new ways to think about the traditions of European and American art and the way that each continues on, persists, in consumer society i.e. commercials, advertisement, etc.
With all of the above in mind, and in a manner similar to that which we have practiced as a class, your assignment is to produce an interpretation of an image of your choice. Remember: an interpretation is a point of view, and a point of view is a position, and a position is an argument, and an argument needs evidence and thought upon which to rest. You will need to craft a thesis and develop your claim in writing after you have spent time evaluating the image by the techniques described above.
As an alternative: you may compare an image with a poem, a short story, or a song. But you need to clear it with me first.
The whole assignment should be 5 pages in length, double spaced, include a works cited page and be in correct MLA format. You will also need to cite at least two of the above-mentioned texts in your essay.