The Purpose
The purpose of this assignment is to have you perform a rhetorical analysis of a piece or pieces of visual rhetoric; to experiment with pre-writing techniques; to work with crafting an effective thesis statement and selecting relevant details to support general conclusions; to focus on writing engaging introductions and conclusions; to consider questions of voice, audience, and purpose; to work with selecting and integrating appropriate strategies of development; to experiment with different revision processes; and, overall, to move toward a persuasive academic writing style.

The Assignment

In this cartoon, Bill Watterson makes an argument about media culture's relationship to its audience -- that it puts the viewer/reader in a passive condition, that the reader becomes a mere recipient of information. In moving away from a study of visual culture to a study of visual rhetoric, it is important to resist this passivity and instead analyze the rhetorical techniques and structures used by contemporary texts -- whether they be visual, verbal, or hybrid visual-verbal texts -- to persuade their audience.

For this assignment, you will be the "anti-Calvin" and actively analyze visual rhetoric. Choosing one or more powerful pieces of visual rhetoric, write a 3-5 page essay that analyzes the rhetorical strategies and appeals used to create persuasive meaning.

To facilitate this process, I've written out a step-by-step list of how to proceed to complete this assignment:

1) Select your text(s). Choose visual rhetoric texts that seems suitable for a 3-5 page analysis. You will find a list of visual rhetoric on-line resources on our course's links page. If you are having difficulty deciding on a topic for this paper, you might consider writing on the following:

  • Advertisements. If you opt to write on ads, I suggest that you look at the brainstorming questions at the end of Envision, ch. 2.
  • Magazine covers. Take a pivotal event - for instance, post-superbowl covers, September 11th covers, covers about SARs- and look at what argument specific cover designs make to their audience. Look at the brainstorming questions at the end of Envision, ch. 5, for guidance on reading covers.
  • Websites. Look at websites -- for instance, different university pages, the Republican & Democratic parties', or different sites focused on the stem cell debate -- and discuss how visual rhetoric is used on-line. Look at the brainstorming questions at the end of Envision, ch. 5, for guidance on reading websites.
  • Recent political cartoons that discusses a controversial issue. Consider the rhetorical strategies that the cartoon uses to produce its argument. Look at the brainstorming questions at the end of Envision, ch. 1 to help you analyze the cartoon and move toward an argument about its rhetorical function.

2) Pre-writing. Do a 5 minute pre-write on your texts. This pre-write should be in addition to any free-writing on the topic done in class. For your pre-write, you may do brainstorming, free-writing, clustering, or the alternate strategy of your choice. Note for Section 3: The pre-writing can count as part of your writer's log.

2) The Draft. Then, write a persuasive interpretation of your texts, considering both the messages within them and the cultural reality they reflect/create. Be sure you consider the assumptions underlying the texts, questions of materiality, layout, audience and purpose.

3) Peer Review. Having downloaded and filled out peer review forms for each essay in your peer review group, return those forms to your partners during peer review on Friday the 10th in class.

4) Revision. Using the comments offered by your peer reviewer and in conference, considering our discussions of revision in class and the tips contained on the Revision handout, revise your essay. As you do so, be sure that you move your paper beyond being a mechanical exercise that simply points out pathos, logos, and ethos in your text -- these concepts should inform your analysis, but you should produce a paper that sounds more like cultural analysis than a student assignment on pathos, logos, and ethos. Look to your thesis statement in particular for guiding your paper toward a sophisticated discussion of how rhetorical appeals function in your texts.

5) Self-evaluation form. After you have finished your revision, fill out a Self-Evaluation form.

6) Hand it all in. On Monday, October 13th, hand in a folder containing 1) your revised essay; 2) your pre-writing; 3) the peer review evaluation forms your reviewers gave you ; 4) your draft with my comments on it; and 5) your self-evaluation form. You also must post your revision in your personal folder on PanFora.

cartoon source: Kill Your TV Website,

Forms for printing
Suggested reading

Envision, ch. 1, ch. 2, ch.3 p. 7-13


Due Dates
Draft: M 10-6
Post to PanFora under Personal Work & also print out 3 copies
Peer Review: Fr 10-10
Be sure to fill out peer review forms and bring them to class with you.
Revised Essay: M 10-13
Post revision to PanFora under Personal Work and print out 1 copy. Turn in a folder containing 1) your first draft 2) your revision 3) peer review forms you received 4) your free-writing 5) a self-evaluation sheet

Draft: Your draft should be 3-5 pages in length, typed, double-spaced with page numbers. This should be a first draft, not a rough draft; in other words, although it is a preliminary version of your paper, it should be as complete and polished as you can make it at this time. Please reproduce your piece of visual rhetoric (if possible) within your draft. Drafts as a rule are not graded. However, if a draft reflects a notable lack of effort, the overall grade for the paper will be affected.

Pre-writing etc.: The pre-writing, self-evaluation form, and peer review forms will not be graded, but you will receive credit for completing them that will apply toward your informal assignment grade for the class.

Revision: The revision of your rhetorical analysis also should be 3 to 5 pages in length, typed, double-spaced with one inch margins and page numbers. In addition, please include a title page with a relevant title. Please reproduce your piece of visual rhetoric, or relevant parts of it, in your paper - the image should be in color if the color scheme is a relevant part of your analysis. You will be graded on the quality of your argument, your style, the consistency and appropriateness of your authorial voice, and how effectively you utilize strategies of development to create a persuasive, interesting paper. This paper is worth 10% of your overall grade for the class.