English – Visual Rhetorical analysis Custom Paper

Assignnment #3: Visual Rhetorical Analysis

Peer Review 4/16 (Bring two copies of essay)

Final Draft Due  4/19


Description: The third assignment is a 4-6 page rhetorical analysis on a visual text that conveys an argument about gender.  This visual text will need to be from a magazine. You may consider many areas of culture – from the cover of a Muscle and Fitness magazine to Cosmospolitan, from an online e-zine geared towards gender issues to photojournalism.  Ideally, your choice of the image(s) will initiate your focus for the research-based argument – pick either an issue that interests you or a medium that you’d like to examine critically (example: notions of beauty and masculinity or femininity as seen through Abercrombie & Fitch or Beer advertisements in America).  See the list of web resources and readings on the Seeing & Writing website to help you find images for this project.





Learning Goals: The purpose of the rhetorical analysis essay is to help you develop your visual literacy and your powers as a rhetorician.  You are both to argue for a text’s persuasiveness and to be persuasive in doing so.  In addition, the purpose of the assignment is to help you implement the methods of rhetorical analysis we’ve discussed in class so far so that you can develop the expertise in rhetorical argumentation.


Process:  This kind of analysis differs in significant ways from the literary, historical and philosophical writing you’ve done for other classes and in high school.  You need to look through a visual rhetoric lens – this is an opportunity for you to work through a professional and disciplinary perspective.  You must evoke and mention explicitly the terms of our discipline (pathos, logos, ethos, kairos, audience, writer, purpose). Your argument should be about the strategic use of rhetorical appeals and persuasive power of the particular image and not about the content issue.  Focus on HOW it works, no simply WHAT it conveys; discuss how the use of rhetorical appeals determines the effectiveness of the visual argument and don’t get distracted into arguing passionately a particular position or extolling the beauty/creativity of the text!  To complete the essay successfully, you will need to discuss specific and concrete elements of the image as visual evidence – the way we have done in class.


Brainstorming: Before writing the essay, write out your answers to following questions on a brainstorming sheet.  Hand in this sheet in the folder with your final, revised essay:

  • Describe all the visual elements you see in as much concrete detail as possible
  • What do you think is the overall argument and purpose of this image?
  • Who do you think is the specific persona and audience of the image?
  • What rhetorical appeals operate in this visual rhetoric (list each one in turn)?
  • What are the effects of these rhetorical appeals on the persuasiveness of the text?
  • How do visual and verbal work together to convey an argument?
  • What is the significance of Kairos (or context) for the power of the image?
  • What would you like your readers to learn or think about in reading your analysis of the image? What specific and unique perspective can you share about this image? What will by your thesis for this paper?


Essay Format: The final version of the essay should be formatted according to MLA style as follows: in the upper left corner, ALL DOUBLE SPACED, type your full name, the course number and section, my name, the assignment heading, and the date (be sure you change it for each draft).  Then skip two lines and type the title (centered, but not underlined or in quotation marks). Next, skip two lines and type the essay itself (double – space all writing for the essay).  One subsequent pages, type your last name and the page number in the upper right corner.  Leave consistent, one-inch margins on all sides.  Include a list oor Works Cited on a separate final page, alphabetizing the texts you use for references in the essay.  Include a cover letter that explains to a specific, appropriate audience the importance of your essay for understanding the power of the particular visual media (how would a rhetorical analysis of an ad benefit a filmmaker, a concerned parent, or a college film club?)  Your leeter should include a rationale for why the audience needs to read your essay.  By explaining the practical significance of your writing in the cover letter, you will bridge the worlds of academic and professional writing.

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Image Format:  You will need to insert the image into your paper and position it in a strategic place for best rhetoric effect.  You can scan it in or save it off the web.  Include a caption for each image, providing a Figure number, a title or description of the image, and the complete source.  If it is a web image, include “date accessed”


Possible Topics


  • Fast Food Nation
  • Fitness and Exercise
  • Body Image for men and women
  • Beauty and eating disorders
  • Brand endorsements in school sports
  • Extreme sports
  • Title IX and access issues
  • Professional Sports
  • Gender Bending, Gender Images, and Sexuality
  • Men working at home and childcare; women and corporate ceilings
  • Masculinity in music
  • Sexism in advertising


Show us specific images, visual features and culturally coded elements which


  • Support the credibility or character of the product or producer (ethos)
  • Deliver evidence, claims, supporting imagery and detail for the ad’s persuasive purpose (logos)
  • Depend on the viewer’s emotional response, appealing to the viewer’s interests and predispositions, anxieties and desires (pathos)
  • Assume shared background, experience, and response to imagery (context)

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