Monday, June 11, 2007

Visual rhetoric and the encyclopedic tradition

I was just reading a book chapter by Charles Hill on teaching the reading of visual communication in the writing classroom, and Hill points out the common argument that our writing classes already try to do too much, and adding visual rhetoric does nothing to eleviate that problem, but only do to a history of specialization did we ever decide to separate out written and visual communication. He goes on to call for a broad-based rhetorical education, interdisciplinary in nature, which seems good and right, but I couldn't help but think about McLuhan and the encyclopedic tradition of rhetoric that extends back to Cicero, at least, and then I wonder, what if just "English" could become "Rhetoric?" Nothing new here, but in my constant quest to figure out why McLuhan should matter, I am almost always struck by how this professor of literature was able to make literature matter to his students in the 50s, esp. 60s, and 70s, and I am always struck by how effectively he reads and uses literature as part of his histories of rhetoric and technology.

I am also in the process of thinking about The Medium is the Massage (MM) again; part of a revision to a paper I am working on. I need to figure out why learning to read that text is relevant to learning how to read (and I suppose produce) similar kinds of texts. Part of my argument is that we in rhetoric and composition don't really perform many readings of visual texts, and certainly not image-text experiments like MM, instead limiting ourselves to ad analysis, and the rhetorical reading of film. The influence of MM seems to be pretty profound--I am starting to collect the MIT series of books influenced by MM.

Unrelated: I just noticed that I only made 25 entries between January and now, and that 7 of those were during videoblogging week. I made no entries in March, and if I handn't made an entry on May 31, I would have skipped May 2. Very irregular with my blogging / thinking.


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