Visual Rhetoric Analysis

Reflection on the article titled “Representing Macbeth: A Case Study in Visual Rhetoric” by Hanno Enhses.

From reading this journal article I had come to the conclusion that the combination of semiotic theory and literary rhetoric create a concept of its own; visual rhetoric. It can not exist without both a persuasive concept AND a visual signification.

Enhses believes that “persuasion is not necessarily an underhanded device, but rather a socially acceptable form of reasoning” (pg. 54). I agree with this statement, although, I can definitely see the counter argument in this case. He argues that people are smart enough to recognize motive and that our emotions are part of the “reasoning process”. The reason I believe in this statement is that almost none of our decisions are based solely off of logic and reasoning, it’s just not the way the human brain works. If I want to be the devil’s advocate I could definitely argue that there are exceptions to this rule and making an argument based on situational truths (who is making the decisions, if there is doubt in their decision, or if the decision is entirely intuitive) could be seen as a generalized argument.

I am drawn towards the idea that visual rhetoric is able to create an experience or, as Enhses puts it, “whole effect” by utilizing the users’ emotional, logical, and ethical modes of decision making, as a way to take them through a visual journey. This is the main idea behind Aristotle’s rhetorical analysis as well, but because of the limitation that grammar and syntax put on text, visual rhetoric has many more possibilities. The comparison of these forms of rhetoric brings me to these questions

  • Can visual rhetoric be universally interpreted?
  • Does the subjectivity in visual interpretation take away or add to the effectiveness of visual rhetoric?
    • This makes me think of the versatility of visual communication. Although words are more concrete visual communication is more initiative and do no require a translator, and with anything, there are definitely exceptions to this culturally.
      • cultural differences can affect the significations effectiveness

A quote from the author I don’t entirely agree with is that “rhetorical figures generate rules that can be looked upon as means of ‘lending credibility to our arguments'” (pg.55). I don’t think that the concept lends credibility because it isn’t something that the user would regard as credible. It actually contradicts the authors’ argument that audiences typically see persuasive texts as negative, and therefore don’t understand the power. This negative viewpoint, in my opinion, would cause someone to view rhetorical figures as incredible, despite the decision-making powers it possesses.

The author later talks about connotative and denotative assertions, which brought me to question exactly how effective is connotative assertions? For instance, in the example of the Macbeth poster would the effectiveness of this poster be lessened if the user had never heard of Shakespeare or Macbeth? or would the visual representation be enough to entice the directed audience? It would be interesting to do a quick testing on how far the concept can be taken.



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