Thursday, June 22, 2017

Visual Rhetoric: Where does inspiration come from?

Writers find inspiration in many places. In my next two posts, I’m going to share some of my ideas on the issue.

I teach a rhetoric course. It’s a nonfiction course similar to the composition course we all took in college. Except the study of rhetoric has changed a lot since I went to college. Where I wrote only papers, and “texts” were only written, now students listen to and produce podcasts and view visual rhetoric.

Rhetoric, by definition, is the sending or receiving of messages. These may be written, spoken, or viewed. One of my favorite exercises (to do and to assign) is to have students view a work of art and write about it –– a reaction, a description, or a riff.

Consider the “Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch. This painting says so much about humanity (not much good) and its creator and even history (something brought this out of Bosch in circa 1500).

So what do you see? What images speak to you? How might this painting motivate (or distract) you if it hung above your desk? Now’s your chance to riff.

Visual rhetoric can offer inspiration. It will also play a large role in what “writing” looks like in 15 years. As a teacher, I’m seeing that students grasp narrative structure (certainly long form) from episodic TV shows. They are more likely to understand narrative from a visual mode, such as a Netflix show, than a written mode. They grasp argumentation and persuasion from things like this Direct TV Commercial.

Hopefully, books are still being read, but inspiration can come in other forms, including art, episodic TV shows, and even commercials. Where do you find yours?

No comments: