A Practical Guide for Teachers of Composition and Communication
by Carol David and Anne R. Richards 

Reviewed by Claire Lutkewitte, Nova Southeastern University



Chapter 2

In this chapter, Nancy Allen offers her argument that rhetorically speaking, visuals are important to our understanding and to our ability to persuade.  Instead of giving the audience of this book specific examples of an assignment to use in a classroom, Allen chooses instead to offer more general advice outlined in a discussion of ethos, pathos, logos, and the five canon of rhetoric: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery.  In doing so, she points out obvious ways in which the visual can in fact help students write a coherent essay. 

Chapter 3

L. J. Nicoletti's contribution to this collection of essays revolves around her experience teaching students how to analyze the memorialization of events in history.  She claims that such a critical awareness can enlighten students' understanding of memorials and bring to light new/different meanings behind some of the world's longstanding tributes.  Using plenty of examples from her own classroom in the wake of September 11th, Nicolletti explains how she is able to get students to critically read visual spaces.  Among others, some of her examples include discussions of symbolism, setting, scale, and permanence.  Particularly, her goal for this kind of classroom instruction is to get students to ponder about what voices and events are left out or ignored by memorials.  She concludes her chapter with a description of a specific assignment applicable to writing and communication classrooms.

Chapter 4

Authors Barbara Worthington and Deborah Rard describe a first-year composition project that utilizes documentaries to teach a diverse group of students at California State University, Hayward.  The purpose for such a project, they claim in this chapter, is to help students "not only in bridging rhetorical analysis from film to text, but also in analyzing all visual and textual messages" (p. 71).  Worthington and Rard present an interesting look at documentary film history and point out how documentaries can hold bias.  One of the goals, then, in using documentary films, is to get students to recognize this bias and to move beyond the emotions brought on by such films to make connections with their own experiences in writing.  The authors conclude by outlining the steps in the assignment process, including descriptions of activities and discussion questions.

Chapter 5

This chapter, like many others in Writing the Visual, tackles a heavy topic: racial metaphors.  But, King does so in a way that forces the students in his advanced senior-level writing intensive course (Social Justice in American Culture) to understand racialization.  Asking deep, thought-provoking questions and providing students with plenty of examples, his goal is to get students to consider alternative readings of images that represent stereotypes and racial metaphors.

Chapter 6

Inspired by the brutal murder of Emmett Till, Jane Davis created an assignment for composition and visual rhetoric courses that, similar to King's assignment in Chapter 5, examines the dangers of racism.  Davis spends most of the chapter explaining Till's story, analyzing the aftermath of his murder, criticizing how the accounts were represented by photojournalists, and pointing out how images can illustrate racism.  She then connects this discussion to her classroom application.

Chapter 7

While creating presentations to counter anti-Iranian stereotypes in America, Iraj Omidvar discovered that using photographs of Iran and Iranian people in good light was in actuality misleading.  While not denouncing all images, based on this experience, Omidvar concludes that images can sometimes be inappropriate because they can fail to represent the complexity of the issue.  In other words, images can simplify a situation that is supposedly represented by such images and therefore do more harm.  Omidvar's rationale for this conclusion rests on 1) making sense of Plato's often misread notion of the visual and 2) using a dialectical approach to combating anti-Iranian stereotypes as opposed to one modeled after a Aristolean framework.  Thus, the sample unit of classroom activities that ends Chapter 7 engages students in a discussion about stereotyped images.

Chapter 8

So that writing instructors can have a better understanding of the treatment of online texts, this chapter differentiates between the way Western culture constructs ethos online and the way Chinese culture constructs ethos online.  The differences, Yong-Kang Wei explains, can be be classified as "micro" and "macro".  That is, Western culture's view of constructing an ethos is centered on the individual or "micro" level as opposed to the Chinese culture's construction of ethos which is focused on the collective or "macro" level.  To support this claim, Wei compares Western websites to Chinese websites, pointing out how they are different, and then, concludes the chapter with an assignment that asks students to do the same.

Chapter 9

Writing about her upper-level literature course at a culturally diverse community college, Jean Darcy describes an assignment that combines readings from Christopher Columbus' journals with visual representations (mainly maps) from his culture.  Darcy outlines several activities, including group activities, to help students complete the assignment and to help students gain, what Darcy calls, a different kind of knowledge.  That is, by writing about, discussing, and examining visuals, coupled with a critical contemplation of one's own thought process, students gain knowledge which otherwise could not be known.  Here is an example of one of the maps Darcy's class analyzes.

Chapter 10

Prompting students to consider political cartoons as a serious study, Alyssa O'Brien's "Feature Article Multiple Sides" (FAMS) project not only asks students to analyze visual arguments, but asks them to create them as well.  In doing so, students progress, over the course of three weeks, from thinking of images as more than just mere decoration to strategizing their own usage of images in terms of design and layout.  Here is an example of a student's work in O'Brien's class.  Finally, O'Brien connects the learning outcomes for such a project to the learning outcomes of a FYC course.

Chapter 11

Inspired by an inappropriate use of an image, particularly by a group of students who used a commercialized version of Margaret Bourke's portrait of Ghandi, Ryan Jerving devised thirteen tools for examining images in a more critical light.  Like many other authors in this collection, Jerving considers images to be more than mere decoration.  Therefore, he created a writing assignment for his students in hopes that they, too, would make such a consideration.  In this chapter, Jerving then tells of his students' work with black and white news photography, a field that, in his view, is not often critical of itself.  In the assignment, students are asked specifically to address thirteen ways of looking which include the contemplation of cropping, visual cues, aesthicization, characterization, costume, framing, camera distance, camera angle, lighting, the camera's presence, genre, representing representation, and setting.

Chapter 12

Unlike the other authors in this collection of essays, Mark Mullen considers the complexity and usefulness of electronic games in composition and rhetoric courses.  Examining the visual design of electronic games in a writing classroom, according to Mullen, serves several distinct purposes, such as helping students to understand rhetorical devices and enabling them to enter into critical discourse.  He offers his own analysis of American McGee's Alice as support for this claim.  Mullen, however, does recognize the potential challenges writing instructors might face when creating a pedagogy that incorporates electronic games.  For example, not only does Mullen discuss the difficulty in gaining the right games and the right equipment for the classroom, but he also offers ways to get students, who might be resistant at first, to see the study of electronic games as a legitimate and valuable study.

Chapter 13

In the final chapter of Writing the Visual, Kristen Walker Pickering applies activity theory to document design, specifically thinking in terms of cultural situatedness.  She shares several student examples from her upper-level professional communication course that demonstrate the usefulness of asking students to revise professional documents to make them more effective.  While becoming aware of activity theory, students contemplate, among other things, the importance of context, the need to be cognizant of audience members in their communities, and a recognition of images that provide useful information to such audience members.