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

Reviewed by Claire Lutkewitte, Nova Southeastern University



The editors' goal for such a text seems appropriate for classrooms today; no doubt, teaching visual rhetoric is important.  After all, books about teaching visual rhetoric have been on the market for some time now.

However, some of the examples provided by the authors in this text seem, at times, to be obvious and do not, at other times, give enough credit to what students and teachers already know about visual rhetoric.  For instance, David and Richards, the editors themselves, explain that "Students are much more likely than we are to be immersed in visual culture and to feel comfortable talking and writing about what they see" (p. 5). Followed by a discussion on photography, David and Richards then claim, somewhat contradictorily, that "Like the general public, students typically are unaware of the rhetorical strategies that photographers adopt when constructing, for example, angle, lighting, and background" (p. 11).  I'm not quite sure if it is fair to characterize the general public and students in this light.  I've been amazed by what some of my own students bring to discussions about visuals and find myself learning just as much from them as they learn from me.  I guess that is why I appreciate the fact that, like myself, Alyssa O'Brien does recognize that students are "leading the way" in "producing multilayered argument projects that provide diverse perspectives on visual images, innovative approaches to the visual layout and content arrangement, and hypertextual versions of traditional writing assignments that now use visual rhetoric as a strategy of argument" (p. 185).

It seems, then, that the essays in this collection are aimed at an audience that is either just now realizing the importance of incorporating visual rhetoric into writing and communication classrooms or are new and need some further ideas for instruction. This is particularly evident in the second chapter of the book when Nancy Allen offers her arguments for including instruction in visual rhetoric in the classroom.  Her arguments are old.  For example, her suggestions that mind maps, storyboards, and sketches are helpful invention strategies for instructing students in writing are as old as teaching.  

For those of us who consider ourselves more than novices, this text is a little helpful in terms of offering us new, innovative ideas.  As I have explained in the highlights portion of this review, there are a few approaches to teaching the visual that I would consider for my own classroom pedagogy.  Some of the author's assignments are provocative in that they ask students to take on some of today's highly debated subject matter: race, 9/11, terrorism, politics, race, stereotyping, and so forth.  In a noble attempt, they try to push students into uncomfortable positions for the good of understanding our world through the visuals they encounter.