Practicing analyzing visual texts Description


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The second major essay in this course will be a visual analysis essay. In this essay, you will be expected to apply the concepts covered in Units 1-4 as you analyze an image to explain its larger meanings. At this point you should be able to demonstrate your knowledge of the writing process, your understanding of the rhetorical situation, your ability to use the formal register, and your application of essay structure as you attempt this visual analysis. This essay also requires you to cite at least one credible source.


Purpose and Learning Objectives

In this assignment, you should practice analyzing visual texts, using the writing process, and developing a well-constructed essay in the formal register. Your essay should show how an analysis of the visual components of an image leads to a better understanding of the image.

Minimum Requirements

· The essay must have a minimum of 700 words.

· The must have MLA formatting with a proper heading, headers, page numbers and an interesting and informative title.

· The essay must have an introductory paragraph that tells readers which image you chose and must include an  underlined thesis statement.

· The essay must have three or more body paragraphs that discuss three or more visual elements from the lessons.

· The essay must have a conclusion paragraph that summarizes and emphasizes the main ideas from the essay.

· The image you have chosen as the subject for your essay must be embedded in the body of the essay. See the sample essay provided in the lesson activity for thesis statements.

· The essay should meet the expectation of an academic rhetorical situation. You are expected to use formal register English as your audience is college-educated adults.

· The essay must cite at least one source in MLA format. There should be an in-text citation for the source and a Works Cited page. Books, journals, magazines, and websites are all acceptable for this assignment, but you must consider the reliability of your source. You should not use Wikipedia.

You should not expect to earn a passing grade on this assignment if you do not meet each of these minimum requirements.


Process for Completion 

1. The first step in this process is to choose an image. Browse the images available through the Gordon Parks Foundation Archives. Choose an image that you find engaging and that you feel offers ample opportunity for analysis. The image you choose will be the subject of your essay. Some images may be interesting to you, but may be difficult to analyze.

2. After you have chosen your image, you should engage in some prewriting activities using the ideas and terms presented in Unit 4. First, think about your initial reactions to the image. What emotions did you feel as you first looked at the photograph? What aspects about the image lead viewers to react that way?

3. Before you begin writing, you will want to perform some research. This assignment requires at least one source. If you are choosing an image about the Civil Rights Movement, you might want to research the movement itself. If you are choosing an image about Flavio in Rio de Janeiro, you might want to research how Gordon Parks met Flavio. You are welcome to use more than one source as you do your research, but be sure to keep track of the information you gain from your sources so that you can keep track of which ideas are your originals and which belong to someone else so that you can cite those sources appropriately.

4. Next, analyze the image by looking closely at the content, framing, composition, focus, color, lighting and context. What interesting or unique features do you notice about the image? What is the cultural or historical context of the image? You should record answers to all of these questions. Some of them may become important pieces of your final draft.

5. Next, it will be time to find your focus and begin generating a working thesis statement. For this assignment, your thesis will make a claim about the  meaning of the image. In other words, what message does the image communicate to viewers? Remember, every image tells a story, and an image may tell a different story depending on who is looking at it. Once you have decided what idea or story the image communicates to you, you will need to explain how content, framing, focus, color, angle and lighting come together to create that story or convey that meaning. Your thesis will be more specific if you show which visual elements your essay discusses and what those elements do to create the meaning. An example thesis might be something like this: “Through content, framing, and angle, this image demonstrates how segregation affected not only adults but also the children of black families in the South.”

6. After completing the previous steps, it will be time to begin drafting your essay.  The following tips might help you to structure your initial draft.

a. Introduction: Identify and describe the image. It is very important that you identify the image very clearly. Use the name of the photographer and the image. For example, you might say: “In Gordon Parks’s photograph titled “American Gothic,” a woman stands in front of a flag with a broom in her hand and a mop in the background.” In the introduction, you might show why the image is important or relevant or provide some background information about it . You must embed the image into the body of your essay somewhere so that the readers can see it. It is probably best to do this somewhere near the introduction. One way to embed the image is to put your mouse on the image and right-click, and then select “copy.” Next, go to your document and right-click on your document, and then select “paste.”

b. Thesis: Tell your readers what idea or story the image communicates. Be sure the thesis shows the result of your analysis from #4 under Process for Completion.  Underline your thesis statement.

c. Body Paragraphs: Explain how the visual elements come together to create meaning for the viewer. In multiple body paragraphs, discuss the effect of content, framing, composition, color, focus, angle, lighting and/or context. You should not discuss  every single one of these elements, but you should discuss enough of them so that your reader understands how the visual elements work together to create a story and to create meaning. You should have three or more body paragraphs dedicated to this task.  It would be a good idea to discuss only one element in each body paragraph.

d. Conclusion:  At a minimum, your conclusion should summarize and remind readers how the visual elements convey meaning.

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