Visual Argument, Birdsell [Reading Response 1]

          There is a strong role of visuals in our lives.   Images are everywhere we look.  This article emphasizes the importance of being able to analyze and reason with visual modes of argumentation.  This article recognizes that some theorists believe that visuals cannot make arguments.  It states that there is limits of verbal persuasion that visual meanings can help hold up.

 This reading can be divided into four sections:

1.Theory of visual argument

CONTEXT- “Context can involve a wide range of cultural assumptions, situational cues, time-sensitive information, and/or knowledge of a specific interlocutor.”

2.Lucidity of visual meaning

 3.Varieties of visual context

4. Complexities of notions of representation and resemblance 

          For the sake of this analysis, I am going to focus my discourse on the first point of the theory of visual argument.  I am an art history major and as such, I strongly believe that the best way to argue is through visual means.

            What struck me as the most interesting part of this article was the emphasis on “CONTEXT.”  There as been a movement in the field of art history regarding context.  By looking at context, one is able to see how the people who commissioned or originally viewed the artwork would have viewed it. 


            My favorite example of this context theory would be the traditional Catholic altarpieces.  Altarpieces are now viewed in museums.  They are placed on a wall next to other priceless works, and are venerated for their aesthetic qualities.  When they were commissioned, (if we put them in their original CONTEXT) they would have been shown on top of the altar at the apex of a cathedral or basilica.  They would have been viewed during the taking of the sacrament and were meant to evoke your contemplation of Christ’s sacrifice.  With the Catholic belief of transfiguration, when you take the bread and wine, you are literally making yourself at one with Christ.  This would then make you view the altarpiece as a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice.  Although beautiful, it would have meant something totally different.    


            I believe we must take into account CONTEXT in order to view visuals in the light of the culture which produced them.  If anyone is interested, I can provide more examples from the history of art.  Below I have pictures an appropriated Seven Sacraments for modern day visual culture.  It is interesting how things change….




  1. Thought-provoking post! One thing that struck my attention was your claim that “I strongly believe that the best way to argue is through visual means.” In juxtaposition to our reading, this is an interesting claim. Birdsell & Groarke had to defend that visuals could be arguments at all, but your experience has convinced you that visuals the strongest type of arguments. I’d be interested to see more visuals that exemplify this idea: visual arguments that are more effective than they would be if made textually or verbally.

  2. It was clear that you had a firm grasp of the article from the start of your post. You quoted from the reading to provide evidence for your analysis of context. You also used many visual aids to help with this. I loved how you explained how the context or understanding of the context of each of the examples you posted has changed over the years. I especially liked how you used this post to analyze and connect the reading to something that is important to you in your own life.

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