“Visual Ideograph” as rhetorical form (Model Abstract)

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Edwards, Janis L., and Carol K. Winkler. “Representative Form and the Visual Ideograph: The Iwo Jima Image in Editorial Cartoons.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 83 (1997): 289-310.

Abstracted by Michael Sorensen

Edwards and Winkler investigate the parodied uses of Joe Rosenthal’s 1945 photograph of six U.S. servicemen raising an American flag during the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima in editorial cartoons.  The authors consider methods of visual analysis like metaphor, genre, and icon in examining the Iwo Jima image in parodies – but find them insufficient because the editorial abstractions only vaguely refer to the original image and do not analogize, represent too wide a variety of abstractions, and deviate away from the photograph’s original composition.  Instead, Edwards and Winkler contest that their concepts of “representative form” and “visual ideography” better explain the functions of these cartoons.  Representative form describes how the Iwo Jima image transcends immediate connotations to a more elusive, abstract meaning in the cartoons.  The authors also extend McGee’s idea of ideography from its function as a means of analyzing texts to a method of examining images.  Edwards and Winkler develop their claim by using a variety of newspaper political cartoons in conjunction with McGee’s four components of ideography.  First, McGee says ideographs must be a common term in political discourse.  The Iwo Jima image is used in cartoons about electoral competitions to standardize discourse for elite and non-elite audiences.  Second, an ideograph must represent a collective action to a goal.  In a visual context, the Iwo Jima image already represents collective action, but Edwards and Winkler show the abstracted modifications to that goal with comics that imply ideas like patriotism and equality.  Third, McGee maintains that ideographs authorize power and make behavior acceptable.  In a cartoon about the Gulf War, for example, the image functions as a comparison for determining the tolerability of the conflict.  Finally, McGee affirms that the previously mentioned judgments are culture-bound.  In the article there is a cartoon of a group of Marines looking up a recruit’s skirt; in an editorial context, culture-bound analysis seeks to determine how society accepts or rejects certain implications.  In their conclusion, Edwards and Winkler suppose that there is value in applying rhetoric used for examining text to crafting a more fluid means of analysis for images. [350 words]

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One thought on ““Visual Ideograph” as rhetorical form (Model Abstract)”

  1. What other kinds of images, by this definition, might constitute ideographs? They suggest a few, but I’m wondering about others. And I’m wondering how these come and go. In the 19th c., the Salt River (a real place in Kentucky) came to symbolize all manner of political quagmires and showed up in dozens of political cartoons over the years. Would this fit the definition, I wonder?
    See: http://www.common-place.org/vol-07/no-03/hutter/

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