Dissertation, July 1, 2004. 104 pages.
NOTE: At the time of publication, the author Brenda M. Helmbrecht as affiliated with Miami University - Oxford, OH. Currently, July 2008, she is Assistant Professor of English at California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo.
My dissertation explores how students’ interactions with visual media inform their subject positions as students, writers, and rhetoricians. I use a cross-disciplinary approach that intertwines Composition and Rhetoric scholarship with work from Media Studies to understand how visual media affect the way students write, read, and use language. Throughout my dissertation, I work with the theory of “remediation” to demonstrate how new media, such as the Internet, have been conceptualized, revised, and reformed as a result of their relationship to preexisting, or “old”, media like film and television. I predict that remediation can encourage students to position the texts they create on a continuum alongside visual and print media, and, in turn, participate more fully in the “mediatic network” as critical consumers. My classroom-based research reveals that students insist on articulating their relationship to media through a metaphor of addiction, and claim to be dependent on media to the degree that they rely on television, film and the Internet for companionship, information, and entertainment. I argue that composition classrooms frequently address students’ relationships with media by teaching them to resist media and its supposedly harmful effects. My project works through the ramifications of introducing visual media into a classroom when the primary intention of doing so is to create this resistance. I argue that students will be more willing to think critically about the mediatized texts that entertain them if they do not feel discouraged from taking pleasure from those texts. Rather than frame media through resistance, I propose that students study both print and visual texts from the standpoint of critical pleasure. Because students simultaneously interact with, decode, and make meaning of print and visual media, their print and visual literacy may become conflated to the degree that it’s difficult to distinguish between the two. In studying these literacies conjointly, my research and pedagogical objective is to understand how written and visual forms of communication work with and through one another in both students’ lives and the mediatic network. Working with Kenneth Burke’s theory of consubstantiality, and Aristotle’s discussions of pathos, I propose a rhetorical pedagogy that accounts for how students’ abilities to formulate arguments are shaped by their media interactions. In short, dynamic rhetorical work must begin at the site where students’ lives intersect with media.
English Language and Literature