Stage 1: Prospectus, Section 3

Now we start getting into the work…

This is the part in the dissertation prospectus where we begin to attempt to point out how we plan to go about conducting our research.

Real quickly, something to note, for the official Dissertation Prospectus document there are limits. A limit of 10 pages really kind of forces one to try and be concise, and as you will see in section 5 – Working Bibliography, sometimes cut things down to the bare bare bones.

But, moving right along, here is the original stab at a Research Methodology:

Statement of Research Methodology 1.0 (OLD)

Umberto Eco defines symbols as “something representing something else by virtue of an analogical correspondence [a logical picture of elements in question]” (Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language 130). The conception of symbolism offers up a need for distinction between what makes something a “sign” and what makes something a “symbol.” Superheroes may act then as signs of something more symbolic – Superman : Truth, Justice, and the American Way. For Carl Jung, symbols and signs interlinked and operated in reversible roles. For Jung, “living symbols become signs when read as referring to something known…A sign [in turn] becomes…a symbol when it is read as pointing to an unknown” (Portable Jung XXVIII). One could point to Superman as a sign in the form of a man, but with powers beyond ours and abilities that are aspirations and “unknown” or symbolic. The human fascination with the unknown drives the internal expression of signs as symbols in order to understand that beyond human understanding. It is “the study of [symbols that] enables us to reach a better understanding of man – of man ‘as he is’, before he has come to terms with the conditions of History” (Eliade 12). Once again, the very fundamentals of humanity rest in symbols and any quest to uncover such “fundamentals of humanity” requires that one study and understand symbols – to study Superman is to understand his function, perhaps, to inspire humanity.

This exploration of the understanding of symbols and their impact is the first layer in the approach to examining the superhero as a type of archetypal/rhetorical construct of expression. Studying the aims and positions found both in the use of symbols with the study of Semiotics and Psychoanalysis will formulate the beginning of coming to understand the impact that the superhero as rhetorical enthymeme is able to carry through with the audience or potential audiences it may encounter. In addition to understanding this element, another key identifier to communicate in laying out the superhero impact on a potential audience will incorporate Hans Blumenberg’s conceptions of “reappropriation” and understanding the ways that human culture tends to act in ways that constantly reappropriates and both borrows and builds upon past ideas. This ties in with both Jungian conceptions of archetypes and the collective unconscious, as well relates to ideas that Grant Morrison, in his work Supergods, and elsewhere professes about as part of what superheroes are capable of expressing. Blumenberg notes specifically that “secularization” as he use the term “signifies [the] designation for a long-term process by which a disappearance of religious ties, attitudes of transcendence, expectations of an afterlife, ritual performances, and firmly established turns of speech are driven onward in both private and daily public life” (3). Focusing primarily on the idea, as Blumenberg later asserts, that this is a mode of historical interpretation, it is interesting to note just how far back the idea of heroes, from the Greek meaning “demi-god,” have captivated human culture. How has this “ritual performance” migrated and evolved and repositioned itself within our society today? This will be part of what will be explored, attempting to understand the history and relevance of images, and their symbolic power, in our culture as a ground work for both understanding the superhero as enthymeme but also an understanding of audience response to such images.

Kenneth Burke, in his work A Rhetoric of Motives, noted that “the role of rhetoric…is rooted in essential function of language…a function that is…the use of language as symbolic means of inducing cooperation in beings that by nature respond to symbols” (43). What better place to begin by examining the uses and capabilities of comic book superheroes to carry out that expression. The approach here will be to apply rhetoric, primarily through the lens of Burke and Chaim Perelman (along with L. Olbrechts-Tyteca with The New Rhetoric) to examine the ways that individuals and groups can come to identify with superheroes, how these superheroes embody rhetorical potential – as demonstration, amplification, illustration, and via presence. Understanding the potential of the superhero as enthymeme as a tool for communication, a function of language, and what Ann Barry, a perceptional theorist, noted as a potential “visual turn” that “it is images, not words, that communicate most deeply” (Visual Intelligence 75). In an increasingly visual age, with movies and advertisement growing – even literature itself is being reformatted into graphic novel form – it is important to realize the power of symbolic images as superheroes and the power they can have to teach, delight, and persuade.

To demonstrate the superhero as enthymeme, to see the styles (as Cicero and others have noted) I will turn Grant Morrison’s Supergods as a launching platform, as well as engage specifically chosen forms of comic book superhero narratives – including Mark Miller’s Superman: Red Sun and Superior, Alan Moore’s Watchmen and V for Vendetta, Morrison’s All-Star Superman and Flex Mentallo, Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers, Frank Miller’s Batman Year One and Dark Knight Returns, Mark Waid’s Kingdom Come, and Kurt Busiek’s Marvels…plus more – to unpack the ideas, concepts, and rhetorical potential found within. The primary aim throughout will be to understand the superhero as first a symbolic construct that has relevance and impact upon human action, to explore the rhetorical potential of such “relevance and impact” via the understanding of the superhero as rhetorical enthymeme, and then to reinforce all of it by analyzing specific examples and drawing out the encoded messages and ideas held with.


Interesting note, when looking at the new methodology, with the exception of some new points and streamlining, and some cutting down, not a whole lot has changed…just tightened and focused (hopefully).

 

Statement of Research Methodology 1.5 (NEW)

To begin a close examination of the rhetorical impact of symbols upon human interaction and communication first requires an understanding, a definition and approach to symbols and how they function within the realm of human interaction and communication. Umberto Eco defines symbols as “something representing something else by virtue of an analogical correspondence [a logical picture of elements in question]” (Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language 130). The conception of symbolism offers up a need for distinction between what makes something a “sign” and what makes something a “symbol.” Superheroes may act then as signs of something more symbolic – Superman : Truth, Justice, and the American Way. For Carl Jung, symbols and signs interlinked and operated in reversible roles. For Jung, “living symbols become signs when read as referring to something known…A sign [in turn] becomes…a symbol when it is read as pointing to an unknown” (Portable Jung XXVIII). One could point to Superman as a sign in the form of a man, but with powers beyond ours and abilities that are aspirations and “unknown” or symbolic. The human fascination with the unknown drives the internal expression of signs as symbols in order to understand that beyond human understanding. It is “the study of [symbols that] enables us to reach a better understanding of man – of man ‘as he is’, before he has come to terms with the conditions of History” (Eliade 12). Once again, the very fundamentals of humanity rest in symbols and any quest to uncover such “fundamentals of humanity” requires that one study and understand symbols – to study Superman is to understand his function, perhaps, to inspire humanity.

Kenneth Burke, in his work A Rhetoric of Motives, noted that “the role of rhetoric…is rooted in essential function of language…a function that is…the use of language as symbolic means of inducing cooperation in beings that by nature respond to symbols” (43). What better place to begin by examining the uses and capabilities of comic book superheroes to carry out that expression. The approach here will be to apply rhetoric, primarily through the lens of Burke and Chaim Perelman (along with L. Olbrechts-Tyteca with The New Rhetoric) to examine the ways that individuals and groups can come to identify with superheroes, how these superheroes embody rhetorical potential – as demonstration, amplification, illustration, and via presence. Understanding the potential of the superhero as enthymeme as a tool for communication, a function of language, and what Ann Barry, a perceptional theorist, noted as a potential “visual turn” that “it is images, not words, that communicate most deeply” (Visual Intelligence 75). In an increasingly visual age, with movies and advertisement growing – even literature itself is being reformatted into graphic novel form – it is important to realize the power of symbolic images as superheroes and the power they can have to teach, delight, and persuade.

To examine the role of the superhero as meaning communicating symbol, I will attempt to rhetorically analyze, visually, the functions of iconic superheroes. I will turn Grant Morrison’s Supergods as a launching platform for this visual rhetorical analysis, as well as engage specifically chosen forms of comic book superhero narratives – including Mark Miller’s Superman: Red Sun and Superior, Alan Moore’s Watchmen and V for Vendetta, Morrison’s All-Star Superman and Flex Mentallo, Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers, Frank Miller’s Batman Year One and Dark Knight Returns, Mark Waid’s Kingdom Come, and Kurt Busiek’s Marvels – to unpack the ideas, concepts, and rhetorical potential found within.

 

The purpose here is to attempt to provide an idea, a road map of your intentions to how you plan to try and go about completing this massive undertaking while trying to focus up a bit to avoid spiraling into an abyss from which you may never escape.

 

No kidding…some people never escape, at least not without ejecting and losing the craft. I do not have any intentions of doing that myself.

 

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