Stage 1: Prospectus, Section 4

Now we reach the part of the dissertation prospectus where one attempts to project a possible (tentative) organization.

To the best of my ability and to avoid that death spiral followed by an ejection that I mentioned last time, I am and will do my best to stick to this organization with some deviation but for my sanity, as close as I can.

So, again, here is the original version, this one longer and centered upon the original superhero as enthymeme idea:

Tentative Working Organization for the Dissertation 1.0 (OLD)

Introduction:

This section will open up with attempting to draw out a general history and understanding of how symbols and signs function in engaging human reaction and communicating human ideas and values. The use of the comic book superhero will help draw in how this concept works and functions, dramatically, upon individuals and groups. This requires an understanding, as I will approach it, of discussing the both the history of the superhero in modern times, but also drawing connections to both the appearance (at the tail end of the Great Depression), denigration during the 1950’s, and then slow rehabilitation since (particularly its even stronger growth post-9/11). I will lay out the argument that the superhero functions as a visual rhetoric that embodies real, human characteristics and ideas via close rhetorical analysis. The purpose aim is to show that via its role as a rhetorical artifact, the graphic narrative format of the superhero narratives, modern myths so to say, are valuable means for engaging audiences on many different stylistic levels that grant greater significance to this form of story telling than previously recognized.

Literature Review:

The literature review, partially demonstrated above, will open up and examine closely both the debates and discussions surrounding the role of symbols and semiotic relations in communication and language, but how the use of images, particularly the comic books superhero, have come to represent rhetorical tools for engaging and motivating audience in engagement. This will be couched within a close examination of visual rhetorical analysis, building off of Grant Morrison’s attempts found in Supergods, while attempting to draw connections to Burkean notions of the dramatic pentad, as well as the role of symbols as essential elements of human interaction and communication.

Examples of currently under investigation here are Visual Intelligence: Perception, Image, and Manipulation in Visual Communication by Ann Marie Barry, Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and A Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human by Grant Morrison, The Language of Comics: Word and Image edited by Robin Varnum and Christina T. Gibbons Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean by Wolk, Douglas. Arguing Comics: Literary Masters on a Popular Medium edited by Jeet Heer and Kent Worcester, and of course Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud. These, along with other journals and works, will help develop both a framework of comic book history and development, but particularly look to reveal the growing mainstream acceptance of the medium and how this opens up greater opportunities to closely examine the deeper rhetorical meaning and potential existing within.

Method:

This section will be a direct application Burke’s theory of the dramatic pentad and Chaim Perelman’s updated conceptions of rhetorical figures and notions of rhetoric and its appeal to values to formulate and bring together the conceptions surrounding the strong formation of the superhero as rhetorical enthymeme. A groundwork will be introduced to allow for the responses of the audience and how the impact of the superhero is developing and exploring complex ideas and concept. More importantly, it will be important to set out a method of recognizing and decoding of the superhero as rhetorical constructs as presented in the comic book medium by close analysis. This will rely on turning to Umberto Eco and semiotic theory, as well as Douglas Wolk and the work of Scott McCloud, in addition to Burke and Perelman. The production will aim to layout the groundwork for looking at the superhero via the lens of visual and symbolic rhetoric.

Analysis:

  1. This chapter will to look at close visual rhetorical analysis aimed at understanding the ability of comic book superheroes to teach. Specifically targeted, so far, for this chapter is a close examination of Mark Miller’s Superior. This chapter will attempt to understand and examine the choices of the main character, a twelve-year old by, Simon Pooni, who is struck down by multiple sclerosis, but escapes into comic books. He is eventually granted the wish of becoming is favorite fictional superhero: Superior (a analogue of Superman). The teaching ability here is that even with this power, similar powers are given to a bully who becomes Superior’s arch-enemy Abraxas. After their showdown, Simon opts to return to being himself, having come to accept who he is. The superhero as enthymeme here serves as a tool for acceptance, toleration, and doing what is right.
  2. This chapter will engage in a close rhetorical analysis of comic book superheroes and their ability to delight. It will focus on works like Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross’s Marvels and Mark Waid and Alex Ross’s Kingdom Come, as well as a variety of other books. This chapter will attempt to look at the superhero as enthymeme through the lens of the enjoyment of both the writing and artistic forms that can be presented. This will specially explore the aesthetic qualities found in the comic book medium.
  3. This chapter will turn back and attempt to look deeper at the rhetorical power found in the superhero to engage in high minded and deep philosophical debate. This chapter will focus on certain archetypal characters: Superman (Morrison’s All-Star Superman), Batman (Morrison’s Batman: Arkham Asylum), and Captain America and Iron Man (Mark Miller’s Civil War and Hickman’s Avengers). This chapter will attempt to look specifically, via example, the ways that superheroes truly embody and express a type of rhetorical enthymeme as laid out by Aristotle and revised by Chaim Perelman and L. Olbrechts-Tyteca.

Conclusion:

The primary focus of this exploration is to offer up a direct and relevant understanding of how superheroes can and do function as potential rhetorical artifacts. The comic book/graphic novel medium has in fact become a sort of middle ground, a commonplace for the words of novels and books, and the images of motion pictures. The superhero narrative is one that carries specific rhetorical power due to its connection and formulation within symbolic communication. There should and needs to be a greater acceptance of this aspect of human nature and imagination that occurs subconsciously daily but remains consciously unnoticed.

If one is paying close attention, you’ll notice abbreviated versions of Statement of Purpose, Signficance, and Methodology make appearances above via the Introduction, Literature Review, and Method.

 

Added to this we now have a tentative analysis section, where I, originally attempted to apply rhetorical style to the situation, and this is followed with a conclusion.

 

The point at stake here, and still in the revised version though its focus is changed (tweaked) and the new version is cut down, is that there are two aspects defined here – scholar and critic  (as Dr. Greer pointed to) – and both are important. I’ll elaborate on this more after the new version below:

Tentative Working Organization for the Dissertation 1.5 (NEW)

Introduction:

This section will open up with attempting to draw out a general history and understanding of how symbols and signs function in engaging human reaction and communicating human ideas and values. The use of the comic book superhero will help draw in how this concept works and functions, dramatically, upon individuals and groups. I will lay out the argument that the superhero functions as a visual rhetoric that embodies real, human characteristics and ideas via close rhetorical analysis. The purpose aim is to show that via its role as a rhetorical artifact, the graphic narrative format of the superhero narratives, modern myths so to say, are valuable means for engaging audiences on many different stylistic levels that grant greater significance to this form of story telling than previously recognized.

Literature Review:

The literature review, partially demonstrated above, will open up and examine closely both the debates and discussions surrounding the role of symbols and semiotic relations in communication and language, but how the use of images, particularly the comic books superhero, have come to represent rhetorical tools for engaging and motivating audience in engagement. Examples of currently under investigation here are Visual Intelligence: Perception, Image, and Manipulation in Visual Communication by Ann Marie Barry, Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and A Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human by Grant Morrison, Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean by Wolk, Douglas. Finally, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud. These, along with other journals and works, will help develop both a framework of comic book history and development, but particularly look to reveal the growing mainstream acceptance of the medium and how this opens up greater opportunities to closely examine the deeper rhetorical meaning and potential existing within.

Method:

This section will be a direct application Burke’s theory of the dramatic pentad and Chaim Perelman’s updated conceptions of rhetorical figures and notions of rhetoric and its appeal to values to formulate and bring together the conceptions surrounding the strong formation of the superhero as rhetorical enthymeme. A groundwork will be introduced to allow for the responses of the audience and how the impact of the superhero is developing and exploring complex ideas and concept. More importantly, it will be important to set out a method of recognizing and decoding of the superhero as rhetorical constructs as presented in the comic book medium by close analysis. This will rely on turning to Umberto Eco and semiotic theory, as well as Douglas Wolk and the work of Scott McCloud, in addition to Burke and Perelman. The production will aim to layout the groundwork for looking at the superhero via the lens of visual and symbolic rhetoric.

Analysis:

  1. This chapter will to look at close visual rhetorical analysis aimed at understanding the ability of comic book superheroes to teach. Specifically targeted, so far, for this chapter is a close examination of Mark Miller’s Superior. The superhero as teacher here serves as a tool for acceptance, toleration, and doing what is right.
  2. This chapter will engage in a close rhetorical analysis of comic book superheroes and their ability to delight. It will focus on works like Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross’s Marvels and Mark Waid and Alex Ross’s Kingdom Come, as well as a variety of other books. This chapter will attempt to look at the superhero as enthymeme through the lens of the enjoyment of both the writing and artistic forms that can be presented. This will specially explore the aesthetic qualities found in the comic book medium.
  3. This chapter will turn back and attempt to look deeper at the rhetorical power found in the superhero to engage in high minded and deep philosophical debate. This chapter will focus on certain archetypal characters: Superman (Morrison’s All-Star Superman), Batman (Morrison’s Batman: Arkham Asylum), and Captain America and Iron Man (Mark Miller’s Civil War and Hickman’s Avengers).

Conclusion:

The primary focus of this exploration is to offer up a direct and relevant understanding of how superheroes can and do function as potential rhetorical artifacts. The comic book/graphic novel medium has in fact become a sort of middle ground, a commonplace for the words of novels and books, and the images of motion pictures. The superhero narrative is one that carries specific rhetorical power due to its connection and formulation within symbolic communication. There should and needs to be a greater acceptance of this aspect of human nature and imagination that occurs subconsciously daily but remains consciously unnoticed.

 

This version, compressed for requirements, still attempts to retain the aspect of both scholar and critic.

 

The Scholar

The scholarly aspect is the historical digging, the research and background information that come out of the introduction and the literature review. Enjoy this metaphor to help: This are important because this lays out a strong foundation for you – think clearing the trees and leveling the land, surveys and historical investigation to make sure you aren’t building on some historical sight.

 

The Critic

This is comes out of the Method and Analysis. This is where you take the research and apply it, test it, and attempt to construct and challenge your own questions, warrants, and claims (see Road to Dissertation: Stage 1, Constructing a Prospectus for reference). This is where one departs from the original research and what others have said and moves forward into what you have to say about it, to contribute.

 

So, here we are, one last part to put in and then the dissertation is ready…to be torn apart by one’s committee in order to find out if it is really “road ready.”

 

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