Stage 1: Prospectus, Section 1

So, originally, this was my first stab at a title for my dissertation:

Graphic Narratives as Rhetorical Artifacts: Bridging the Divides Between Words and Images, Pop Culture and Literature, and Dramatic Unforeseen

No 100% sold on it sense it was created quite quickly and already the dissertation has been tweaked some more to have it heading in a new direction. So, we’ll come back to this.

What I did just get done reworking is the first section, section 1 of my prospectus. Traditionally, at least for what I am working with a dissertation prospectus will contain the following sections:

1. Statement of Purpose

2. Statement of Significance

3. Statement of Methodology

4. Tentative Working Organization

5. Working Bibliography 

I went back over an older draft, from this past spring, of my prospectus and decided to play around with it. The old version looked like this:

Statement of Purpose 1.0 (OLD)

There is a growing interest and deeper exploration of the ability of superhero stories, particularly those found in comic book and graphic novel form, primarily because they have a profound ability to provoke and stir the imaginations of our entire culture. The continuing popularity of superhero comic books and adaptation of properties into motion pictures demonstrates the potential cultural and rhetorical power encapsulated in these graphic narratives. In his Grammar of Motives, Kenneth Burke conceptualized life as a form of drama, Dramatism, consisting of the five elements of a kin to the basic journalistic questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how. These elements are: Act, Scene, Agent, Agency, and Purpose. These elements serve as a way of examining human relationships, a meta-method. It was, according to Burke, a “method of analysis and a corresponding critique designed to show the most direct route to the study of human relations and human motives…” (Overington). I aim to hypothesize that there is an inherent enthymeme, along with other rhetorical elements (a motive) and concepts, embedded within comic book superheroes that is slowly beginning to reveal itself through reappropriation and textual archeological exploration of comic books and graphic novels as rhetorical artifacts. This dissertation will aim to draw upon theories and methodologies found in Kenneth Burke, Chaim Perelman, Aristotle, Umberto Eco, and Hans Blumenburg.

This version actually centered around my old title, see above, and focused on comic book superheroes as rhetorical enthymemes. Since then, I’ve done a LOT of tweaking, refining, and most importantly, focusing.

With my new Statement of Purpose I strove to do some revision and, in particular, to add into it my newly refined and decided Research Question, Warrant, and Claim (see “Road to Dissertation: Stage 1, Constructing a Prospectus” post).

So, here it is:

Statement of Purpose 2.0

In an ever-growing visual culture, it is becoming more and more important for our culture to come to a deeper and more detailed understanding of how visual imagery and narratives can and do impact cultural expression, growth, and communication. The continuing popularity of superhero comic books and adaptation of properties into motion pictures demonstrates the potential cultural and rhetorical power encapsulated in these graphic narratives and the deeper impact such visual narratives are having in our current cultural zeitgeist. As human beings, we have a strong inclination to respond to visual/symbolic forms (signifiers) that often communicate complicated abstract ideas and values (signified). This propensity is reflects both a visual and dramatic orientation of human communication, and within modern American culture such communication lies at the heart of popular forms of entertainment from movies, to television, to comic book superheroes. This impact of popular culture, visually, upon the human imagination and the way we communicate complex ideas leads to an important question: How can one reach a better understanding of why society, particularly American society, is so susceptible to the application of visual rhetoric and signifiers in the rendering and expression of our beliefs, values, and ideas? To answer this question, I aim to hypothesize that through an understanding of how Kenneth Burke’s concept of the dramatic pentad and close application of rhetorical tropes and figures to the analysis of cultural signifiers, such as comic book superheroes, a greater understanding of how symbolic and visual communication can impact the shaping and development of human ideas and values will emerge. This dissertation will attempt to do this by drawing upon theories and methodologies found in the works of Kenneth Burke, Chaim Perelman, Umberto Eco, Roland Barthes, Scott McCloud, and Will Eisner.

This one is a bit longer and has, blended into it, more material and concepts that I am hoping will help draw a sharper focus to what I am aiming to work on. As for some of the material from the old version, 1.0, some of that I will be folding “forward” into my Statement of Significance. So, stay tuned.