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Multimodal Rhetoric


Pollaroli C.

Course director


Objectives and contents
The course offers a rhetorical approach to multimodal communication, looking into the integration of visual rhetoric (moving and static images) and verbal rhetoric (spoken and written words) including text layout and montage. Students will be introduced to the toolkit for the analysis and design of persuasive multimodal messages that the art of rhetoric and argumentation theory offer in combination with insights from modern multimodal discourse analysis and semiotics. Students will learn to look at multimodal pieces of communication with a rhetorical attitude, that is asking why they are constructed in a certain way, for which context they are designed, what kind of constraints they have, and who are the relevant stakeholders they involve and are addressed to. Special attention will be devoted to advertising campaigns and crowdfunding campaigns and their widespread employment of the communicative possibilities that digitalization offers. The course will benefit from the participations of professionals and experts in the fields advertising, crowdfunding, and the analysis of audiovisuals related to them.

Teaching modality and examination
The course requires the active participation of students who are asked to analyze and design multimodal communication in relation to the specific contextualized rhetorical situations that demand for effective integration of elements from different semiotic modalities. The activities revolve around the promotion of start-up projects that students, in groups, are asked to propose.
The examination process is here described:

  • 50% of the final grade is awarded for the contribution in the group activities in which students will be involved during the semester.
  • 50% of the final grade is awarded for a video presentation of an analytical paper on which students will work individually by applying the conceptual tools introduced in the course to the analysis of a multimodal rhetorical intervention chosen by the student. The student’s ability in designing the presentation of their papers is taken into consideration as well.

Due to the fact that multimodal communication is context-specific and involves a wide palette of nuances and to the fact that discussion and collaboration improve the learning-by-doing process, students will receive constant support and feedback by the teacher and the professionals involved in the course for both group activities and the analytical paper.

Relevant readings will be provided by the teacher during the course.