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Multimodal Rhetoric


Pollaroli C.

Course director


The course offers a rhetorical approach to multimodal communication by exploring how the integration of visual rhetoric (moving and static images), verbal rhetoric (spoken and written words), layout and montage convey a persuasive meaning in specific contexts. Students will be introduced to the toolkit for the interpretation and design of persuasive multimodal messages that the art of rhetoric (including modern argumentation theories) offers in combination with insights from multimodal discourse analysis and (social) semiotics. 


Students will learn to approach multimodal pieces of communication with a rhetorical attitude, that is considering and pondering on the reason(s) 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. Students will learn to adopt this approach (a) when analyzing and interpreting pieces of multimodal communication that have been produced by professionals or by the course’s colleagues, and (b) when designing multimodal pieces of communication for group projects.

Teaching mode

In presence

Learning methods

The course requires the active participation of students who are asked to analyze and design multimodal communication in relation to specific contextualized rhetorical situations that demand for effective integration of elements from different semiotic modalities. The activities revolve around group projects that students are asked to propose and promote.

Since 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, classes will be interactive and will adopt a bottom-up approach. Moreover, students will receive support and feedback during class hours for both group activities and the individual analytical or design paper.

Relevant readings will be provided by the teacher during the course. Readings are chosen among the different disciplines and approaches that are interested in rhetorical multimodal communication.

Examination information

The examination process is here described:
• 30% of the final grade is awarded for the contribution in the group activities in which students will be involved during the semester.
• 70% of the final grade is awarded for submitting either an analytical paper on which students will work individually by applying the conceptual tools introduced in the course to the analysis of a corpus of multimodal rhetorical interventions chosen by the student or on the design of a rhetorical intervention for the project that students worked on in groups during the semester.