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Visual Rhetorics of Violence: Cultural Trauma and Visual Representation

Workshop Leaders:

A. Susan Owen, University of Puget Sound
Peter Ehrenhaus, Pacific Lutheran University

This workshop offers an opportunity to explore and discuss the challenges of working with visual rhetorics of violence. The workshop problematizes and investigates the need for an ethics of looking, a set of guidelines, standards, or norms for academic researchers who deal with violent visual materials. Moreover, the workshop provides opportunities for participants to discuss the aesthetic and narrative logics of popular forms of violent visual materials, depending upon the research interests of participants. Scholars who work with visual rhetorics of violence encounter a number of challenges. They must grapple with their own viewing relationship with the (often) troubling materials. They must sort through competing conceptual perspectives for framing the aesthetic and structural logics of these practices of visual representation. They must consider carefully the historical context and the relationships of diverse interpretive communities to these visual rhetorics. As members of an academic community, scholars frequently must negotiate tense engagements with reading and listening audiences who are uncomfortable with the academic study of visual representation, and with their own relationships to violence and cultural trauma. Some possibilities include (but are not limited to) women and film/television, war cinema, holocaust films, zombie narratives (filmic, televisual, graphic novel), melodramatic or tragic frames for gender, race and sexual identities, lynching photography, and about-to-die images. Participants will be asked to review some of the established literature on cultural trauma and memory prior to attending the workshop. Participants will be invited to submit works in progress for development during the workshop.

Questions should be directed to Susan Owen at sowen@pugetsound.edu.


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