Imagining the non-discursive: Image and the affective in inventing and composing

Joddy R. Murray, Syracuse University


By emphasizing the advantages of non-discursive language, this dissertation proposes a way image and emotions impact rhetorical invention. Image studies, or visual rhetoric/literacy as it is sometimes called, often ignores the way images function as a form of non-discursive text, while debates about the affective domain fall too easily into a rational/irrational binary with emotions and feelings labeled as irrational and their absence labeled as rational. Invention, on the other hand, suffers from its often procedural or mechanistic theories derived from a discovery/creation binary too reliant on a primarily discursive view of language. This dissertation attempts to combine image and emotion while at the same time stripping them of these binaries, and it makes the case for a non-systematic theory of non-discursive invention.

In addition, this dissertation makes use of new theories in neuroscience that indicate the integration of image, emotions, and consciousness. In fact, some scientists make the case that image and emotion serve not only as a basic unit of thought in the brain--the progenitor of language essential to reason--but also that the they work to shape the brain. As a consequence, image (and, therefore the imagination) must play a much more important role in language, in text generation, and even in identity formation than what has been previously theorized. Just as conceptions of self and identity are constructed through the brain's use of images, so too is the value we place on the images in meaning-making.

Image and the affective can no longer be held in opposition to reason and rationality, just as mind and body can no longer be held in opposition. Every image in the brain has an emotional charge, however slight, and because of this, both image and emotion are linked in our consciousness. The affective is important because images carry both perceptual information and emotional information: the two are inseparable if meaning is to be complete. This dissertation argues that it may be time for Composition and Rhetoric to embrace a non discursive theory of invention that works to unite both image and the affective domain as a way to generate text.