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Visual Essay Assignment

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Julie Hawk

on 21 July 2015

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Transcript of Visual Essay Assignment

English 1102
Project 4 Assignment:
Researched Visual Essay
You might think of approaching this assignment in terms of a search string. That is, think of it as a simple equation:

Well, I mean an essay with visual elements that are significant enough to make it be
different from
and also
more than
a standard research paper. Simply plunking pictures down into an essay in a Microsoft Word document with little thought to layout might technically fulfill the assignment’s parameters, but in order for this project to be truly successful, the visual mode needs to be engaged as an important conveyor of your argument.
So what do I mean by "visual essay?"
In your final project, you will be required to compose a visually engaging essay, informed by research, on an aspect of your own choosing of
Infinite Jest
.
So what do I mean by "researched essay?"
Your essay should offer a
clear thesis
—an argument of your own about the aspect you’ve chosen to explore, and you should use ample textual evidence to support your claims. Note that your argument needs to be more than simply something like this: “David Foster Wallace uses
Infinite Jest
to explore addiction.” Such a claim is more of a fact than an argument, and it is far too broad. Always keep in mind the “so what factor,” meaning that you need to make sure your claim can answer the question “So what?” In other words, why is your claim important? Also keep in mind how large this novel is and how deeply Wallace explores some of these broad topics. Though you should start with broad ideas to begin fruitful research, do
narrow
down so that you focus in on something manageable for a project of this size.
So what?
From
1200-1500 words
, regardless of the number of visuals. All external sources—images, videos, audio files, text, etc—must be appropriately cited and referenced on an
MLA-formatted bibliography
. You must use at least
3 scholarly sources
, 1 of which may be the Stephen J. Burn book you bought for this class. In fact, that would be a great place to start reading to get a sense of the kinds of thinking I am asking of you here. The overall argument, remember, must be your own. So think of your sources as supporting pillars for your argumentative structure. Think about what things about this text interest you the most. What parts of it have challenged your thinking or shifted the way you perceive something? In short, what aspects of the novel have been speaking to you? The most fruitful research comes out of the things we find ourselves thinking about rather than what we make ourselves think about.
SPECS
The project will be evaluated based on how well you make and support your argument and on how you use design and layout to help you achieve that purpose. Because this assignment can be successful in a variety of ways, I can only offer broad categories here. You need to offer a sustained argument, based on analysis and textual evidence, and achieve coherence and persuasion through a synergy between the written and visual modes (other modes can be added, as you like).

Total 200 Points
Evaluation
So, for example, “Infinite Jest and addiction,” “Infinite Jest and entertainment” or “Infinite Jest and depression” would be good starting places. From there, since all three of these examples are such a big part of this novel, you would need to narrow further, but if you think in broad terms at first, you’ll start to get a sense of how you need to refine and narrow it once you get into the research a bit. There are so many directions you could go here, since, as I hope by now is abundantly clear, Infinite Jest is “about” a whole lot of things. The three examples above are just the tip of the iceberg.

Infinite Jest
+ specific aspect

Television
Infinite Jest +
From there, since all three of these examples are such a big part of this novel, you would need to narrow further, but if you think in broad terms at first, you’ll start to get a sense of how you need to refine and narrow it once you get into the research a bit. There are so many directions you could go here, since, as I hope by now is abundantly clear,
Infinite Jest
is “about” a whole lot of things. The three examples above are just the tip of the iceberg.
That is, think about how you can engage the visual in order to illustrate your points, provide counter-evidence, enhance the ethos of your sources, evoke a particular affective response from the reader, provide a context for a particular target audience, etc. So you might compose an essay on
Microsoft Word
or
Publisher
or
Adobe InDesign
that is meant to be a static document. Or you might use a more dynamic platform, like
Prezi
(or any other similar softwares you might think of), to create a visual essay that also plays on the added feature of temporal pacing of the visual impact.
Note, though, that if you choose to do a Prezi, it will need to be used in profoundly different ways than in your presentations. Since Prezi is specifically designed for presentations, its templates guide you in that direction, but you do have enough agency within the program to create interesting and dynamic visual essays. So, for example, you might shrink the size of the text such that the Prezi module can hold a lot of text at once, which would be (usually) a bad idea for a presentation, but here it works as something else entirely, meant for an individual viewer to be guided at her own pace through the essay. Think of it as a sort of time-elapsed essay.
Examples
I include a few examples here to help get you started thinking about the variety of ways you might approach this assignment. The idea is to play to your strengths. If, for example, video editing is something you enjoy, you might try an ambitious project that adds audio as well as sophisticated editing to the project. Note also that being an incredible artist is not essential. Sometimes the simplest visuals can be the most effective.
http://theoatmeal.com/comics/columbus_day
Workshop
What aspects of the visual presentation of the assignment evoke
Infinite Jest
specifically?
In what ways is the visual presentation of the assignment more effective than the written one?
In what ways does the visual presentation of the assignment evoke the requirement to make the visual aspect a primary conveyor of the argument?
In what ways does the visual presentation of the assignment differ from an oral/visual presentation using Prezi or a similar software?
What critiques do you have for the visual presentation of the assignment? What things might have been revised to emphasize important elements more effectively?
Bibliography
• Background Image: http://7-themes.com/data_images/out/52/6948290-blue-sky-clouds.jpg
• Depression: http://ctbythenumbers.info/files/2014/12/Depression-types1.jpg
• Visual Essay Example 1: https://wwwDOTyoutubeDOTcom/watch?v=w5R8gduPZw4
• Visual Essay Example 2: https://vimeo.com/24715531
• Visual Essay Example 3: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/columbus_day
• Visual Essay Example 4: http://thenextweb.com/apps/2011/08/16/tips-tricks-and-resources-to-make-your-own-gorgeous-infographics/
• All other images obtained from Flickr Commons
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