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Question description

EN102 Sum15

Paper Two: Images/Pictures of Significance and What We Think of Them


You have two choices for this paper. In other words, choose one (1) option from the two (2) options below (#1 or #2). You are required to use at least two (2) sources from among Sontag, Mitchell, Clarke, and Berger of which one (1) must be either Clarke or Mitchell. In addition, you may use any of the other text(s) including videos and images we have used in class as well as any new material you have found to support your claims or line of thinking. Make sure to list the image(s) or pictures you choose for the paper and any research you locate in relation to this in your Works Cited page. The final paper should be five pages long not including your Works Cited page and should include a minimum of three (3) to four (4) sources of which one must be from Clarke or Mitchell with a total of at least two from among Sontag, Clarke, Mitchell, and Berger.


We began the course discussing what John Berger calls “ways of seeing.” Sontag, Mitchell, and Clarke all appear to pick up from where Berger ends his essay and look at what Berger calls “the new language of images” (116). Berger’s prediction or assessment that there is this new “language of images” seems to have come true according to Sontag, Clarke, and Mitchell as they examine what it is, how it operates, and what problems and challenges this new language presents. Berger expresses interest in this new language of images as he says, “Within it we could begin to define our experiences more precisely in areas where words are inadequate. (Seeing comes before words.)” (116). He is concerned, however, with who will control this new language or these images identifying this with power saying, ”If the new language of images were used differently, it would through its use, confer a new kind of power” (116).

Sontag, Mitchell, and Clarke also see the creation and use of images as a form of power and ask questions about what form this power takes, who or what has or exercises this power, and over what or whom is this power practiced. Sontag goes so far as to suggest that photography, the principle medium through which most of us experience images, has taught us a new way of being in the world as it “changes the terms of confinement in the cave, our world” (3). She also argues “In teaching us a new visual code, photographs alter and enlarge our notions of what is worth looking at and what we have a right to observe” (3). Mitchell refers to images’ “potency” and describes “the ancient superstitions about images” which claims “they make people do irrational things, that they are potentially destructive forces that seduce and lead us astray” and says we still believe these things despite claiming that we don’t (19). Like Sontag, he is concerned with what she describes as “what is worth looking at and what we have a right to observe” and he argues “we still have to ask what it is about images that gives them such remarkable power to offend people” (125).

1.: Choose an image or picture that had a significant effect on you and discuss. The image or picture must be in the public domain or sphere – in other words, not a private or personal photograph taken for a private or personal objective. Perhaps the image or picture moved you to some action or feeling (remember, however, Sontag’s argument that photographs cannot in and of themselves change your mind or influence you to do or believe in things other than what you already believe whether you are aware of it or not), made you want to visit or experience a place, scared or terrorized you, inspired you to pursue a particular dream or goal, or made you believe you understood a person, place, thing, or concept. Remember the image or picture you choose should have a significant impact on you or others and not simply make a brief impression. Perhaps the image/picture is iconic, which you can argue, and has influenced or is still influencing many to understand an event in history in a particular way or to instruct us to behave in particular ways in keeping with cultural beliefs or taboos which you can explore. Discuss the picture or image and its meaning to you and to others in light of what Sontag, Mitchell, or Clarke have said about visual culture, pictures, and their influence or effect(s) on us as well as on the way we live in and experience the world. You will have to identify and describe the image as well as its effect and significance to you and others. As part of your discussion, speculate about why the picture/image has or has had this particular effect. You may have to do a rhetorical analysis of the image/ picture in order to figure out how it works and generate observations about it for your paper.


2.: Choose a photograph/picture/image that may be considered what Mitchell calls an “offending image” and discuss this. If you wish, you can choose one from Mitchell’s list on pages 129-130 or one from your own experience that you may have encountered in the news or elsewhere. Try to choose one from your own experience. If you do choose one from Mitchell’s list, you will have to do some research to see what others, besides Mitchell, have said about the image. As in #1, the image or picture must be in the public domain or sphere – in other words, not a private or personal photograph taken for a private or personal objective. Please also be aware you will be sharing and discussing this with the class so you should choose something you are comfortable sharing. Discuss why you think the image/ picture qualifies as offending. There are many reasons why a picture or image can be seen as “offending” and not all images will be “offending” to all spectators for the same reason(s). You will need to discuss or acknowledge this in your paper as you argue for why this picture or image can be considered to be “offending”. Perhaps the image or picture misrepresents something causing harm to either those in the picture or to spectators of the image. As Mitchell points out, an image that may be considered offending today may not have been considered offending at the time that it was created or might not be considered offending in the future. You may want to acknowledge this in your paper and look at Mitchell’s list of examples of offending images to see the variety of ways in which images or pictures may be defined as being offending to help you specify in what way your picture or image may be considered offending.

Remember, whether you choose #1 or #2, you should, as in any text create, develop a central idea and be sure to answer the “so what” and “who cares”? questions.

5 pages

Times New Roman 12

1300 words 

double spaced

1 inch margin

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