Selfie Rhetorical Motivations

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Selfie Rhetorical Motivations

  • Participate in trends & shape trends

    • Demonstrate cultural literacy

  • Show off/Self Promote (status, popularity, interesting lifestyle, new or fancy stuff)

  • Gain & Give approval, validation, positive feedback

  • Freeze a moment/Save a moment

  • “self-objectification” – self as art/still life

    • Explore the flexibility of the genre (extreme selfies)

  • Perform or Play a part

    • Sometimes with sincerity, sometimes with irony (and sometimes—somehow—both?)

  • Facilitate natural impulses to share (everything can be shared)

  • Make the mundane special

  • Make the private public

    • Or show how the private and public overlap

  • Affirm, provide evidence of an identity

    • Protest a stereotype (often about gender: femininity, masculinity, standards of beauty)

Vanitas Rhetorical Motivations

  • Validate conspicuous consumption

    • Fancy dress, shiny objects

  • Celebrate power of the imagination

    • Scientific instruments, music, art

  • Participate in trends (within art & literature & science)

  • Demonstrate awareness of temporal limits

  • Preach that all is (ultimately) vanity

    • Moralize by exaggerating the ephemerality and corruptibility of all earthly pleasures

  • Transcendence: Draw attention to artifice so we look beyond it

    • Chart a course “between excessive display and necessary aid to the contemplation of divine promise” (291)

  • Puzzle viewers by fascinating us w/ beauty while warning us against being fascinated w/ beauty

  • Tell a story about the circularity of life: death is always linked to renewal

Both use TRIVIAL things to make an argument about what is important or unimportant in human life. Both suggest that objects are expressive of identity, and both are arguably ambiguous about whether or not this is a good thing.
Your job is to take some of the artfulness and thoughtfulness of the vanitas, and some of the playfulness and drama of the selfie to create a new kind of (trivial) artifact.
Whatever you compose, your photo should have an argument; it should demonstrate rhetorical awareness. The essay you write to accompany your photo will help viewers perceive this argument—indeed, you will spell it out for us in a traditionally thesis-driven document—but the photo on its own should do a lot to suggest your rhetorical motivation.
Additional homework for today: come to class tomorrow, Tuesday, with a rough idea of the argument you want your vanitas-selfie to express.

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