Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Rhetoric of Graffiti...hypothetically.

Banksy's "Brinngg"
D’Angelo, Frank. “Sacred Cows Make Great Hamburgers:  The Rhetoric of Graffiti.”  College Composition and Communication 25.5 (1974):  173-180.  Print.
Like “Oscar Mayer Ads Are Pure Baloney:  The Graffitist as Critic of Advertising,” an article that D’Angelo published a year after this one (see my previous blog entry), this article addresses the means in which the aims of graffiti parallel those aims of other forms of communication.  While his subsequent article compared graffiti to the work of critics of advertising, this piece puts graffiti in comparison with proverb writing. 
D’Angelo explains that both proverbs and graffiti, at least propositional graffiti, are  “concise, direct, pithy, and incisive” (173).  While the two types of writing have similar traits, graffiti is said to make its point through “ridicule” rather than “folk wit” (173).  The author argues that because graffiti’s approach is entertaining, it can be an effective vehicle for teaching students style.
He suggests that while rhetoricians of the Middle Ages used proverbs to teach style, our contemporary cultural equivalent for teaching stylistic matters might be found in works of graffiti.  As a result, his article first comments upon multiple rhetorical strategies used by graffiti artists, and then discusses how those techniques operate as instruments of satire.  Specifically, he examines following techniques (which he calls “figures of style”): allusions, puns, irony, alliteration, rhyme, antithesis, parallelism, apposition, and parody.
In the end of his article, D’Angelo begins to explore the means in which these observations might be applied to the teaching of writing.  While the promise of this application was of most interest to me in selecting to read this article, it is the portion that is least developed.  This discussion of application accounts for one paragraph of the article—the concluding paragraph.  In this paragraph, D’Angelo states that the analysis of graffiti can be useful in linguistic and social criticism, and that it can help students understand stylistic choices.  He suggests that we help students understand their rhetorical choices more thoroughly through the analysis of these choices and by urging them to make their own such choices “conscious and meaningful.”   
Much in the way that I felt after reading his piece on the graffitist as critic of advertising, I am once again underwhelmed by the evidence D’Angelo provides to convince his reader.  The article contains multiple “graffitos,” an apparent blending of the word motto and graffiti, which provide examples of how a graffitist might write a proverbial statement with a satirical undertone.  However, there is, once again,  no proof that any actual graffiti has taken place in this manner.  In this article, like his other, the graffitist still seems theoretical.  In addition to the lack of evidence, that graffiti operates in this manner, the piece begs for further elaboration into why graffiti is an effective tool for introducing linguistic and social criticism and how it can be of used to help students understand rhetoric choices in a practical manner.  The practitioner in me wants examples, lesson plans or at least a detailed praxis oriented discussion.

No comments:

Post a Comment