Analysing Visuals in English (Argument Analysis)
This article has been written by Lydia McClelland, a VCE French, Music Theory, Literature & VCE English Tutor at Learnmate. If you’re interested in private tutoring from Lydia then please check out her page here.
Visuals are a very important element of argument analysis (Section C of the VCE English exam), even though you will spend the vast majority of your time in English analysing words. Your response to visual elements of the text can very effectively set apart your work from others!
The term “visuals” includes multiple possibilities: cartoons, photos, logos… if you can print it onto a page, it’s possible you will need to analyse it! Your task is still to work out what its message is, and how it’s saying it.
Step One: What is the visual trying to convey?
It can be difficult, when an image seems to have multiple meanings, to analyse the intended meaning. However, usually the location of the image can give you some clues:
If the image accompanies a wider body of text, it is most likely serving to reinforce/restate/emphasise the message in the writing, or one aspect of the message in the writing. Look for how it connects to parts of the text
If it is a stand-alone cartoon, often it will be mocking or supporting a differing opinion
If it’s just a logo/graphic, look into how it represents the ideals of the author
This stage is definitely open to interpretation – there is not simply one correct answer. What is more important is your justification of your analysis.
Step Two: How is it conveying the message?
This is the more important stage: how does the visual attempt to affect the viewer? Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Is it dark/light/medium? Do the colours/lack of colours contribute to this? What mood does this convey?
- If a photo, what does the camera angle signify? A close-up might emphasise one element of the subject. A low angle will make something appear taller/larger, while a high angle will make it appear smaller – what does this do?
- Are there any comical elements? This could mean it’s simply light-hearted or could provide over-exaggerated or hyperbolic mockery of an idea.
- How, overall, does the creator of the text depict the issue in the visual?
- Try and think about if there are complex ideas conveyed by the visual that could not be as clearly expressed in written form – this is the main reason for having visual elements! Explore this.
The main thing to remember is that, as long as you have evidence to back it up, the more creative your response to a visual is, the better!
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