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Fall 2018, 48.4, pages 352-379

Warburgian Maxims for Visual Rhetoric

Abstract: Aby Warburg (1866–1929) has been a tremendously influential thinker in the history and theory of art. Parts of his project have implications for the history, theory, and criticism of rhetoric. For the most part, however, rhetoricians have not engaged with his work. This article seeks to persuade rhetoricians to engage with Warburg’s thought and legacy. In particular, it seeks to articulate his Mnemosyne image atlas as a theory and practice of visual topics. Discovered as part of a historical investigation and expressed in a theoretical register, Warburg’s account of visual topics is then exemplified in reference to the gestural politics of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” in the twin contexts of contemporary media ecology and contemporary racial politics in the United States.


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