Just as important as any other aspect of visual rhetoric is the use of visual metaphor and the recognition that we often use visual metaphors as a way of understanding the world.

Robert N. St. Clair in Visual Metaphor, Cultural Knowledge, and the New Rhetoric, provides this example of the way metaphors function as cognitive models, or ways of knowing:

A teacher who sees students as fragile human beings is using metaphor. He treats them as eggs and is afraid to hurt them. He does not want to see them crack. Another teacher may have a different metaphor when dealing with children. He may see the classroom as a battlefield. He wants his students to hit the target. His approach is one of toughening up the student for battle. They must combat the real world. Metaphors tell us much about those who use them. They provide insight into how these individuals view the world.

Questions to ask about an assignment then might be:

· As a creator or evaluator of a visual text (whatever medium or form it takes) do you see a visual metaphor at work?
· How might the arrangement, content, symbolism of the visual text provide the basis for a metaphor that grants access to a larger meaning, or to a cognitive model/concept/way of looking at the world?
· What experiences from your own life are evoked by the image?
· What emotions are provoked in you by the image? What can you SEE the author might be SAYING through the elements of design in this image?

- Duke University Writing Studio

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