Masters Thesis

The fierce urgency of now: a visual rhetorical analysis of Barack Obama

The purpose of this thesis was to conduct a visual rhetorical analysis of several images of Barack Obama crying. This study proposed four research questions intended to explicate the significance and meaning of the images: (1) What are the potential functions of the BBC images? (2) What were the reactions to Obama’s crying and how does that impact the understanding of the visual images? (3) How does a visual rhetorical analysis of these images help us understand the contemporary presidency? (4) How does a visual rhetorical analysis help us understand the implications of President Obama’s crying during public speeches and events? The images under examination were uploaded to a BBC article in 2017 and some of these images received more discussion and distribution across mass media. Part of this study’s intention is not only to create a greater understanding of presidential rhetoric and visual rhetoric but to help situate their places in communication studies as well. Limitations for this research and future research implications are also discussed.

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