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Complex Descriptive Systems: An Object-Oriented Poetics for Rhetoric and Writing

Banazek, Kerry (2017) Complex Descriptive Systems: An Object-Oriented Poetics for Rhetoric and Writing. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation theorizes description as an ethical art inflected by the technologies that share and shape our lives. In recent decades, camera drones, advanced medical imaging, and smartphones have all quietly changed the cultural function of description by changing what we can see and re-see. Similarly, the data abundance characteristic of digital culture foregrounds human reliance on pieces of description that help us sort and access data: lists, maps, keywords, captions, and titles. Because of these shifts, I argue, a theory of contemporary descriptive practice has the potential to bring the fields of writing studies, technology studies, and visual cultural studies together in new and necessary ways around questions of access to information, which I understand as pressing questions of social justice. I argue that examining what “counts” as descriptive in diverse settings provides a way of understanding how shared terms and practices generate and delineate communities; and I suggest that “good” descriptions make specialist domains more inclusive and teach us about writing for accessibility across contexts.

Chapters on Objectivist poetics, ekphrastic writing, the stock image industry, and activist artists’ use of aerial photographs trace out ways in which descriptions’ differently styled failures to match the world perfectly produce different kinds of social bonds. In each chapter, examples set by practitioners (including writers, photographers, and interface designers) ground philosophical meditations on the interplays that characterize relations between text-and-image, human-and-nonhuman, and observation-and-being. This dissertation also argues that description’s status as the rhetorical mode (and poetic figure) most likely to behave as if it were a non-linguistic object makes the study of description an ideal interface between writing studies and new materialist thing theories (e.g. Barad, Braidotti, Brown, Bryant, Garcia, Harman, Hodder), which have gained traction across a wide array of academic disciplines during the last two decades.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Banazek, Kerrykeb131@pitt.eduKEB131
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairVee,
Committee MemberCarr,
Committee MemberHolding,
Committee MemberBrown,
Date: 23 September 2017
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 9 June 2017
Approval Date: 23 September 2017
Submission Date: 20 June 2017
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 318
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Composition, Writing Studies, New Materialism, Ekphrasis, Description, Visual Rhetoric
Date Deposited: 23 Sep 2017 23:38
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2022 05:15


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