Sunday, October 7, 2012

Reading Response: "The Sticky Embrace of Beauty"

Readings on Writing (p. 78-97)
Reading Response
“The Sticky Embrace of Beauty” by Anne Wysocki

My Personal Thoughts:
I’m putting my personal thoughts first to apologize for any incorrectness or confusion throughout the rest of my response. To be completely honest- I had to reread this article a lot. I still do not understand it fully. The headings kind of helped me pull out the main points, but not enough. I’m still not real sure as to what Wysocki’s actual main purpose even was. This was an extremely difficult read for me. My summary seems lengthy to me, but I had to do it that way in order to understand the text myself. By far- my least favorite read and assignment.

In “A Sticky Embrace of Beauty,” Wysocki attempts to explain her analysis of an advertisement found in The New Yorker that features an image of a woman standing to one side nearly naked wearing black thigh-highs, gloves, and heels. She states that she feels both pleasure and anger when viewing the ad. Wysocki details the causes of her pleasure and anger and provides several reasons supporting her feeling of pleasure. However, she had to assess existing approaches of image analysis to develop reasoning explaining how this image evoked anger.

In her essay, Wysocki explains several aspects of visual analysis from Robin Williams’s The Non-Designer’s Design Book, work from Johanna Drucker, and Rudolf Arnheim’s The Power of the Center. Though these works provide great detail in part of Wysocki’s analysis of the ad, she is concerned with egocentrism in viewing. She stated:
“Williams’ principles emphasize the layout as object, as container of abstract efficient form, as something to contemplate that has no effects on us as we contemplate; in parallel, I argue that Arnheim’s and Bang’s principles emphasize the layout equally as object, but now that object is a container of the form I experience as an abstracted body. In neither case is the designed object conceived as something made to establish relations between me and others; in neither case is the object conceived to exist in a circuit of social and cultural relations” (86).
Wysocki then explains Molly Bang’s Picture This: Perception & Composition, and she references Kant’s Critique of Judgment and Wendy Steiner’s In Venus in Exile: The Rejection of Beauty in Twentieth-Century Art. From all of the works discussed she explained the four basic design principles (contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity), that our yearning for organization and consistency comes from a post-World War I effort towards efficiency, how different shapes effect our emotional responses, that specific elements in certain positions with particular directions can provide different meanings, and much more.
From all of Wysocki’s research she formulated her own ideas. She comes to summarize her anger when she says, “But what my analysis here shows me is that we should see this objectification- and the violence against women that can follow from it- as inseparable from the formal approaches we have learned for analyzing and making visual representations of all kinds” (93). Wysocki then closes with actual lesson plans of sorts to familiarize students with visual analysis. Wysocki’s main point to convey is that visual composition is rhetorical and that beauty is a quality we build.

Wysocki’s article is all about the visual. Therefore, I would have to say that her article relates to the articles from Berger, McLoud, Bernhardt.

John Berger attempted to explain the cultural construction of advertisement as visual representation pertaining to gender. Berger argues that art is a representation of the world around us and that the images we see of women today originate from the tradition of the “nude” in older European art. There is a strong connection to Wysocki’s article because her whole basis was from an advertisement of almost-nude women. Wysocki talked about the objectification of women visually, and Berger described why that happens.

McLoud mostly talks about comics and symbols, buy he explains why writers use them. Wysocki relates by talking about the basic design principles and layout.

Bernhardt attempted to explain the importance of visually appealing texts and how to achieve them.  Bernhardt argues that layout and rhetorical organization are important in creating a visually appealing text. This is almost synonymous to the explanations put forth by Wysocki because her whole essay is based on an advertisement and its appeal to a viewer.

3 Questions:
1.     On of the highlighted sentences in the text (and one that I could actually read without jumbling my words) was, “Form is itself always a set of structuring principles, with different forms growing out of and reproducing different but specific values.” Though I could read it, I cannot comprehend it. What does this even mean?

2.     Was it just me, or did the headings make the reading even more difficult? I felt like they did not follow the flow of the text—if you could even detect flow.

3.     I was totally lost when Wysocki was explaining Kant’s work. What does Wysocki mean when saying our judgments of beauty “must be disinterested?” (90)


  1. Stephanie--
    There is no need to apologize about your response. Your post actually does an excellent job addressing Wysocki's main points. McCloud seems to address the universal tendencies of cartoons--what is Wysocki's position about universals? More to come..

  2. Stephanie-

    I was right there with you on this one. I had a lot of trouble summarizing the article. Your summary is much better than mine and i think you did great. Did you think the headlines summarized the readings at all?

    1. Not at all. I think the headings made it harder to comprehend the reading. They did not "flow."

    2. …and thank you about the summary. :)

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