Department of Rhetoric and Writing

The University of Texas at Austin

Visual Rhetoric

And Now, A Reading from The Book of Bro

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Brainstorming with my fellow viz. writers on matters related to book covers and the rhetoric thereof, I mentioned my interest in the Chick Lit phenomenon.  After politely listening to the sound of a dead horse being dug up from its grave and beat relentlessly, there was a collective eye roll and sigh.  For more reasons than I have time to list at the moment, I realized very quickly that the nonplussed reception was more than justified.  We kept bouncing around ideas, and touched upon the question of whether there was a male equivalent of Chick Lit.  Or, to use the term that our editor Rhiannon invented, is there such a thing as “Bro Books?”

It was an awesome idea, and what follows is my attempt to run with it.

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Strong is the New Skinny, OR: Why I Hate the Strong Female Character

This post started with a t-shirt. It draped across the shoulders of a college student—female, attractive—and sported the slogan “Strong is the New Sexy.” The shirt caught my attention because it was neon orange, but the slogan stuck. It seemed both snappy and dense, culturally relevant and straightforward.

 Strong is the New Skinny

Image Credit: Jenniver Cohen and Stacey Colino,

The Shape of Your Ice


a large block of ice on a fancy bar

Image Credit:

These days, the best cocktail bars are taking their ice very seriously. The cut, size, and clarity of the ice are considered key factors in the content of a drink. Cocktail bars like Austin’s (and New York’s) Weather Up organize their drink menu by the shape of the ice. This post examines the increasing focus on the appearance of cocktail ice.

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Educated Wine? Or: How to Feed Your Elitism with Booze

Hypothesis Wine

Image Credit: Roots Run Deep Winery

I don't know anything about wine. I know there are reds and whites, and I know that, thankfully, they don't give me migraines.

And I'm not picky. Give me something that isn’t too acidic, nothing too sweet, and I'm happy enough to grade some student papers. But I'll admit that—when I’m choosing wine myself—I choose it entirely on one qualification, and one only: the label.

Girly Drinks and Heteronormativity

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Why do we think of certain drinks as “girly?” It's common to use this category when we talk about alcohol. Popular TV shows like Scrubs and How I Met Your Mother portray male characters being mocked for ordering girly drinks, or using their female partners as camouflage in order to obtain them.  Social media users label pictures of pink, umbrella-d beverages with the hashtag “#girlydrink.” Magazines publish articles giving their spin on girly drinks, like Cosmopolitan Magazine’s “Girly Drinks We’re Not Ashamed to Love.” 

Pets, Pain, & Pigs


Photo shows exterior of the restaurant Foreign & Domestic, which features a pig with wings.

Image credit: Foreign & Domestic, by Aimee Wenske

As Deb noted in the last viz. post, recently many social media users have taken to posting photos of animals, usually puppies and kittens, as a means to demonstrate empathy in times of (both personal and public) trauma and tragedy. Animals may help us deal with our pain even in their visual form. (In person, they certainly benefit us!) I’m interested in how this use of animal visuals as an antidote to pain relates to the popular use of animal figures to sell the food we eat, such as the currently hip image of the pig. 

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Browsing Between Cute Baby Animals and Tragedy

Image Credit: klaynexas 3, 

          A post that links to images of cute animals is a common sight on Facebook these days. We share articles such as “13 Pictures of Humans Hugging Animals That Will Make You Feel Better” and “27 Baby Animals That Will Instantly Make Your Day Better.” Within the articles, these images are framed in terms of how they make the reader feel, how they will comfort us and raise us from whatever mental state (by implication, a negative one) we were in when we found them.

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The Serpent Was a Creeper: Religious Representations of Animals and Humanity in Children's Literature

First Serpent

Image Credit: The Little Picture Bible, by Isabella Child

When I was a child, I liked to imagine Adam in the Garden of Eden, surrounded by docile beasts as he handed out names like candy. "Elephant," he'd say--and I liked wondering whether Elephant was a proper noun, the name “Elephant," or simply a category. Elephant would smile gratefully and lumber to the back of the group so that Adam could see and name his next subject.

“Rueful Reluctance:” An Unwitting Cat Owner’s Search for Meaning Among Memes

Image Credit: "Nyan Cat-Pop Tart Cat," by Chris Torres

Last week, my neighbor stopped by to tell me that he was moving, and that pets were not allowed at his new residence.  With all due histrionics, he lamented the fact that he was going to take her to the shelter, and that “unless anybody here wants to adopt her, [insert overly dramatic sigh] I guess she’ll probably be put down.”


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