Dana J. Gavin

PhD Student, English | Old Dominion University

Conference Presentations

I am thrilled to be presenting papers at Southwest Popular/American Culture Association (SWPACA) in Albuquerque, NM, and at NeMLA in Pittsburgh, PA, next year! I look forward to meeting everyone and attending as many panels and presentations as possible. I’ll definitely be tweeting up a storm.


SWPACA, February 2018:  “It is a hobby of mine to have an exact knowledge of London:” the allure of geography and nostalgia in Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter


NeMLA, April 2018: Expect Resistance (To the Message): Effective Design in Protest Signs from 2017 Women’s Marches, at the NeMLA 2018 seminar panel,

“‘Nevertheless, they persisted’: The Aesthetics of Resistance.”

ENG 894 Game Theory | First Assignment — Text-Based Game Design



ENG 806 Infographic

ENG 806 Example of a Poster

I created this poster for the Junior League of Poughkeepsie’s upcoming event using Canva, a free online design tool. I have tried to upload a larger, clearer image, but WordPress continues to reject it.

My main concerns were to have the Junior League’s logo prominent but not too overwhelming and then to use the stacks of pastel book stacks to make this seem more child-friendly (it is a children’s authors luncheon). I used pictures of the authors, because I have a strong feeling most people are not going to be familiar with their names or the titles of their books alone. The smaller picture is of the event host, who is apparently well-known, and he looks very sprightly, so I thought he would be eye-catching.

Perhaps what I am most pleased with is that I learned how to make a QR code, because if this flyer is hanging up in a library, a person might be able to take a picture of it on their phone to remember all the contact details, but savvier folks can just use a QR reader to go directly to the website to purchase tickets.

I would have actually preferred to use more white space, because I think this is actually too busy, but there seemed to be a lot of necessary information to communicate to potential attendees.

ENG 806 PAB #3

DiSalvo, C. (2012). Design and Agonism. In Adversarial Design (pp. 1-26). MIT Press. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.online.library.marist.edu/stable/j.ctt5hhbs4.5

Carl DiSalvo focuses his book, Adversarial Design, on computations, but in the first chapter of his book, he offers several very useful terms as I think about how to analyze the visual rhetoric of protest signs. His essential research question is to muse whether or not there is a need to continue to discuss what design is and what it can accomplish. DiSalvo’s answer is yes (he goes on to write an entire book), particularly the relationship between design, politics, and the political.

He begins by defining what he calls “adversarial design” as “work straddles the boundaries of design and art, engineering and computer science, agitprop and consumer products. It spans a range of audiences and potential users and falls under various labels, such as critical design and tactical media (1-2). Several of the signs I plan to use as artifacts do employ different images, media, technology (including strings of lights).

DiSalvo continues by writing, “I use the phrase adversarial design to label works that express or enable a particular political perspective known as agonism. And I do not limit the term design to the profession of design but rather extend it across disciplinary boundaries to include a range of practices concerned with the construction of our visual and material environments, including objects, interfaces, networks, spaces, and events” (2). As a theory, agonism proposes that political conflict is essential and yet does not have to be negative.

From http://spatialinformationdesignlab.org/projects.php%3Fid%3D16 — This map shows ” city-prison-city-prison migration flow,” which inspires conversation about a potentially biased incarceration system.

DiSalvo uses several different projects as examples, but perhaps the most useful to me is an analysis of a project called The Million Dollar Blocks project – a map design that, as he writes, “political design because it reveals, questions, and challenges conditions and structures in the urban environment; it opens a space for contestation; and it suggests new practices of design in mapping and urban planning” (11). This method of determining what is political design is important and helpful.

He adds, “By revealing the conditions of political issues and relations, adversarial design can identify new terms and themes for contestation and new trajectories for action” (13).

He continues by offering three characteristics that reminded me of Foss’s visual argument litmus test:

  1. “[T]he practice of design extends the professions of design. Anytime a deliberate and directed approach is taken to the invention and making of products or services to shape the environment through the manipulation of materials and experiences, this is design” (16)
  2. “[T]he practice of design is normative. It is how things could or ought to be. As a normative endeavor, design stands in contrast to disciplines or practices that produce descriptions or explanations alone” (16)
  3. “[T]he practice of design makes ideas, beliefs, and capacities for action experientially accessible and known” (16)

ENG 806 PAB #2

Campbell, K. (2002). Consciousness-Raising: Linking Theory, Criticism, and Practice. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 32(1), 45-64. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.online.library.marist.edu/stable/3886305.

Angelina Emily Grimké, a Southern abolitionist whose work Campbell references.

In “Consciousness-Raising: Linking Theory, Criticism, and Practice,” Karlyn Kohrs Campbell is primarily concerned with the suppression of women’s writing, the reclamation of that work, and the development of theories that will effectively allow scholars to analyze women’s writing that has traditionally been examined through male-driven theories. She offers a history of women’s protest rhetoric lost and reclaimed, including the work of scholars who “not only preserved speech texts but also included detailed information from archives, newspapers, and personal papers regarding speech occasions, audience reactions speech preparation, and the like” (47).

Campbell presents a history of efforts to collect and present women’s writing over the years, and names relevant anthologies. She then discusses how “[t]heorizing about rhetoric emerged in cultures hostile to and denigrating of women,” (48) and notes that, through an earlier book of her’s, she developed “interrelated strategies” that she termed a “’feminine’” style (49). Campbell specifically addresses the ways women contributed to anti-slavery discourse and, using Habermas and other theorists, discusses explicitly how their protest rhetoric was uniquely “feminine” in their approach.

Finally, she shares feminist rhetorical strategies that exist in order to do this “conscious-raising” work, and reclaim (and reframe) women’s rhetoric.

This application of feminist historiography as well as Campbell’s compelling demonstration of how to apply feminist theories to women’s rhetoric (particularly protest rhetoric), is incredibly useful as I look to understand the protest signs from the 2017 Women’s Marches. Her interest in going beyond say, the “traditional” novel and her interest in the way women’s rhetoric affected social change seems very appropriate for my vision for my final project.

ENG 806 Visual Rhetoric Personal Design Timeline

ENG 806 Activity 2/23/2017

I am going to attempt to apply Foss’s logic on another image from the 2017 Women’s March protests. I am using the following quote as my framework: “What turns a visual object into a communicative artifact – a symbol that communicates and can be studied as rhetoric … The image must be symbolic, involve human intervention and be presented to an audience for the purpose of communicating with that audience” (144).

The sign is made out of yellow material and is in the shape of a five-pointed star. The five-pointed star is a rich symbol with many interpretations; in this case, given the color and the language printed on the sign, it is clearly referencing the Star of David symbol used to mark Jewish people during World War II. The image fulfills Foss’s demand for symbolism. The sign was certainly constructed by a human, and it is communicating a message (a message that is somewhat nuanced, as it does not expressly say, “America is becoming Nazi Germany!”). This sign seems to easily meet Foss’s standards. This is a visual argument.

What this method misses, perhaps, is an evaluation of the communicative artifact’s effectiveness, though I think that could be teased out by following Foss’s assertion that rhetorical perspective depends on an image’s nature, function, and evaluation, where function is divorced from purpose. The sign is a visual argument, but does it command action? A redress of thought? What am I, the viewer, supposed to do with this image? If its purpose isn’t clear, then the argument is moot, I think.

ENG 806 Readings Artifact Group #2

Attempting to work with Blair’s hard-line here:

This is a hammer to your skull, I think. Even better than the egg frying as your brain on drugs.

ENG 806 Visual Rhetoric and Design Application of Method Activity

Reading Sonja K. Foss’s chapter, “Theory of Visual Rhetoric,” in The Handbook of Visual Communication helps me most clearly understand what I believe constitutes a visual argument. She writes, “What turns a visual object into a communicative artifact – a symbol that communicates and can be studied as rhetoric … The image must be symbolic, involve human intervention and be presented to an audience for the purpose of communicating with that audience” (144) She goes on to assert that rhetorical perspective depends on an image’s nature, function, and evaluation, where function is divorced from purpose (a bit Barthesian “Death of the Author”). I believe a visual argument can definitely be done without linguistic reference, but less so effectively in the absence of a contextual one.

The image is symbolic: in the later part of the 20th century, pink has been arbitrarily associated with the feminine. The little ear flaps change the shape of the hat from normal beanie shape into an animal (specifically a cat, though some pussy hats look less like cats and more like bunnies, to my mind.) This hat had to be knitted by a human, indicating human intervention. They are being worn on the heads of humans to communicate an idea. That is part of what Foss would suggest is situational, in that most people are wearing these hats at protests, marches, and rallies to communicate solidarity. This concept of solidarity, though, aligns with Foss’s argument that function is not the same as purpose. Suppose the person who knit the hat meant for the hat to represent a position on women’s health rights. The person who see that hat, in the absence of any specific reference to women’s health rights, might read the hat as symbolizing female of power, or a pro-ACA stance, or a push for immigration rights. Thus, the hat is a visual argument because it invites interpretation.

Foss, S. K. (2005). Theory of Visual Rhetoric. In K. Smith, S. Moriarty, G. Barbatsis, & K. Kenney, Eds., Handbook of Visual Communication: Theory, Methods, and Media (pp. 144-152). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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