This Article evaluates visual legal rhetoric in order to demonstrate the potential of visual-graphical devices and narrative elements for use in legal discourse. The subject of my demonstration of graphical rhetorical devices is the famous work of modern rhetoric, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail." I will perform a rhetorical analysis of the verbal topics of invention and tropes of style in the text of the letter, and simultaneously demonstrate the use of images and visual elements in an "illustrated" form of the letter.

Part II of this Article provides an introduction and background information regarding Dr. King's letter. Part III will provide a brief background on modern legal rhetoric. In part III(A), I will discuss the communicative power of visual and graphical works as symbolic speech and communication, and how visual rhetoric is the next logical step for legal rhetoric and advocacy. In part III(B), I will discuss several lessons regarding visual rhetoric concerning pathos-based modes of persuasion to address cognitive and situational effects on decision-making. Part IV will discuss the use of visual rhetorical devices as a topic of invention and arrangement and a trope of style within contemporary legal rhetoric and modern argument theory. The discussion traces the potential of visual-graphical expressions of ideas and concepts as an effective means of communication to build knowledge and understanding of the ideas and concepts or to advocate a position. Part V presents my rhetorical analysis and demonstration of an illustrated "Letter from Birmingham Jail."

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Notes/Citation Information

Michael D. Murray, Visual Rhetoric: Topics of Invention and Arrangement and Tropes of Style, 21 Legal Writing 185-248 (2016).



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