Jim Harrison: from “Returning to Earth”

Assemblage: English 395 “Topics in the Teaching of English: Visible Rhetoric”1 Fall 1989

Harrison drew this self-portrait when he signed my copy of Letters to Yesenin. Notice the wandering left eye, an affliction we shared.

  1. The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that the name of the class changed from “Visual Rhetoric” to “Visible Rhetoric” in the Fall of 1989. This change was due in part to a political battle with the School of Communication at Illinois State about whether the English Department could teach courses with the word “Visual” in their title, but also because I realized I was interested in the relationship of rhetoric and the material nature of a document. I had become fascinating with the many ways in which we inscribe meaning in every decision we make in creating a publication. Everything visible, tactile, or aural is rhetorical. My class in turn became less interested in the visual and more interested in the visible, how what is seen and what is held in the hand carries material, semiotic weight.