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Looking good: Can function follow form?

5 December 2014

A research seminar given by Professor Theo van Leeuwen (University of Southern Denmark in Odense)

December 10th  13.10-14.00, in room 2.01, John Percival Building, Cardiff University

Today, writing must do more than communicate, it must also ‘look good’. New technologies provide templates for a wide range of document genres which all focus on presentation rather than content.

  • What does it mean to ‘look good’?
  • Why has it become so important and ubiquitous?
  • Can it be analysed? Should it?

The paper will explore these questions, first by revisiting Prague School aesthetics and the aesthetics of Charles Morris and Umberto Eco, so as to focus on the key themes of aesthetic theory – the foregrounding of form, pleasure and transgression, and identity – then by asking whether the largely formalistic heritage of rhetoric and literary stylistics can be reconfigured as a social semiotic and systemic-functional approach to the contemporary multimodal aesthetics of ‘looking good’

About the speaker:

Theo van Leeuwen worked as a film and television producer in his native Holland and Australia. Later he studied linguistics in Sydney and Paris, and variously taught film production, media studies and semiotics at Macquarie University, the London College of Printing and Cardiff University. Between 2005 and 2013 he was Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Technology, Sydney, and since September 2013, he is Professor of Language and Communication at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, Honorary Professor at Lancaster University and Visiting Professor at the Institute of Education, London. He has published widely in the areas of social semiotics, critical discourse analysis and multimodality. His books include Reading Images – The Grammar of Visual Design (with Gunther Kress); Speech, Music, Sound; Introducing Social Semiotics; Global Media Discourse (with David Machin); and Discourse and Practice – New Tools for Critical Discourse Analysis and The Language of Colour. With Carey Jewitt, he is a founding editor of the international journal Visual Communication.