Visual Rhetoric in Election Posters A Multimodal Critical Discourse Analysis Approach

Main Article Content

Elham M. Qadir


This study upholds that the visual semiotic choices in election posters are bound to catalyze particular rhetorical repercussions; hence, it primarily purports to delve into the visual rhetorical strategies deployed in election posters to yield a favorable representation of candidates establishing their visual ethos, visual pathos and visual logos, drawing on the visual semiotic resources employed in election posters which are presumed to be a matter of strategic production and distribution. It is principally couched in the theoretical frameworks of visual rhetoric and multimodal critical discourse analysis. More precisely, the study attempts to illustrate how multimodal critical discourse analysis can be exploited to unbury the subtle ideological discourses which are disseminated, legitimated and naturalized visually in election posters and examine what rhetorical influence these discourses try to exert on the electorate. To this end, the study brings together concepts from Kress and Van Leeuwen's (1996, 2006) model of visual/multimodal semiotics and classical rhetoric, and draws on Van Leeuwen's (2008) social actor theory as well as Van Leeuwen and Wodak's (1999) recontextualization of the social practice. The study adopts an eclectic analytic interpretive qualitative approach. In particular, it explores four election posters for the Iraqi parliamentary election in Kurdistan Region in September, 2021. The results show that election posters are ideologically and programmatically designed visual atrefacts wherein various visual rhetorical strategies at the representational, interactive, and compositional levels of meaning are employed to construct a positive picture of the candidates, which in turn build up the candidates' visual ethos, pathos and logos.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Qadir, E. M. . (2023) “Visual Rhetoric in Election Posters: A Multimodal Critical Discourse Analysis Approach ”, Koya University Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 6(1), pp. 136-159. doi: 10.14500/kujhss.v6n1y2023.pp136-159.
Author Biography

Elham M. Qadir, Instructor, Department of English, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Koya University, Kurdistan Region, Iraq

Elham Majeed Qadir I am a lecturer and researcher at the Department of English, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Koya University. I hold PhD in English language and Linguistics/ Discourse Analysis. I have taught various subjects in my department including Phonology, Grammar, Syntax, Morphology, Linguistics, Translation, Text and Discourse Analysis, Methods of Research, Introduction to Discourse. My research interests are Discourse Analysis, Critical and Multimodal Discourse Analysis,, Rhetoric, Pragmatics, Applied Linguistics, and Translation. I am a proofreader at Koya University Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences. I have three published articles. My current project is exploring visual modality in advertisements.



Andrews, R. (2014). A Theory of Contemporary Rhetoric. New York: Routledge.

Andrus, J. (2013). 'Rhetorical Discourse Analysis' in C. A. Chapelle (Ed.), The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. New York: Blackwell. Available at (Accessed: January 5 2021).

Bateman, J. and Schimdt, K.H. (2012). Multimodal Film Analysis: How Films Mean. New York: Routledge.

Belgremit, S. and Rabab'ah, G. (2021). 'A Multimodal Discourse Analysis of English Posters in Violence Awareness Campaigns against Women'. Theory and Practice in Language Studies. Vol 11, no. 2, pp. 191-201. Available at .(Accessed: March 10 2022).

Benderbal, A. H. (2018). A Multimodal Discourse Analysis of Election Posters in Algeria: Case Study: Electioneering Campaign of 23rd of November 2017.An MA Thesis. University of Mostaganem: Algeria.

Blair, J. A. (2008). 'The Rhetoric of Visual Arguments'. In C. A. Hill and M. Helmers (Eds.), Defining Visual Rhetoric. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: London, pp. 41-61.

Blakesley, D. (2008). Defining Film Rhetoric: The Case of Hitchcock's Vertigo. In C. A. Hill and M. Helmers (Eds.), Defining Visual Rhetoric. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: London, pp. 111-34.

Bloor, M. and Bloor, T. (2007). The Practice of Critical Discourse Analysis. New York:Routledge.

Catalano, T. and Waugh, L. (2020). Critical Discourse Analysis Critical Discourse Studies and Beyond. Gewerbestrasse: Springer.

Cheng, Y. W. (2014). A Multimodal Discourse Aanlysis of the Relationship between PI and Richard the Tiger in the Movie Life of Pi. International Journal of Language and Literature.Vol 2 (4), pp. 1-Available athttpp:// (Accessed: 24 Janury 2022).

Chapelle, C. A. (Ed) (2013). The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. New York: Blackwell.

Connolly, J. and Phillips, I. (2002) 'Semiotics and the Theoretical Foundations of Multimedia'. Available at https:/www.semantic (Accessed: 13 Agust, 2022.

Devereux, E. (2007) Media Studies: Key Issues and Key Debates. London: Sage.

Eisenhart, C. and Johnstone, B. (2008). 'Discourse Analysis and Rhetorical Studies'. In, C. Eisenhart and B. Johnstone (Eds.), Rhetoric in Detail: Discourse Analyses of Rhetorical Talk and Text. The Netherlands: John Benjamins, pp. 4-21.

Fairclough, N. and Wodak, R. (1997). 'Critical Discourse Analysis'. In T.A. van Dijk (Ed.), Discourse as Social Interaction. London: Sage, pp.258-85.

Fairclough, N. (2003). Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research. London and New York: Routledge.

Fairclough, I. and Fairclough, N. (2013). Political Discourse Analysis: A Method for Advanced Students. London: Routledge.

Farell, J. M. (2006) This Horrible Spectacle: Visual and Verbal Sketches of the Famine in Skibbereen. In L. J. Preli (Ed.), Rhetorics of Display. Colombia SC: University of South Carolina Press, pp. 66-90.

Fernandes, D. O., and Oswald, S. (2022) On the Rhetorical Effectiveness of Implicit Meaning—A PragmaticApproach. Languages 8: 6. Available at April, 2023).

Finnegan, C. A. (2008). 'Doing Rhetorical History of the Visual: The Photograph and the Archive'. In C. A. Hill and M. Helmers (Eds.), Defining Visual Rhetoric. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: London, pp. 195- 214.

Fleming, D. (1996). Can Pictures be Arguments? Argument and Advocacy, 33 (1), pp. 11-22.

Foss, S.K. (2008) 'Framing the Study of Visual Rhetoric: Towards a Transformation ofRhetorical Theory'. In C. A. Hill and M. Helmers (Eds.), Defining Visual Rhetoric. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: London, pp. 303-3013.

Gallez, E., and Reynders, A. (2015). 'Court Interpreting and Classical rhetoric: Ethos in Interpreter-mediated Monological Discourse'. Interpreting17 (3), pp 64–90.

Gîfu, D. (2014). Political Rhetoric in Elections. In Vlăduțescu, S., Voinea, D. V., and Opran, E. R. (Eds.) Neutrosophy, Paradoxism and Communication.Craiova: Sithech.

Goggin, M. D. (2008) 'Visual Rhetoric in Pens of Steel and Inks of Silk: Challenging the Great Visual/Verbal Divide' in Hill, C. and Helmers, M. (Eds.), Defining Visual Rhetoric. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 87-111.

Gries, L. (2020). Advances in Visual Rhetorical Analysis. In L. Pauwels, and D. Mannay, (Eds.), The Sage Handbook of Visual Research Methods. Sage: UK, pp.381-396.

Groark, L. (2009). Five Theses on Toulmin and Visual Argument. In F. H. Van Emeren and B. Garssen (Eds.), Pondering on Problems of Argumentation: Twenty Essays on Theoretical Issues. Dordrecht: Springer, pp.220-39.

Halliday, M. K. (1978).Language as Social Semiotics: The Social interpretation of Language and Meaning. London: Hodder Arnold.

Halliday, M. K. (1985) An Introduction to Functional Grammar. London: Arnold.

Helmers , M. and Hill, C. A. (2008). Introduction. In C. A. Hill and M. Helmers (Eds.), Defining Visual Rhetoric. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: London, pp. 1-23.

Jewitt, C. (2009). 'Introduction to multimodality'. In C. Jewitt (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Multimodal Analysis. London: Routledge, pp. 14-27.

Jewitt, C. and Kress, G. (2003). Multimodal literacy. New York: Peter Lang.

JewittC. And Oyama, R. (2011).'Visual Meaning: A social Semiotic Approach'. In T. Van Leeuwen and C. Jewitt (Eds.), The Handbook of Visual Analysis. London: Sage, pp.90-116.

Jonstone, B. (2008). Discourse analysis (2nd edition.). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Jorgenson-Erap, C.R. (2006) Satisfication of Metaphorical Expectation through Visual Display: The Titanic Exhibition. In L. J. Prelli (Ed.), Rhetorics of Display. Colombia: University of South Carolina Press, pp. 41-65.

Kareem, M. A. and Qadir, E. M. (2023). The Representation of Women in English and Kurdish Magazine Cover Pages: A Critical Multimodal Perspective. Garmian University Journal. Vol 10 (5), pp. 993-1014.

Kress, G. (2005) 'Design and Transformation: New Theories of Meaning'. In Cope and Kalantis (Eds), Multiliteracies. London: Routledge, pp. 153-161.

Kress, G. (2010). Multimodality: A Social Semiotic Approach to Contemporary Communication. London and New York: Routledge.

Kress, G. and Bezemer, J. (2023).Multimodal Discourse Analysis. In M. Hanford and P.J. Gee (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Discourse Aanalysis ,2nd edition. London: Routledge, pp. 35-54. Available at (Accessed15 June 2022).

Kress, G. and Van Leeuwen (1996). Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design. London : Routledge.

Kress, G. and Van Leeuwen, T. (2001). Multimodal Discourse: The Modes and Media of Contemporary Communication. London: Arnold.

Kress, G. and Van Leeuwen, T. (2005). Front Pages: The Critical Analysis of Newspaper Layout. In A. Bell and P. Garret (Eds.), Approaches to Media Discourse, 2nd edition. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 187-219.

Kress, G. and Van Leeuwen (2006). Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design. London: Routledge.

Ledin, P. Machin, D. (2020) Introduction to Multimodal Analysis. London/New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

Machin, D. (2013). What is Multimodal Critical Discourse Analysis? Critical Discourse Studies, 10:4, 347355, DOI: 10.1080/17405904.2013.813770. Available at Accsssed 10 February 2022).

Machin, D. and Mayr, A. (2012) How to Do Critical Discourse Analysis. Los Angles: Sage.

Maiorani, A. and Chriestie, C. (2014). Introduction. In A. Maiorani and C. Christie (Eds.), Multimodal Epistemologies. London/New York: Routledge, pp. 1-12.

Martinez-Lirola, M. A Multimodal Critical Discourse Analysis of a Sample of Posters Used in the 2016 and 2020 Election Campaigns in Ireland. Available at (Accessed: 17 August 2023).

Mayr, A. (2016). 'Multimodal Critical Discourse Analysis'. In H. N. Klug ad H. Stöckl (Eds.), Hundbunch Sprache im Multimodalen Kontext. Berlin: De Gruyter, pp. 261-276.

Mayr, A. and Machin, D. (2013) The Language of Crime and Deviance. London/New York Sage.

Mitchell, W.J.T. (1994). Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Mitchell, W.J.T. (1995). 'Interdisciplinarity and Visual Culture'. Art Bulletin. Vol 70, no. 4, pp 540-544.

Moore, A. (2020). Decoding Body Language: What Do Crossed Arms Actually Mean? Available at do- crossed-arms-mean.(Accessed: 2 March 2023).

O'Halloran, K.L, (2004) Multimodal Discourse Analysis: Systemic Functional Perspectives. London: Continuum.

O'Halloran, K.L. (2011) 'Multimodal Discourse Analysis'. In K. Hyland and B. Paltridge (Eds), The Continuum Companion to Discourse Analysis. London: Continuum, pp. 120- 136.

Olson, C. (2014). Constitutive Visions: Indignity and Commonplaces of National Identity in Republican Ecuado. Univeraity Park, pa: The Pennsylvania State University Press.

Popova, M. (2012). Presidential Campaign Posters: 200 Years of Election Art. A brief Visual History of Political Propaganda Design. Available at (Accessed 12 June 2023).

Reisigl, M. (2008). 'Analzing Political Rhetoric'. In R. Wodak and M. Karzyżanows (Eds), Qualitative Discourse Analysis in the Social Sciences. London: Macmillan, pp. 96-120.

Richardson, J. E. (2007) Analyzing Newspapers: An Approach from Critical Discourse Analysis. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Seidman, Steven A. 'Studying Election Campaign Posters and Propaganda: What can we Learn?' International Journal of Instructional Media, vol. 35, no. 4, fall 2008, pp. 413+. Available at Gale Academic OneFile, (Accessed 2 October 2023).

Sherwani, K. A. and Omer, M (2020) 'Internationalisation of Discourse: A Multimodal Dsicourse Analysis of University Websites in Iraqi Kurdistan Region'. Journal of Xidian University. Vol 14 (4), pp. 203-214. Available at (Accessed 15 June 2022).

Strachen, J. C. and Kendal, K. E. (2008). Political Candidates' Conventional Films: Finding the Perfect Image_ An Overview of Political Image Making. In C. A. Hill and M. Helmers (Eds.), Defining Visual Rhetoric. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: London.pps135-54.

Tardy, C. M. (2011) 'Genre Analysis'. In K. Hyland and B. Paltridge (Eds.) The Continuum Companion to Discourse Analysis. London: Continuum, pp. 54-68.

Taher, E. A. T. (2019). Female Invisibility/ Representation in Saudi Arabia: A Critical Multimodal Discourse Analysis of the 2013 IKEA Catalogue and Press Discourses on Saudi Arabia. A PhD Dissertation. New Castle University: UK.

Tracy, K. (2003). 'Discourse analysis in communication'. In D. Schiffrin, D.Tannen, & H. E.

Hamilton (Eds.), Handbook of discourse analysis. Malden, MA: Blackwell, pp.725-49).

Van Dijk, T. A. (1985). Handbook of Discourse Analysis (4 vols.). London: Academic Press.

Van Dijk, T.A. (1998).Ideology: A Multidisciplinary Approach. London: Sage.

Van Leeuwen . T and Wodak, R. (1999) Legitimizing Immigration Control. A Discourse-Historical Analysis. In Discourse and Society 1 (1), pp. 83–118.

Van Leeuwen (2005). Introducing Social Semiotics. London and New York: Routledge.

Van Leeuwen, T. (2008). Discourse and Practice: New Tools for Critical Discourse Analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Van Leeuwen, T. and Jewitt, C. (Eds) (2011). The Handbook of Visual Analysis. London: Sage.

Van Leeuwen, T. (2013) Critical Analysis of Multimodal Discourse. In C. A. Chapelle (Eds.), The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. London and New: York Blackwell, pp. 1416-1425.

Wodak, R. (2011) 'Critical Discourse Analysis'. In K. Hyland and B. Paltridge (Eds.), The Continuum Companion to Discourse Analysis. London: continuum, pp38-53.

Zhao, S., Djnov, E., Björkvall, A. & Boeriis, M. (Eds.) (2017). Advancing Multimodal and Critical Discourse Studies: Interdisciplinary Research Inspired by Theo Van Leeuwen's Social Semiotics. London/New York: Routledge.