Visual Rhetoric of Female Body Image in Fitness Magazines: An Analysis Using Kenneth Burke's Pentad

Lauren Andrea Wolff
Journalism, University of Central Lancashire
April, 2008
 

Abstract

The rhetorical content of female body images portrayed in fitness magazines distributed in the United States and Canada that appeal to young females aged 18-34 was examined. Questions surrounding the persuasive nature of the images, the messages they portray to the audience, and how an analysis using Kenneth Burke’s pentad contributes to the practice of strategic communication were considered. Theoretical approaches to visual rhetoric and a method of analysis encompassing historical context and perspectives of beauty, body image, and the female form in published imagery and popular culture were discussed in the literature review. Much of the literature focused on magazine advertisements as the rhetorical objectives of commercial ads correlate to magazine imagery integrated into articles. Further, because such ads strategically enhance or complement written content, established research on rhetorical effects of advertising was used as a foundation for context. [Results of the study show that] Burke’s pentad allows for a comprehensive analysis of female body imagery in fitness- and health-related periodicals and provides the audience with a tool to understand the elements of an image and its rhetorical content and to become better interpreters of imagery in a broader and more general sense.
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