Roland Barthes “Rhetoric of the Image” essay from Image – Music – Text, Translated by Stephen Heath. Hill and Wang, 1977. (excerpt)


After reading through this essay, I believe I have gained more of an understanding of some of the key terms the author uses in order to explain how this ad uses cultural stereotypes to send a clear message. From reading this excerpt, I have gained an understanding of how rhetoric is present in images and especially how linguistic and coded iconic and non-coded iconic messages contribute to the message of an image. Devices such as these are engraved into advertisements to enhance their message, either to their benefit or detriment. In the case of the advertisement shown in the excerpt, its use of non-coded iconic messages plays into cultural stereotypes of Italians, Italian food, and Italian culture, much to its benefit. However, not every ad utilizes these devices to tell positive messages. Some ads utilize coded iconic messages and non-coded iconic messages through racial and cultural stereotypes in ways the make the message less effective.

One of the most relevant examples of advertisements utilizing coded iconic messages was through the Aunt Jemima character by the Pearl Milling Company. The character of Aunt Jemima was initially coded with black stereotypes and it lasted until the character was removed from the Pearl Milling Company’s products. 

Hypothesis Annotations

  1. ‘en abyme’
  2. second sign is more or less equally evident; its signifier is the bringing together of the tomato, the pepper and the tricoloured hues (yellow, green, red) of the poster; its signified is Italy, or rather Italianicity
  3. alimentary