What are Multiform Arguments?

Multiform arguments (hereafter MFAs) are arguments that are composed of words and images. MFAs claim that a certain phenomenon has happened or explain the reasons for its occurrence. I became aware of MFAs while reading illustrated historiography, especially of cultural history. I noticed that when I wanted to point out how cultural historians use visual evidence in their publications, I lacked terms to describe what I read and observed. While it was easy to recognize and pinpoint textual units such as “words,” “images,” “sentences,” “captions” and ”list of illustrations” in those publications, it was challenging to describe combinations of words and images in the same argumentative sequence and space.

Noa Yaari, This is My Home, 2018. Toronto

The lack of terms that denote multiform components in historiography, I believe, has deterred authors and readers from exploring these hybrid forms, and subsequently constructing them more sophisticatedly, creatively and effectively. Moreover, since studies have shown that language shapes thinking, it would be reasonable to assume that without copious nomenclature not only the language of illustrated arguments might stay restricted, but also the notions this language is meant to convey. In addition, without adequate nomenclature it is impossible to establish a critical discourse about using multiformity in historical arguments. The concept “MFA” seems to be a proper beginning of a solution, since it sets forth the multiplicity of the semiotic systems and their combination within an argument, as well as the argumentative context in which these combinations function. Moreover, the concept “MFA” allows us to investigate the semantic, spatial and epistemological aspects of verbal-visual insights; to examine their cohesiveness, focusing on the way they expand in space and the time that it takes to consume their body, and their coherence, paying attention to their logical consistency. “MFA,” therefore, promotes the creation and communication of historical knowledge through diverse and hybrid forms of thought and expression. It cultivates an experimental, theoretical and critical approach to textual multiformity; and another perspective on life, in the past and right now.

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