The World is a Text: Writing About Visual and Popular Culture
Updated Compact Edition
  • Publication Date: June 25, 2018
  • ISBN: 9781554813797 / 1554813794
  • 336 pages; 7" x 9"

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The World is a Text: Writing About Visual and Popular Culture

Updated Compact Edition

  • Publication Date: June 25, 2018
  • ISBN: 9781554813797 / 1554813794
  • 336 pages; 7" x 9"

Wherever we look today, popular culture greets us with “texts” that make implicit arguments; this book helps students to think and write critically about these texts. The World Is a Text teaches critical reading, writing, and argument in the context of pop-culture and visual examples, showing students how to “read” everyday objects and visual texts with basic semiotics. The book shows how texts of all kinds, from a painting to a university building to a pair of sneakers, make complex arguments through their use of signs and symbols, and shows students how to make these arguments in their own essays.

This new edition is rich with images, real-world examples, writing and discussion prompts, and examples of academic and student writing. The first part of the book is a rhetoric covering argumentation, research, the writing process, and adapting from high-school to college writing, while the second part explores writing about specific cultural topics. Notes, instruction, and advice about research are woven into the text, with research instruction closely tied to the topic being discussed. New to the updated compact edition are chapters on fashion, sports, and nature and the environment.


“Students often feel stifled about writing and lack the passion to polish their skills in composition and rhetoric. The World Is a Text opens doors for writers and enables students to understand the power of reading and writing for life. I absolutely love the addition of chapters on nature, sports, fashion, and technology. These topics are terrific, and they broaden the scope of the book.” — Colleen Ruggieri, Ohio University

The World Is a Text is eminently accessible, familiar in its rhetorical vocabulary and engagement with the writing process, and comprehensive in projecting subject matter for college writing classes. From pop-culture topoi like fashion, music, and sports to complex social problems rooted in identity, gender, race, and technology, Silverman and Rader provide a wealth of invention heuristics in a dozen categories. Most interesting, perhaps, The World is a Text links writing self-consciously to reading—that crucial, complementary literate practice too often taken for granted in college writing textbooks.” — Peter Vandenberg, DePaul University Chicago


  • Introduction
  • CHAPTER 1 Semiotics: The Study of Signs (and Texts)
  • CHAPTER 2 Texts, the World, You, and Your Essays
  • CHAPTER 3 Reading the World as a Text: Three Case Studies on Interpretation
  • CHAPTER 4 How Do I Write a Text for College? Making the Transition from High School Writing, Patty Strong
  • CHAPTER 5 From Semiotics to Lenses: Finding an Approach for Your Essays
  • CHAPTER 6 How Do I Write about Popular and Visual Culture Texts? A Tour through the Writing Process
  • CHAPTER 7 How Do I Formulate Arguments about Popular Culture Texts? A Rhetorical Guide
  • CHAPTER 8 Researching Popular Culture Texts
  • CHAPTER 9 Knowing What a Good Paper Looks Like: An Annotated Student Essay
  • CHAPTER 10 How Do I Cite This Car? Guidelines for Citing Popular Culture Texts
  • CHAPTER 11 How Am I a Text? On Writing Personal Essays


  • Introduction: Reading and Writing about the World around You
  • CHAPTER 12 Reading and Writing about Race and Ethnicity
  • CHAPTER 13 Reading and Writing about Public and Private Space
  • CHAPTER 14 Reading and Writing about Nature and the Environment
  • CHAPTER 15 Reading and Writing about Gender
  • CHAPTER 16 Reading and Writing about Fashion
  • CHAPTER 17 Reading and Writing about Visual Culture
  • CHAPTER 18 Reading and Writing about Movies
  • CHAPTER 19 Reading and Writing about Television
  • CHAPTER 20 Reading and Writing about Sports
  • CHAPTER 21 Reading and Writing about the Media and Advertising
  • CHAPTER 22 Reading and Writing about Music
  • CHAPTER 23 Reading and Writing about Technology

Jonathan Silverman is Associate Professor of English and Director of American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Dean Rader is Professor of English at the University of San Francisco.

  • Uses semiotics as a lens for analysis using approachable explanations of semiotics
  • Visual and popular culture. Attention is centered on popular culture texts, but the rhetorical and writing instruction are widely applicable
    • — Text is rich with full-color illustrations and images and abundant real-world examples
  • Short sample readings. Two readings by the authors and seven by students allow instructors the flexibility to choose their own readings
    • Note: Forthcoming is a bank of links and/or PDFs to curated readings to match the book’s topical chapters
  • Organized for the first-year writing classroom.
    • — Part one is a comprehensive rhetoric; part two turns to the honing of interpretive skills in topic-specific chapters and proffers both writing instruction and guidelines for research geared explicitly to these topics
  • Teaching for transfer. The book initiates a move toward those “sites” in popular culture where students already read and write
  • Lively, engaging writing style

To see chapter 13 of The World is a Text, “Reading and Writing about Public and Private Space,” click here. (Opens as a PDF.)

This book includes a website with links to online readings, compiled by the authors, that complement the individual chapters. The website can be accessed here.