Archive for the ‘merismus’ Category

Merismus in Dresden Codak

December 8, 2011 1 comment

An excellent sample of Merismus occurs continuously in the webcomic Dresden Codak.. The main heroine of the story, Kimiko Ross, is a scientist with robotic body parts.  As she moves through the comic and encounters individuals, side panels appear illustrating different parts of her body that are mechanical. One in particular is her eye, which shows up quite frequently, even when no one is there to notice it. This separates Kim into two distinct halves: the human half and the robotic half. For most characters, the notice of robot parts is not particularly commented on, yet the presentation of them produces a sense of otherness. The side panel zooms in on her eye, but there’s not enough of her face presented to determine any kind of expression.; the focus is brought to her arm, and she has both it and the natural one wrapped across her chest in body language suggesting defensiveness. The panels in particular are effective because they cause the reader to use merismus themselves. We see both her arms, yet automatically notice that one is covered, causing us to inspect closer and conclude that the arm is robotic. The juxtaposition of the two arms, as well as her posture, suggests a negative response to this kind of intrusive differentiation. The panels themselves are employing merismus, as the whole character is not shown, but part of her is focused on. This objectifies Kim in terms of her body composition, reducing her to an inhuman collection of body parts, flesh and metal.

To return to Kim’s eye again, there are hints of a face around it, but the eye, little black circuitry lines and a differentiation in the lens to make clear that it is not normal, is set apart from the rest of her body. By divided her up into parts the reader is forced to make judgments on each individual aspect, which carry over to the character as a whole; the individuals in the story are doing the same, though they never give voice to any negative remarks about her nature. Instead, the reader infers the negativity from the sense of otherness that the division creates. The author’s use of merismus causes the reader to look at Kim in a certain way and draw conclusions which illuminate how Kim is perceived in the world she inhabits.

Diaz, Aaron. “Dresden Codak: ‘Dark Science #03 – Strange Trainfellows'” Dresden Codak. 10 July 2010. Web. 07 Dec. 2011. <;.

Categories: comics, description, merismus

Merismus in OK GO’s “End Love”

December 8, 2011 Leave a comment

The music video for OK GO’s song “End Love” employs merismus throughout the entire production. The video appears to be one continuous shot going through an entire day-night cycle and back into the next day, while the band member move through the park. The shot, though, is broken up into a stop-motion kind of cinematography. While the shot continues, the jerky, jarring quality of the video brings attention to each of the band member’s skillfully choreographed movements. A hallmark of OK GO’s videos are their intense and complicated routines, but the use of merismus in this one serves to amplify their already impressive movements, as well as produce some otherwise impossible actions (such as sliding across the park while maintaining a single pose, or “butt-racing” as I like to call it, where the individual “drives” along the ground while seated). One would expect a disconnectedness in the video because of the stop-motion animation, yet it produces a surprising fluidity. By cutting apart and emphasizing each movement of the choreography, it increases what may have looked somewhat silly without it. Each movement is important, and the arrangement of the group in a line allows for a sort of tier effect, with the first individual motioning for a few frames and then the next either following suit or adding. This merismus amplifies each movement and makes all the motions significant.

Another use of merismus connects the choreography with the music. As the group moves through the park, usually one individual is at the fore of the screen while the other three are grouped together, either moving separately or engaging in some other choreography. This is an example of merismus as well, as each of the band members is separated from the group in order to carry the song (the individual up front is usually the one who is “singing” in the song). This method of separation occurs throughout the film, as each member is cycled through at least four times by my count. This creates a sort of imbalance, as the person up front seems to appear larger, thus giving that individual more emphasis. It also brings attention back to the music with the amplified person singing, so that the music isn’t lost in the choreography. Another example comes up when one member is shown singing, and a new one enters. The previous one is left in the background, spinning around in circles, while the camera’s main focus is on the new entry. This process is repeated until all the band members are on screen and spinning. This stair stepping action continues to emphasize the individual, but the group is always present in the scene. The group continually comes back together to move as a unit, but each member is divided out to emphasize their role. This emphasized individuality and the importance of each member of the group, and paired with the elaborate group choreographies it solidifies that the group could not function without the individual. For each choreographed movement, each member must do their part in order for the movement to be successful. Nowhere is this more clear than near the end, when the group is in a close line that then extends. There is a group that then expands to four separate individuals and then retracts back to the single unit. Merismus in this video allows the viewer to see this cohesion.


“End Love” Dir. OK Go, Eric Gunther, and Jeff Lieberman. Prod. Shirley Moyers. Perf. OK Go. Music Video. 2010.

Merismus: Dyson Advertising

December 6, 2011 1 comment

The most recent Dyson vacuum advertisements employ merismus in order to make their argument. The Dyson vacuum serves the purpose of any other vacuum, and is operated in much the same way, but several unique facets of the vacuum set it apart. This is the core of the Dyson appeal. The advertisement shows the vacuum against a black backdrop. Most ads for household tools like the vacuum show someone using the object, so that its effectiveness can be displayed. The black backdrop at once sets up the pending merismus by putting it by itself in the stark setting. I serves as a sort of operating table for the vacuum to be dissected.

Camera work in the ad shows the vacuum as a whole at first, but as the narrator (Mr. Dyson himself) talks about the vacuum’s history, each individual part of the vacuum is separated and displayed on its own. Here the merismus is employed both verbally and visually. No appeal is made yet by Mr. Dyson, but merismus in the ad makes its own statements. It is never stated that the ball design or the cyclone technology is superior, but the fact that one would take the time to point out each individual aspect (amplified by the term Dyson uses: “Innovations”) draws the attention as the narration continues.

Merismus causes the viewer to assess the importance of the object being presented, and guides them into seeing the element of the Dyson vacuum as superior. By presenting the vacuum one piece at a time, the ad moves us to make a decision about what we’re seeing. The stress on a single fact both asks and answers; why would one show just the ball? It must be important, if it is good enough on its own to get a spotlight. And just like that, the superiority of the ball technology is established. Mr. Dyson never says that his vacuum is the best, but the use of merismus amplifies each piece and makes it clear that his technology and innovations are greater than the average vacuum.


The ad was not readily available, but the effect can be understood just as well by the presentation on the Dyson website, found here.


“What Makes Dyson Different |” Dyson Official Site|  Dyson, 2011. Web. 05 Dec. 2011.

Merismus Overview

December 6, 2011 3 comments

Merismus is defined as: “Dividing a whole into its parts.” Merismus in itself is not a rhetorical appeal; rather, it is a device used to make other appeals possible or increase the effectiveness of an appeal. It is the scalpel with which one dissects an object or argument in order to analyze it or amplify it by emphasizing its parts. In some cases, it is the necessary step before synechdoche or another appeal is invoked. Almost any argumant that is made for an object on the basis of some new or superior part or element requires that merismus be employed in order for that part to be identified by itself.

Sometimes merismus is employed more subtly. An object can be divided, but no argument made once the division has been made. The effect of the division draws attention to finer details, or amplifies the whole. It can be used for identification purposes, such as when a difficult concept or procedure is presented and is explained in terms of its steps. All of these are effective uses of merismus. The act of division is used to generate identification or understand, or to amplify a concept.

Categories: merismus, overview