Rhetorical Analysis

Using the two articles that you (hopefully) brought to class today, we are going to practice performing rhetorical analysis. Rhetorical analysis is important because it helps you to deconstruct arguments, assess their validity, and also to emulate the author’s craft if you find her or his rhetoric particularly effective. It also looks at the cultural aspects that come into play so that you are no longer simply focused on the simple “yes” or “no,” “for” or “against” debate, but you can actually start to think about why things are they way that they are.

Performing rhetorical analysis isn’t super difficult, but it does take some practice. We’ll start with babysteps.

1. Write a brief one paragraph summary of each article thinking about the 5 Ws (Who? What? When? Where? Why?) and maybe the one H (How?) if necessary.

2. For each piece, think about the rhetorical triangle that you learned a few weeks ago. How do the parts of the rhetorical triangle come into play in each piece? How does the author establish ethos (ethics/credibility/authority), pathos (emotional draw/audience awareness), and logos (rationality/logic/formal textual functions)? Then, consider whether, given the criteria, these arguments are effective or flawed, and how so?

3.In order to effectively be part of a discourse community, you need to learn the language of that community. Go though these two pieces and begin to pull out the key words. What is the language necessary to understand and use to be part of this debate/advocacy plan?

4. This is the most important one. What does the way that these pieces are constructed tell you about the culture surrounding the debate/advocacy plan? What kind of rhetoric is being used, and why? What does that tell us about how these debaters view the society that they must address?

If you’re still confused, Brigham Young University’s Creative Commons offer some additional questions that may help to clarify the foundations of rhetorical analysis: http://rhetoric.byu.edu/pedagogy/rhetorical%20analysis%20heuristic.htm


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