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Rhetorical Situation

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Diane Davis

on 30 August 2016

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Transcript of Rhetorical Situation

The "Something"
The "Someone"
The
rhetor
. The practitioner of rhetoric: the speaker, writer, video maker, graphic designer, podcaster, etc., who uses some symbolic means (words, graphics, sounds, etc.) to communicate and persuade.
The "Someone else"
The Audience
. T
he one(s) to whom the symbolic efforts are addressed.
The "occasion"
The "in order to"
The purpose
.
“Texts” are addressed to others for some purpose; the rhetor wants something from the audience. The purpose is what the rhetor wants the audience to believe or to do: to support the legalization of X, vote for candidate Y, give me the car for the night, or simply to become aware of some issue.
A few basic elements
The Rhetorical Situation
Someone
communicates
something
to
someone else
on some
occasion
in
order to
move him or her to do something or believe something.
The "text."
T
he message a rhetor addresses to an audience, which could take the form of words, graphics, sounds, etc. The text could be delivered via speech, a film, a document, an ad...
The Occasion
. Usually some event or circumstance that calls for discourse of some kind. Sometimes it's formal, as in a funeral oration or a presidential address. Most of the time it is informal, such as when you argue with a friend, beg for the car keys, or ask someone out for a date.
Exigence
At the intersection of the occasion (say, a funeral) and the purpose (soothing mourners) is the
exigency
(no one is getting up to speak). An exigence is something that requires discursive intervention. The exigency may also
create
the occasion.
"An exigence,” says Lloyd Bitzer (1968), is “an imperfection marked by urgency; it is a defect, an obstacle, something waiting to be done, a thing which is other than it should be” (6). It is a problem that needs attention and that can be modified through symbolic action (discourse).
Constraints:
Loyd Bitzer: "Every rhetorical situation contains a set of constraints
. . .
[that] have the power to constrain decision and action needed to modify the exigence. Standard sources of constraint include beliefs, attitudes, documents, facts, traditions, images, interests, motives and the like; and when the [rhetor] enters the situation, his discourse not only harnesses constraints given by the situation but provides additional important constraints -- for example his personal character, his logical proofs, and his style." [A rhetor can also be a she, btw.]
Other things to consider
Constraints include anything in the situation that can focus, limit, or direct an audience's decision or a rhetor’s available means. Previous Supreme Court cases may constrain how the Court handles later cases; an audience’s presuppositions constrain the way the rhetor can make a case; the forum in which a text will appear (a class paper, a newspaper, a facebook status, etc.) will constrain the way the rhetor makes his or her case. And so on.
Language:
The language is not the same as the text (the message or the subject matter). The text is communicated to an audience in a certain language (could be alphabetical, graphical, aural, etc.). So the question will be what sort of language is appropriate for this audience, this subject matter, this forum, this medium? Should it be formal? Informal? Metaphorical? Technical? Plain? High, middle, or low style?
If my unexamined presumption is that pink people are inferior, and if I hold onto that presumption with conviction, then I’m probably not going to believe anything a pink person says. Or, I may not believe what a person of any other color says if they seem to presume that pink people are equal to me or even superior to me. My presumptions play a large role in whether I’m going to be moved by the discourse produced in this situation. For a rhetor, it’s a constraint if the audience’s presumptions are held as convictions and differ from his or her own. Etc.
Kairos:

In rhetoric, kairos refers to timing, usually to good timing, being capable of seizing just the right moment speak or write or produce some other form of symbolic action.

Kairos typically refers to the surrounding conditions that present the rhetor with opportunities and constraints: opportunities or openings to say certain things in certain ways and constraints that limit what can be said and how. Discourse that responds effectively or appropriately to the opportunities and constraints of its situation is called kairotic. A kairotic moment indicates a moment at which it is the right time to engage in a particular sort of symbolic action.

A kairos
fail
would be, for ex, showing off your new diamond ring at an office party at which several employees had just been laid off; or writing an op ed encouraging residents to vote against some city ordinance that has already been voted on; or describing the hot date you had last night in the same way [same language, same tone, same style] to your date’s mom as you do to your best friend. Kairos fail = bad timing; symbolic action with no sense of kairos.
We assesses rhetorical situations and respond to them all the time; doing so is technically a rhetorical move, and yet it’s one of the most natural things in the world. When you come into class, you behave differently than you do in your car with your friends. Etc. When you write a facebook or twitter update, you write it differently than you would if you were writing an essay for a course or an email to your parents.

IOW: That you have been accepted into college (and that you have not been taken away in a little white coat) indicates that you are already a fairly good rhetor and rhetorician. You already have a knack for assessing a rhetorical situation and responding appropriately.




And a few more things...
1. There are three basic kinds of rhetorical discourse:
Juridical or forensic discourse
judges legality or justice (right or wrong) of a past action.
Deliberative discourse
addresses the appropriateness or justness of future actions or policies—this is what takes place in political debates over who to vote for or whether to vote for a bill, or in family arguments over what to have for dinner tonight. It's about choosing a course of action.
Epideictic or ceremonial discourse
often praises or blames something or someone, but it's also used to promote values shared by a community, to enforce a person's values or beliefs. Funeral orations, documentaries, celebrity rags, are a few examples, as are monuments, etc.
2.
Act vs artifact.
A speech or performance is a rhetorical
act
that brings a rhetor together with an audience in real time. But a written, visual, or aural text is an
artifact
that can exceed the specific situation in which it is composed: that is, the rhetor may not be present when I read or view her text, and the audience reading or viewing may not be the one the rhetor had in mind. So it becomes necessary to distinguish an
implied
rhetor and audience from an
actual
one.
Bitzer. Loyd. "The rhetorical situation." Philosophy and Rhetoric. 1:1 (1968): 1-14.
In this class you'll be both a
rhetor
(someone who uses symbolic means to make an argument) and a
rhetorician
(someone who studies rhetoric).
In this course, we'll turn your knack into a more directed and conscious practice.
Full transcript