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ENG 100: Rhetorical Analysis

First paper assignment

Jamie Buehler

on 3 March 2014

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Transcript of ENG 100: Rhetorical Analysis

Paper Assignment #1: Rhetorical Analysis
This week, we are talking about what it means to think and act rhetorically. Our text defines rhetoric as “the art and practice of persuasion” (5) and as a field of study that “concentrates on how words and images can change our minds, earn our agreement, and shape our identities and lives” (37). Rhetoric is an essential part of our everyday lives: we choose our words carefully as we plan and compose our arguments, and authors who argue effectively do so because they are aware of their rhetorical situation. In other words, an author’s attention to audience, genre, tone, purpose, and style can inform the effectiveness of their appeal.

to locate and evaluate arguments
identify rhetorical strategies
consider the advantages and/or disadvantages of ethical, logical, and emotional appeals
formulate a thesis statement
skillfully embed quotes to support your argument
synthesize multiple arguments utilizing comparison and contrast strategies
A rhetorical analysis "takes a closer look at
an author communicates a message to an audience" (144)

"When you analyze something, you
break it down into its component parts
and think about those parts methodically in order to understand it in some way" (137)
Helpful links:
"Thinking about Your Own Rhetorical Situation" (pgs. 20-23)
Watson and Crick analysis (pg. 15)
Chapter 9: Writing Analytically
"Get a mac" analysis (145)
"Mad Men: Stillbirth of the American Dream" (170)
"Advertisements R Us" (176)
Chapter 13: Analyzing Arguments
ethical, logical, and emotional appeals (284)
Your own analyses on the discussion board!
In a 4-5 page paper (1000-1500 words), you will select and analyze one, two, or even three argumentative works (depending on length) and then assess the work or works’ rhetorical effectiveness. In other words, you will ask yourself:
is this argument convincing? Has the argument earned your agreement? Why or why not?
What specific rhetorical strategies does the work invoke, and are these appeals successful? Although this is an analytical paper,
you must articulate your stance

on the argument’s effectiveness

in a clear and concise thesis statement.
NOTE: Although this is an analytical paper, you're still making a claim, so a thesis statement is needed. Your thesis should act as a roadmap, telling the reader where your analysis is going

should not be too broad, i.e. "The rhetorical strategies that this author uses result in an effective argument"
nor should the thesis be too specific in that you reveal every detail
Find the middle ground
1. First, find an argument you want to analyze: what topics interest you?
2. Consider length: is there enough material to reach 4 full pages, double spaced?
3. If not, find another argument that you can compare/contrast: how are these two texts related to each other? Do they use similar rhetorical strategies? Are they responding to the same issue/topic?
4. Read/listen carefully and take notes on how the author is attempting to persuade you.
Answer these specific questions while engaging with the text(s):
What is the author's purpose? What is their claim, and why does it matter?
Does the author appeal to your emotions? How? Does the author appeal to the facts? Does the author cite others in order to enhance his own credibility? How does the author insert himself into the larger conversation?
What evidence does the author provide for the claim--and does this evidence convince you?
Does the author acknowledge and successfully refute any counterarguments?
How does the author use language? Are there any words that indicate what the author thinks--or wants you to think?
How does the author connect to the audience? What's the tone? The author's attitude towards his/her audience?
If you're analyzing a visual text (an ad or a video, for instance), consider how the visual medium enhances the argument.
The Writing Process:
Provide context
--the who, what, where, when, etc.

Consider the rhetorical situation
--purpose, stance, audience, claim, genre, etc.

Ethos, Logos, Pathos
--ethical, logical, and emotional appeals
4. What insights have you gained from doing this rhetorical analysis?
Potential Topics
Historic Speeches
Speeches from Works of Fiction
Print or TV Ads
Analyze 1-3 advertisements, identifying specific rhetorical strategies and assessing their effectiveness
For this essay, analyze an argument made by a political or historical figure. May be recent.
Bill Clinton at the DNC: Sample response to the prompt
Following former President of the United States Bill Clinton's address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos remarked that, "Tonight when everybody leaves, lock the door. You don't have to come back tomorrow. This convention is done. This will be the moment that probably re-elect[s] Barack Obama" (Shapiro). Both Republicans and Democrats seem to be in almost unanimous agreement: this speech is a potentially defining moment for President Obama and for the 2012 presidential election. In his speech, Clinton commands the audience's attention for an astounding forty-nine minutes--almost ten minutes longer than President Obama, who accepted his party's nomination the next day--and he covers a multitude of topics: health care, the economy, job creation, and President Obama's plans for the future. He makes several significant rhetorical moves, at times arguing for seemingly competing points of view. For instance, Clinton commends Republicans for their "cooperation" with President Obama, while simultaneously undercutting specific tenets of the Republican party's platform, along with the barrage of so-called "facts" that Presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan have used to support their claims. A rhetorical analysis "takes a closer look at
an author communicates a message to an audience" (144)

"When you analyze something, you
break it down into its component parts
and think about those parts methodically in order to understand it in some way" (137)
"Mr. President, Friends and Fellow Citizens: He who could address this audience without a quailing sensation, has stronger nerves than I have. I do not remember ever to have appeared as a speaker before any assembly more shrinkingly, nor with greater distrust of my ability, than I do this day. A feeling has crept over me, quite unfavorable to the exercise of my limited powers of speech. The task before me is one which requires much previous thought and study for its proper performance. I know that apologies of this sort are generally considered flat and unmeaning. I trust, however, that mine will not be so considered. Should I seem at ease, my appearance would much misrepresent me. The little experience I have had in addressing public meetings, in country schoolhouses, avails me nothing on the present occasion."
"What to the Slave is the Fourth of July" --Frederick Douglass (1852)
"My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms."
Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" (1963)
"Mr. Moderator, Brother Lomax, brothers and sisters, friends and enemies: I just can't believe everyone in here is a friend, and I don't want to leave anybody out. The question tonight, as I understand it, is "The Negro Revolt, and Where Do We Go From Here?" or What Next?" In my little humble way of understanding it, it points toward either the ballot or the bullet."
Malcolm X: The Ballot or the Bullet (1964)
Explore argument in film, television, literature, etc.
How does the character think about their rhetorical situation?
How does the filmmaker/author think about their rhetorical situation?
"Newsroom": What rhetorical appeals can you identify in this short video?
For this assignment, MLA Format means...

Times New Roman 12-pt. font, double-spaced, one-inch margins
At least 4 FULL pages
Proper MLA Citation (Everyone's an Author pg. 407, sample essay on pg. 446)
Works Cited page
An interesting title
Important Dates:

Draft #1 due 9/25
Complete, proofread draft, with a beginning, a middle, and end. Your "up" draft.

Final Draft due 10/04

Attach all supplemental material, including your previous draft(s)
You may use other arguments I have not listed, including works we may have read or watched for this class (Macrorie, Orwell, McLean, etc.)
Full transcript