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Lloyd F. Bitzer on "The Rhetorical Situation"

Understanding the components of the rhetorical situation according to Bitzer, and using these terms to analyze rhetoric.

Mary Learner

on 23 January 2013

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Transcript of Lloyd F. Bitzer on "The Rhetorical Situation"

Bitzer's "The Rhetorical Situation": using rhetorical situation for analysis First--what is a rhetorical situation? Let's begin with an ICW:

Based off your understanding of Bitzer’s article, what is a rhetorical situation? Be as specific as you can. Let's start with a quick review: 1) Rhetoric is a praxis, meaning that it is a process that we practice in the world;
2) Rhetoric is constituted of language and word choice that can be used within a rhetorical argument
--a rhetorical argument can be used to offer a perspective on a topic, event, or profile of a person; it can be used to persuade an audience to agree with the rhetor’s (or speaker’s) interpretation; or it can be an examination of multiple viewpoints in order to reach a common ground
3) Rhetoric entails the use of rhetorical appeals according to Aristotle: these include ethos, pathos, and logos; rhetoric also takes into account the kairos, or the opportune moment of composition, which include the time, place, audience, and topic.
When we're talking about the rhetorical situation of a rhetorical argument, we will be using some of these terms to understand the choices the rhetor makes in response to a particular situation. Bitzer emphasizes the importance of the situation which people have to respond to. For Bitzer, rhetors create arguments when a situation demands some kind of response.
-Rhetorical situation-- Bitzer defines this term as “the context in which speakers or writers create rhetorical discourse” (1).
-Since there is rhetoric, Bitzer argues that there must be a situation/context for rhetors to create arguments.
Ex: Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was in response to a particular situation.
Ex: You get into a discussion with your parents about why your major is the right choice for you, and realize LATER what you should have said in the situation to convince them that your education will lead to a career which will make you happy and/or help you achieve your life goals.
For Bitzer, the rhetoric arises from a particular situation. He believes that it is impossible to understand rhetoric without considering rhetorical acts as a response to a situation:
1) Rhetoric is pragmatic it serves a practical purpose and is meant “to produce action or change in the world” (4).
2) Rhetoric exists because of a specific situation which it must respond to in order to accomplish something.
Ex: Group of fishermen use short phrases—“Drop the net,” “Move over,” etc—so can work as a group to pull up fish. The situation of fishing demands that the fishermen communicate a certain way in order to be successful.
-According to Bitzer, the situation is one of the most important aspects of rhetorical study: “So controlling is situation that we should consider it the very ground of rhetorical activity, whether that activity is primitive and productive of a simple utterance or artistic and productive of the Gettysburg Address” (5).
1) Exigence is an urgent problem which demands a response; something in the world is not how it ought to be, but can be fixed by using rhetoric
Note: An exigence is not rhetorical unless it is fixable with rhetoric.
2) Audience who must listen, interpret, and (hopefully) be moved to action
--If rhetoric attempts to enact change, it needs to have an audience to move to action.
--The audience act as mediators between the rhetoric and putting things into action.
3) Constraints beliefs, personal histories, values, etc which affect the rhetor and the audience
For example: A politician who ends a speech with a Christian prayer might alienate audience members who are Buddhist, Sikh, Jewish, or atheist. This would be a constraint which would help the rhetor make a connection with Christian audiences, but make non-Christian voters feel like they were not connected to the rhetor, and thus not interested in his/her message.
3 main components of rhetorical situation: This means that there are situations which rhetoric cannot fix, including: weather, natural disasters, and death, among other situations. This audience can include one's self.

This makes sense though--if rhetoric's goal is to enact change, that means you must have someone listening to do so... Good evening.

Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were in airplanes or in their offices: secretaries, business men and women, military and federal workers, moms and dads, friends and neighbors. Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror. The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge -- huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger. These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong.

A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve. America was targeted for attack because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining. Today, our nation saw evil -- the very worst of human nature -- and we responded with the best of America. With the daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could.

Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government's emergency response plans. Our military is powerful, and it's prepared. Our emergency teams are working in New York City and Washington D.C. to help with local rescue efforts. Our first priority is to get help to those who have been injured, and to take every precaution to protect our citizens at home and around the world from further attacks. The functions of our government continue without interruption. Federal agencies in Washington which had to be evacuated today are reopening for essential personnel tonight and will be open for business tomorrow. Our financial institutions remain strong, and the American economy will be open for business as well.
The search is underway for those who were behind these evil acts. I have directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.

I appreciate so very much the members of Congress who have joined me in strongly condemning these attacks. And on behalf of the American people, I thank the many world leaders who have called to offer their condolences and assistance. America and our friends and allies join with all those who want peace and security in the world, and we stand together to win the war against terrorism.

Tonight, I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a Power greater than any of us, spoken through the ages in Psalm 23:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for you are with me.

This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.

Thank you. Good night. And God bless America. Analyzing an example: George W. Bush
9/11 Address to the Nation
"A Great People Has Been Moved to Defend a Great Nation"
delivered 11 September, Oval Office, Washington, D.C. Applying Bitzer's rhetorical situation to Palfrey and Gasser in "Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives"
1) Often there are situations which arise which demand a response.
For example, the tragedies which occurred on 9/11. President Bush had to create a rhetorical response to reassure the American people and address how the United States would respond to the terrorist attacks.--The rhetoric created in response depends on the rhetor’s perception of the situation.
2) A rhetorical situation invites a particular kind of response. The rhetor must make a fitting response.
For example, if on 9/11 President Bush had spoken to the American public about the economic issues of the country instead of addressing the terrorist attacks.
3) The situation, therefore, prescribes the response which fits. A clear, strong situation will result in a certain fitting response. It is up to the rhetor to properly read the situation and give the most fitting response.
4) The situation is real historical, publicly observable.
5) Rhetorical situations vary in complexity and organization. You can have very simple situations that may require a simple response, as well as complex situations which will require rhetors to carefully use rhetoric to address a variety of topics.
6) Rhetorical situations either fade away due to lack of response/passage of time, or they can persist until someone addresses them with a fitting response. Rhetorical situations can persist over long periods of time as well, as similar exigences arise throughout history.
Important General Characteristics of a Rhetorical Situation: Open (E)dentity to p. 7
What is the rhetorical situation here?
How is this similar or different compared to the articles you found while writing ILP 1? So we need to determine:
1) exigence
2) audience
3) constraints

How does the rhetor use certain appeals to reach his/her ideal audience? For Bitzer, there is the possibility of a "fitting response" to a rhetorical situation. This means that the rhetor correctly addresses the exigence by appealing to the correct ideal audience while effectively navigating constraints. This requires for the rhetor to:
--correctly interpret the problem
--use appropriate appeals (ethos, logos, and pathos) to navigate constraints and reach the audience
--take advantage of the best kairos to deliver his/her rhetoric
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