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Lloyd Bitzer’s “The Rhetorical Situation” provides a concep

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Aaron Masih

on 18 December 2014

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Transcript of Lloyd Bitzer’s “The Rhetorical Situation” provides a concep

Lloyd Bitzer’s “The Rhetorical Situation” provides a concept of understanding a speaker and why their discourse is persuasive. Bitzer defined the rhetorical situation as the "complexes of persons, events, objects and relations inviting discussion which, if it is fitting to the situation, alters the situation." Bitzer goes on to say that “a work is rhetorical because it is a response to a situation of a certain kind” (Bitzer 3). Bitzer also notes that “a work of rhetoric is pragmatic; it comes into existence for the sake of something beyond itself; it functions ultimately to produce action or change in the world; it performs some task. In short, rhetoric is a mode of altering reality…by the creation of discourse that changes reality through the mediation of thought and action.”
“Rhetorical situation [is]…a natural context of persons, events, objects, relations, and an exigence which strongly invites utterance” (5).
A rhetorical situation has three parts 1) the exigence 2) the audience 3) constraints.

An exigence is a reason, “a defect, an obstacle, something waiting to be done” (6). Changes of season, Bitzer notes, are exigences, but nothing can be done to modify them.

The audience: For Bitzer, “a rhetorical audience consists only of those persons who are capable of being influenced by discourse and of being mediators of change. […] “the rhetorical audience must be capable of serving as mediator of the change which the discourse functions to produce” (8).

The constraints on a rhetorical situation emerge as a result of the “persons, events, objects, and relations which are parts of the situation … [and] have the power to constrain both decision and action needed to modify the exigence” (8). Sources of constraint include beliefs, attitudes, documents, facts, traditions, images, interests, motives, etc (8). Constraints are limitations and opportunities for what can be said and how advocates and audiences shift back and forth - those factors that shape the nature and content of persuasive messages and purposes.

Exigence:
-Need for identity and belonging
-Need to cultivate individual expression and material success.

John Winthrop- leading figures in the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the first major settlement in New England after Plymouth Colony.
“We must delight in each other, make others conditions our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, our community as members of the same body.”

“Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance
Audience:
-More economically vulnerable “The audience for
religious broadcasting has been characterized succinctly as demographically downscale...that is,
typically older, poorer, less educated, and more likely to be blue-collar than the average
American TV viewer.”
-Robert Abelman (Why Do People Watch Religious TV?)


US Census survey estimated that 17.3% of Houston families
and 20.8% of individuals were living below the poverty line, significantly higher than national averages of 9.9% and 13.5%.
Constraints:
Heaven on Earth:
"...game rooms, bowling allies, kitchens and cafés, coffee shops, book and
gift stores, movie theaters—anything that a contemporary American
worshipper could need and want for entertainment. "

-Osteen promotes the idea
that we “receive what we believe” and goes on to assert that God will help faithful believers, “to
rise above (their) obstacles, to live in health, abundance, healing, and victory.”

He seems to have tapped into God's blessing
Full transcript