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Copy of The Rhetorical Situation

English 201, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Stephanie Larson

on 6 January 2015

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Transcript of Copy of The Rhetorical Situation

A situation which requires a communicative response.

Analyzing rhetorical situations gives us a tool for thinking about communication.

It helps writers figure out what will make 'good' or 'persuasive' communication in any given situation.

It helps rhetoricians analyze why communication is 'good' or 'persuasive'.
Rhetorical Situation
Genres "typify" situations (e.g. generic)
What is usual or expected
A model, pattern, or "way" of communication or interaction between people
This class uses a "genre" approach to teaching composition because it provides a useful and flexible method of thinking about what's expected, and thus what's effective communication.

Often, the most effective response to a situation will fall under one or more genres.
. noun. The study of using language effectively; the art of using language to persuade, influence, or please.
Using genres
Examples of Genre
"Good" genre compositions:
Successfully use genre conventions
Fulfill audience expectations
Effectively carry out author's purpose
Introduce something exciting or new (i.e. not generic)
The Rhetorical Triangle model considers:
What are we talking about?
It is important to define the
or what is included and excluded, in any given topic. This can also be thought of in terms of

Ask yourself the
"So What?"
"Does this point help clarify, enrich, or explain my overall topic, or otherwise lead to the conclusion I am trying to make?"
If the answer is no, the point is probably irrelevant and can be excluded.
What am I saying that is unique or new?
Angle is the specific
that you are bringing to the overall topic.

Although we are all human and share many characteristics, each of us has unique experiences, ideas and attitudes, and can bring an
unique perspective
to a topic.

Often called the "thesis," "contention," or "claim."
What is my aim or goal?
Your purpose is what you are trying to accomplish, or the
reason why
you are writing.

Often your purpose will influence which genre you will choose, as some genres work better for certain purposes than others.
Who am I writing for?
You should always consider the
of the potential audience for your texts.

Profile your potential audience by asking:
specifically, might be interested in reading this?
are their expectations, values, and attitudes?
will they read my text?
will they be reading my text?
will they read my text?

Notice also that many people may potentially read your text, including people who you are not directly targeting.
What may influence how my work is read?
Your audience will read differently based on where they are
and what form or
your text is presented in.

social and political reality
in which readers live will also strongly affect how readers react to your text.


What, if anything, do I know about rhetoric?

What do I think I know about rhetoric?

What comes to mind when I hear the words "argument" or "persuasion"?
Questions to guide rhetorical analysis (Trimbur, The Call to Write)

- What is the context of issues? What do you know about the topic? What issues does the topic raise? Is there a larger debate, discussion, or controversy already going on? What seems to be at stake?
- Who is the writer? What do you know about the writer's background, credibility, knowledge about the topic, beliefs, and social allegiances?
- Where is the piece published or delivered? What do you know about its intended readers, reputability, political slant, and the topics it typically covers?
- What is the call to write (exigence)? Why is the writer addressing the issue and taking a position at this particular time? Is there some sense of urgency involved? How does the writer identify the significance of the issues involved?
- What is the writer's purpose? What is she or he trying to accomplish? Is the purpose stated explicitly or implicitly?
- Who is the intended audience? Is the writer addressing one group of readers or more than one? What kind of relationship is the writer trying to establish with readers? What assumptions about readers does the writer seem to make?
- How does the writer use language? What is the writer's tone? What does the writer's word choice show about his or her assumptions about readers? Does the writer use specialized terms or slang? Are there memorable figures of speech? Does the writer stereotype?
- What is your evaluation of the rhetorical effectiveness? Does the writer accomplish her or his intended purpose? What constrains, if any, qualify the writer's effectiveness?
Rhetorical Appeals
(Online Writing Lab, Purdue University

Ethos: Ethos is frequently translated as some variation of “credibility or trustworthiness,” but it originally referred to the elements of a speech that reflected on the particular character of the speaker or the speech’s author. Today, many people may discuss ethos qualities of a text to refer to how well authors portray themselves. But ethos more closely refers to an author’s perspective more generally. In this resource, ethos means “author.”
Pathos is frequently translated as some variation of “emotional appeal,” but it originally referred to the elements of a speech that appealed to any of an audience’s sensibilities. Today, many people may discuss the pathos qualities of a text to refer to how well an author appeals to an audience’s emotions. Pathos as “emotion” is often contrasted with logos as “reason.” But this is a limited understanding of both pathos and logos; pathos more closely refers to an audience’s perspective more generally. In this resource, pathos means “audience.”
Logos is frequently translated as some variation of “logic or reasoning,” but it originally referred to the actual content of a speech and how it was organized. Today, many people may discuss the logos qualities of a text to refer to how strong the logic or reasoning of the text is. But logos more closely refers to the structure and content of the text itself. In this resource, logos means “text.”
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