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Rhetoric-in-Practice

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Hilary Clark

on 1 July 2015

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Transcript of Rhetoric-in-Practice

Purpose of the RIP Essay
The RIP essay is where you'll have a chance to explain all your rhetorical choices in the project. The prompt describes it as a "making-of" documentary. Basically, you're going to walk through your process in creating the project.
It's a lot like the Rhetorical Analysis Essay, except you'll be writing about your own choices rather than Cormac McCarthy's. And instead of talking about one or two rhetorical devices, you'll be covering many.
RIP Essay DOs and DON'Ts
DON'T
use the essay to explain
why
you chose the subject you did. I'm glad you like fashion, video games, or Twitter, but I don't need to know all about your interest in those subjects or all the other genres you thought about but didn't pick.
Instead,
DO
explain how you made your project a
believable
example of your genre. How did you take it from a Twitter account that seemed like it was probably fake to something super believable?
DO
describe any formatting choices you made. If your project is a Power Point Presentation or a brochure, you should definitely discuss why you chose particular colors, fonts, or ways of organizing information.
DON'T
act like you know all the conventions of your genre (even if they seem obvious) and make claims about the genre without support.
Instead,
DO
support your claims about genre conventions with research, either about the genre itself or from example texts from the same genre.
Essay Requirements
Minimum of 6 full pages.
Students get a little scared by this, but I promise, if you're going into adequate detail and supporting your analysis with research, you can fill 6 pages pretty easily. Many people write as much as 8 or 9 pages.
Minimum of 3 secondary sources.
You'll need to refer to texts in the same genre as your project as evidence for your rhetorical choices.
Detailed description of your rhetorical choices.
You should describe the specific tone, diction, syntax, ethos, etc. of your project and how they connect to your rhetor's purpose, audience, genre (and its conventions), and context.
When organizing your essay, you can either walk through your process chronologically or organize it more academically around the different aspects of the project.
It's okay for this essay to be less formal than the others. You can use the first person (I, me), and you can speak a little more casually as you discuss your project. That's perfectly fine.
1st: Understand what a Rhetorical Situation Is
The first thing you'll do in creating your project is pick an imaginary rhetorical situation that involves a
character
(your rhetor) who is trying to get a specific
message
(their purpose) across to a specific
audience
using a specific written
genre
at a specific
time and place
(the context).
That may sound complicated, but it actually applies to
all
communication!
For example, if I text my husband after class on a Friday by writing, "I'll be home in 20."
Rhetor = me
Purpose = to tell him when I'll be back
Audience = my husband
Genre = text message
Time and place = Friday afternoon in Irvine, CA in 2015
I encourage you to start breaking down pieces of communication in this way (everything from commercials to tweets) to so you can become better acquainted with the rhetorical situations all around you. That will help you a lot going forward, and will give you more ideas.
2nd: Create Your Own Rhetorical Situation
Rhetor
: Within this you have a lot of freedom. If you want, you can be the rhetor yourself. Or your rhetor could be Jennifer Lawrence. Or it could be someone totally invented (this is the option people usually go with).
Genre
: Your written genre can be almost anything. An online review, a Tumblr, a Pintrest page, a short story, a letter to a congresswoman, etc. I've had students do everything from a cereal box to an online advice column to a cookbook. As long as it's based in text (that is, not a dance number or a painting), you should be fine.
My number one recommendation when selecting your genre is to choose something that interests you.
Message
: Every piece of writing has a message or purpose. It may to get you to buy a pizza (like a Pizza Hut commercial) or entertain you (like a web comic), or remind you to do something (like a to do list on your phone's notepad) but every piece of text has a purpose. You need to be certain that your rhetorical situation includes a clear purpose.
Audience
: Every piece of writing also has an audience. Even that to do list I mentioned before (it's rhetor and audience would both be you). For this project you need to be sure you have a specific audience. Students often think that if they choose something like Twitter, their audience is "everyone." But that's not so. If you're writing in English on Twitter, you've already limited your audience to English-speaking people who use technology. Beyond that, whatever the theme of your Twitter page is, it probably won't appeal to everyone (For example, if my dad had a Twitter account, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't follow Kim Kardashian).
Context
: Finally we have context. This one's important! Your rhetorical situation can exist anywhere in any time. If you want to write from the future or the past, go for it. If you want to write from the perspective of someone in Canada in 1895, that's fine. You just have to think about where and when your rhetorical situation takes place.
3rd: Bring Your Rhetorical Situation to Life
Once you've decided upon your situation, you must bring your project to life. That is, actually create the text. That means, if your project is a food blog, you'll actually make the food blog. If your project is a diary, you'll make the diary.
This part of the project will require some research. If you choose to do something that heavily involves the Western time period, you will have to do research to maintain its accuracy. So keep that in mind.
You'll also have to look at other examples within your genre. If you're making a food blog, that will mean looking at other food blogs (they don't have to share your Western theme, just your genre of "food blog").
You also have to be sure your project could "exist" somewhere. That is, if you decide to create a 5-minute video, you need to pick a place for it to exist. On Youtube? Vimeo? In theaters as a short film? If you write a movie review, will it be published in the
New York Times
or on a film blog? These choices reflect other rhetorical decisions you make (like who the audience is, how formal or informal the writing is, etc.), so be sure you know "where" your text would be published or kept (even if it's just a journal someone stashes in the sock drawer).
Requirements: How your RIP looks and how long it is depends entirely on the genre you choose. Basically, it needs to be long enough for you to write the essay. There's no specific minimum length.
Project
Essay
Rhetoric-in-Practice
So what is this thing?
Here's what the department prompt has to say:
"This project shifts the rhetorical situation from you being the audience of a message... to one in which you yourself are a creator, producing a text that is relevant to the class theme of the Western. The Rhetoric-in-Practice assignment is intended to give you a deeper appreciation of what it means to make specific rhetorical choices to serve your message and an opportunity to reflect on how those choices affect the message you are sending and the audience that you reach with it. In this way, the RIP is a culmination of the work you’ve done in this class with respect to your understanding of both genre and rhetoric." I know, that doesn't tell us much...
So you're wondering: How does the class theme (Western) fit into all this?
Great question! Don't let the idea of the Western confuse you about genre. The genre you pick has nothing to do with Westerns. Only the general subject matter that inspires the project needs to relate to Westerns.
For example, if you choose to make a food blog about Western-era cuisine, the genre is
food blog
. If you choose to write the grant proposal of a historian studying the habits of Native Americans on the frontier in the mid-1800’s, your genre is
grant proposal
.
The genre is the form in which you write—it sets the constraints for what you’re doing. Notice how in all these cases, the projects have to do with something about Westerns, but only insofar as that's their inspiration.
I've had students make an Instagram account about modern fashion inspired by the Western, write video game reviews for Red Dead Redemption, make travel websites for time travel back to the old West, and even write a country song. The genres in these cases would be Instagram, video game review, and country song.
You're only limited by your imagination. The incorporation of the Western theme is, honestly, one of the least important aspects of the project. How you choose to approach it doesn't much matter to me. I'm concerned with whether or not you can create a strong text within your chosen genre and targeting your specific audience.
Rhetor


Message


Audience
So ask yourself, what's the best genre to get your rhetor's particular message to their particular audience within their particular context?
Genre
(Genre is the
method for getting
your rhetor's message
to their audience)
(The rhetor is your invented character who's trying to communicate something to their audience)
(The message is what your rhetor is trying to say to their audience; it's the reason he or she is writing)
(The audience is who, specifically, your rhetor is trying to say something to)
Context
(Context influences all these other parts. Whether your project takes place during the Western period (1850-1900) or in the future, whether it's in Arizona or Russia, these choices will change what genre you use, who your audience is, and even their message)
Example!
Wondering how to integrate secondary sources or how to write specifically about your rhetorical choices? Here's an example I wrote to help you see how. First I'll give a rundown of the hypothetical project (You should also be able to give this succinct rundown of your rhetor, genre, message/purpose, and audience). Let's say my project is an Instagram account (
genre
) made by a fashion-forecaster in her mid-twenties (
rhetor
) living in NYC in 2015 (
context
), and her Instagram aims to show other young, American women (
audience
) how they can incorporate Western fashion into their wardrobe (
purpose
). The following might come from my RIP essay paragraph in which I discuss the diction used in my rhetor's Instagram posts (Notice how specific I am in this example. This is what you should strive for in your essay):
I primarily utilized informal diction, but also incorporated slightly more technical language related to clothing in order to maintain a friendly atmosphere while also projecting credibility and authority in the world of fashion. Vogue also uses this technique on their Instagram account, writing that "Leather fringe is all the rage this spring, whether its miniskirts or fitted vests" (citation). Phrases like "all the rage" are casual, but words like "leather fringe" and "fitted vest" are more specific to fashion. I tried to achieve a similar balance of casual and technical in my own account, such as when I wrote that "a warm palette of tawny browns is a must when putting together your Western-inspired ensemble." Specific color names and references to the palette, as well as words like "ensemble" keep things rooted in fashion, and make the audience confident that the rhetor knows what she's talking about, while terms like "a must" make the overall tone of the sentence casual, as is appropriate for Instagram.
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