Project 1: a rhetorical analysis


Over these first weeks of class, we have been exploring a wide range of texts (written, visual, material, and embodied), and we have begun to analyze how these texts work on a rhetorical level. The first project of the quarter requires you to continue this analysis on your own. For this assignment, you will perform a comprehensive rhetorical analysis of a persuasive text, one that focuses on a compelling and complex problem of importance to you and a discourse community with which you associate.

You can choose any text you’d like, though you cannot use one we’ve discussed in class already. Your analysis should: (1) identify the rhetorical situation of the persuasive text, (2) examine the rhetorical strategies used in the text by the rhetor; and (3) evaluate the impact of the rhetorical strategies on the audience. This analysis will ultimately be the basis of your claim, or argument, about the text. 

Your final project should include a complex claim about the significance of the text and its use of the key terms and concepts we have covered so far, explaining how these key terms are working (or not) in your chosen text:

  • Rhetorical Situation: Rhetor, Audience, & Purpose
  • Rhetorical Appeals: Ethos, Pathos, & Logos
  • Rhetorical Timing: Exigence & Kairos
  • So What?: Claim & Stakes

Your observations of the text provide the evidence to support your claim, so be specific. Reference the persuasive text with as much detail as possible.

You should also use one of the readings we have discussed in class as a lens in which to understand the text and frame your argument. You can use Jensen, Orr, Killingsworth and Palmer, Corbett, or Pason as your analytical lens, and you must integrate at least one direct quote from the reading into your analysis.

Finally, your project needs a title that reveals the content of your analysis (in other words, it should not be “Project 1”). It should also be 2-3 pages, single-spaced, not including any relevant images.

As for the rhetorical situation of this project, you as the rhetor are a student of rhetoric, writing to an audience of other interested scholars of language, rhetoric, and activism/civic engagement. The purpose of this project is to contribute new knowledge to the field of rhetoric: what does your analysis of this persuasive text add to our understanding of the power of language? If you would like to propose a different rhetorical situation for this project, let me know your ideas. I am open to alternate ways of approaching this assignment.

Below are some additional questions that you might find helpful in generating your analysis; you do not need to answer all of these questions, and this list should not be used for organizing your project. Rather, these questions are meant to stimulate your thinking and help you brainstorm possible ways to focus your analysis. 

  • How is the genre of the text appropriate for the rhetorical situation?
  • What outside contexts or issues is it referencing? 
  • What is the text asking of the audience?
  • How is it communicating a desired action on the part of the audience?
  • Does it challenge audience expectations?
  • How is it pushing the boundaries of or conforming to conventional genres?
  • How well does it achieve its purpose?
  • What has been its impact on the world?
  • Which rhetorical strategies are most effective given the rhetorical situation?
  • Which strategies are least effective?
  • How do these strategies make you think or feel?
  • In what other genres could it appear or be produced, and what differences would such changes make?
  • What differences would a change in location and/or timing make in audience engagement?
  • What can we learn about writing and the power of language from this text?

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