24 Sep Rhetorical Analysis
TYPE: Essay (any type)
Overview In a well-organized essay, evaluate the merit of an argument, or more particularly, the comparative merits of two arguments on the same subject (preferably opposing, but not required), using the rhetorical schema discussed in the Introduction to Rhetoric lecture. Background and Assignment Of all the skills we learn and teach in school, we often neglect the one skill that is most critical to a successful democracy: analyzing and evaluating arguments. Yet we’re bombarded with arguments every day, from commercials to cartoons to political speeches.
Your job is to find two arguments on the same issue, preferably opposing, and evaluate their comparative merits. In other words, which is more persuasive, and why? In order to determine this, you’ll first have to examine the rhetorical situation for these arguments. Remember that every argument is aimed at a particular audience and has a particular purpose in mind. No argument is going to persuade everyone – the question is whether it persuades the people it’s trying to persuade. Audience can affect everything from what sort of evidence constitutes “proof” to what sort of tone the author adopts. It is very important that you identify the audience(s)for the texts you are analyzing. People often skip this step, but the whole analysis depends on it. In order to successfully analyze the arguments, you will want to consider the rhetorical schemes covered in class, and in particular Artistotle’s proofs.
Questions you will want to answer include: •How does the rhetor conceptualize the issue? What does she/he see as the point of contention? What is it about? •What inartistic proofs are used? What kind of evidence does the rhetor use to support her/his contentions? Would this evidence been persuasive to the intended audience? Why or why not? Is the information accurate? You may have to do some outside research to support your contentions here. •How does logos operate in the argument? What sort of reasoning does the rhetor use? Is it effective? Are there any “holes” in that logic? Logical fallacies? •How does ethos operate in the argument? What sort of credibility does the rhetor have, either from external factors (credentials, reputation, etc) or internal factors (accuracy of information, tone/attitude towards her/his readers, skill with language)? How does this credibility affect the persuasive power of the argument? •How does pathos operate in the argument? What values or emotions does the rhetor appeal to? Is she/he trying to make her readers angry? Appeal to their sense of justice? Of community? Is she/he trying to tug at their heartstrings? How is she/he trying to accomplish this? Is she/he successful? Would the intended audience get angry, or not care? Or would they feel manipulated?
•How do such factors are arrangement (is the argument coherently organized?), style (is the language appropriate to the audience? Would they know all the terms used? Is the level of formality appropriate) Topic Choice (Sources) Your job is to find two argumentative sources on the same topic, ones that present opposing views on the subject. To do this, you may look in newspapers, at on-line editorials, in the Opposing Viewpoints database (which we’ll look at in class), or anywhere that you can find them. These sources may be on any topic you like, but they must be argumentative: that is, they must adopt and defend a position. Some special notes: •Remember that you are going to be analyzing these in-depth, and that the paper will be six pages long. Choose the length of your sources accordingly. The average newspaper editorial is about the right length. •You should choose a topic that you are interested in, but remember that you are going to have to dispassionately analyze the argumentative strategies. “They’re wrong” isn’t a critique. If you feel so strongly about the issue that you will automatically favor whichever source argues your side, you may wish to avoid that topic. •In fact, in the ideal paper, I should have no idea what side of the issue you’re on. It’s not your job to argue the issue, but to analyze the arguments in the text.
•If you are truly stuck for a topic, try looking at opposing reviews for the same movie. Rotten Tomatoes is a good place to look. •IMPORTANT!!! The most common misstep people make with this paper is using only one source that contains different opinions on the topic. You should have two different articles for this paper, by two different authors. Audience Your audience for this paper is an academic audience who is familiar with the rhetorical schema presented in class. You do not have to spend large amounts of your paper explaining the terms. Grading Criteria •Does the essay say something interesting and analytical about the arguments? •Does the essay have a focused and clear thesis? •Does the essay develop ideas in support of that thesis? •Are ideas supported with specific and relevant examples from the articles? (This means quotes!) •Are rhetorical terms and concepts used accurately? •Is the essay clear and coherently organized? •Are mechanical errors rare?
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