Rhetorical Analysis

Critical Reading and Persuasive Writing

For this assignment, you will undertake a textual and contextual analysis of a text (in the broad sense) that makes some kind of argument related to democracy. Although you will need to summarize some of the text, rather than being purely informational, please be sure that you use the vocabulary from the chapters we discussed to identify different elements of the rhetorical situation. While you write the analysis, remember that you are not being asked to agree or disagree with the author’s position; instead, you should concentrate on interpreting how the rhetorical choices that the author makes serve to strengthen or weaken the argument (remember to make use of arguments from probability and to keep you language fairly loose). To create a believable interpretation, you will need to support your analysis with specific examples from the text that demonstrate how well the rhetorical choices made by the author work. Also, remember that there is no “correct” method for doing a rhetorical analysis. It will be up to you, the writer, to make connections and to emphasize what you feel are the most important aspects of the text to analyze. Should you find that your article lends itself more to one area of analysis than another, you can certainly concentrate your efforts.

In terms of organization, please be sure to order your paragraphs in a way that helps highlight the connections you are making. Doing so will require that your transitions between paragraphs help the reader see how, for example, the intended audience also sets limitations on the author, or how the motivation for writing the argument has an effect on what appeals the author chose to include. In the final section of your analysis, please briefly recap your analysis and offer an interpretation of the overall success or failure of the argument. Again, do not offer your opinion about the content of the argument (e.g., “this argument makes no sense”), but do offer your interpretation on how effective the argument might be for its intended audience based on the connections you discuss in the body paragraphs of your paper.

Length: 6-8 pages, double-spaced, with a 12 pt. Times New Roman font.

Below you will find some helpful questions to get you started on the rhetorical analysis, but they are by no means exhaustive. For a more comprehensive list, see chapters two and three in your textbook. 

Audience: Can you define the probable readers in terms of age, gender, occupation, education, position of power? What values do target readers share with the writer (warrants/presuppositions)? What range of positions on the issue might target readers hold before reading?

Text: What features of the text seem most crucial to understand—the claim, the arrangement of arguments, the supporting evidence, the appeals, the style? What features of the essay make it a more convincing or persuasive argument? What parts of the text are most difficult to read? Why? What parts are most appealing? Why?

Writer: What do you know about this writer? What specific qualifications does the writer present to build credibility with the target audience? What appeals to the writer’s character do you see in the essay? In what ways does the author identify with the readers? Does this level of audience connection help the essay? How?

Motives: – What seems to have prompted the writer to present this argument (what is the exigency)? What, if any, is the writer’s history of work on this topic? Does it seem reasonable to suggest that a particular event prompted the writer? What value(s) might have inspired the writer to publish this argument in the selected venue?

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