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Rhetorical Analysis Project

Genre: Rhetorical Analysis in an Academic Essay format

Audience: Educated, curious readers

Length: 750-1000 words

We’ve been practicing a method known as a rhetorical précis: a highly structured summary that explicates what a writer is arguing (claim, argument, assertion), how she does it (strategy, structure), why she does it (purpose/exigency/rhetorical effect), for what intended audience, and how she establishes — or does not establish — a relationship with readers.

Your first major writing assignment in this class is a rhetorical analysis, which draws on those skills in an extended format: show us the rhetorical purpose and structure of an argument based on its rhetorical strategies and features. In our case, your challenge is to analyze any persuasive piece from this week’s Sunday Review section of the New York Times. If you identify another persuasive essay elsewhere in the Sunday paper — and they do appear in the Sunday Magazine, the Style section, Business, etc. — feel free to run it by me as an alternative.

Support your analysis with references to rhetorical appeals (SMH 8d), drawing on direct quotes, references to tone, and other rhetorical features found in the text, especially those related to exigency, main claims, strategy, purpose, and audience. Background: St. Martin’s e-Handbook:

  • * Critical Reading (ch. 7)
  • * Rhetorical Reading (handout)
  • Recognizing and contextualizing argument (8.a)
  • Thinking critically about argument (8.b)
  • Reading emotional, ethical, and logical appeals (8.d)
  • Identifying elements of an argument (8.e)
  • Identifying fallacies (8.f)
  • Thou shalt not commit logical fallacies
  • Oxford English Dictionary

Rhetorical Reading & Analyzing

What follows below are just some extra prompts if you need them, and notes on rhetorical reading and analyzing that we can refer to as needed this week and next, with the goal of creating some critical distance from the texts we are reading and analyzing:
  • Paying sensitive and mindful attention to the issue or content (“what”), the methods of influencing readers (“how”), the writer’s rhetorical purpose (“in order to”), and the relationship that writers establish — or do not establish — with readers.
  • How would you characterize the writer’s proximity to the issue?
  • What is at stake — where is the stasis — in the issue?
  • What does the writer seem to value? Does she assume that we share those values?
  • What is the writer’s attitude toward us?
  • How would you characterize the writer’s tone?
  • How does the writer establish credibility?
  • What kind(s) of appeals does the writer seem to be depending on — ethos, pathos, logos?
  • How much of your own biases, assumptions, experiences, and ideology affect your ability to read for meaning and for comprehension?