Please Note: the “Ask Yourself” Handout is included at the end of the assignment sheet.
DUE Wednesday 9/11, hard copy in class: fully developed first paragraph
DUE Sunday 9/16 via Oaks Group Locker by 8pm: RA Rough Draft
DUE Monday 9/24 via Oaks Dropbox before class: RA Final Draft
This assignment includes group conferences–check schedule for details
This assignment has two primary purposes. First, it will allow you to develop a unique and compelling analysis of how a specific argument works. Second, through your examination of the strategies employed by the author of your chosen work, you will naturally begin to think about your own writing in a more critical manner. Many of the same questions that you will be asking of a given writer you might also ask yourself: Who is the intended audience? What emotional and logical appeals are being made and why? How does the writer construct her or his ethos?
This assignment takes us from the emerging expressions of opinion that concluded our engaged summaries to a more informed engagement with a given text. Here you are responding to, rather than merely summarizing, the text at hand.
In your RA, you are to write 4-page (5 max) analysis of either Blundell’s “My Florida,” the listed excerpts from Eating Animals, or Nicholas Carr’s “Is Google Making Us Stupid.” After selecting your text, you will then identify and analyze the rhetorical strategies the author employs. Ask yourself: How does the writer construct her or his argument? Who is the intended or real audience? What types of rhetorical appeals are being made? Think through all the rhetorical concepts that we have been discussing in class: audience, metaphor, ethos, pathos, logos, enthymeme, style, tone, evidence, logical fallacies, etc. Now, get much more specific and ask yourself which of these the writer employs most successfully or most interestingly or most problematically. Which strategies are essential to the argument being made? How do the various rhetorical strategies work in concert with each other? Where do tensions arise in the argument or presentation?
Broadly, you will want to dwell on the question of how the author makes her or his point without getting bogged down in a mere rehearsal of what that point is. How does the given text strive to be compelling, interesting, important, appealing and urgent? Given your analysis, do you personally find the argument successful? Where are its weaknesses most pronounced and why? An excellent rhetorical analysis takes context into view as well. Always ask yourself in what context the argument functions and why that might be important. Remember: be as specific as possible. You should hone in one or two aspect of one particular rhetorical strategy (such as metaphor, or a specific use of pathos) and trace it throughout the article.
Try to avoid using very broad rhetorical terms explicitly in your rhetorical analysis (ethos, pathos, logos, enthymeme). Such ideas and terms should guide your analysis and provide a ‘ghost structure,’ or implicit framework, but they shouldn’t drive the piece. Also, it’s not enough to say that that an author uses pathos. She would be hard-pressed not to! Instead, ask yourself how an author deploys a given pathetic appeal. The goal here is to use the terms we discuss in class to locate the rhetorical strategies to which you, in turn, give a new and fresh understanding. Of course, you will often need to use terms like “metaphor” or “anaphora” to describe very specific rhetorical features. Those terms are specific and shared enough to be useful. But instead of saying “pathos” it makes more sense to speak of “emotional appeals”; instead of of “enthymeme,” you might note the arguments missing premise.
This course aims to help you invent thesis statements and supporting ideas and to arrange arguments in ways that are creative and adaptive rather than formulaic and rigid. Don’t think of this assignment in terms of a set number of paragraphs (five being the old magic number) or as an opportunity to plow through the old Aristotelian appeals. Instead, find a way into the argument using your own language, weaving your newly acquired analytical skills into a voice and style and organization that suit your goals.
Ask Yourself… (A list of questions for your reference)
Section I Adapted from Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz:
Everything’s an Argument (2004), pages 42-45
I) THE BIG PICTURE:
Before you sit down to write your RA, think of the following questions:
- How can I describe what this argument achieves (or fails to achieve)?
- Does the argument have a clear purpose, and does it accomplish it?
- Does the argument have a clear intended audience? Is it addressing that audience adequately?
- Which of its rhetorical features will likely influence readers most? Audience connections? Emotional appeals? Style?
- How do the rhetorical elements interact?
- Who is the (intended or actual) audience for the argument? How does the argument connect with its audience?
- What are the contexts (social, political, historical, cultural, etc.) for the argument? How does the argument fit into the world? Whose interests does it serve? Who gains or loses by it?
- What shape does the argument take? How are arguments presented or arranged? Remember: the argument, if you’re dealing with various media or creative non-fiction might be very subtle and only implied.
- How does the language or the style of the argument work to persuade an audience?
- How does the character of the author or speaker work to persuade the audience?
- Are there any argumentative fallacies? Are claims supported by evidence? Remember that an argument, in many cases, can be implicit rather than explicit.
Section II: Focus
After considering the above prompts (and asking a few pointed questions of your own), you should begin your own analysis by forming a clear and specific argument regarding how you think the argument works and why. You can’t include or deal with everything, so use what is most helpful and strategic in constructing your own more focused argument. Try to find what will yield the most interesting, and, well, arguable, argument.
- How does the given text strive to be compelling, interesting, important, appealing, and urgent?
- Do you personally find the argument successful? You should maintain your distance and stay critical. Even if you agree with an author, you might very well disagree with their methods.
- Remember to keep revising your thesis according to the path that your analysis takes. You might not even find your ultimate thesis until the very end of this process—but keep looking for it! Writing and thinking are mutually informing processes.