Essay #3: Rhetorical Analysis
(MLA, 1500 words, 2 scholarly sources)
Analyze three rhetorical artifacts of your choice. This essay requires a thesis in which you relate each of your rhetorical artifacts with an overarching idea. In other words, your paper should connect each rhetorical artifact with one another. You might use a theme or pattern that is prevalent in each of your artifacts to form your thesis.
An artifact is a thing created by a person. Your analysis and discussion should frame the artifacts with an account of the social context in which they were produced and circulated, and how the artifacts engage a “rhetorical situation” (Grant-Davie). In other words, for each artifact your goal is to explain:
(1) how the rhetor designed the artifact for their audience, and
(2) the explicit and indirect messages that the artifact attempts communicate.
Consequently, your might discuss some of the following things:
● who the rhetor(s) is
● what the rhetor’s goals are
● what the artifact’s goals are
● who the main audience is
● the limitations and advantages of the artifact’s genre
● the setting
○ release date, platform, where the artifact is interacted with
● *the interaction
○ The means in which the artifact affects the audience, or consumer; the way information or influence is carried.
1. Analyze three rhetorical artifacts using concepts found in WAW and self-researched material.
2. Write a thesis statement that clearly expresses the purpose of the paper.
3. Each part of the essay works cohesively with one another and progresses the thesis.
4. Apply two scholarly sources to support your claims and observations.
5. The essay should be clear, organized, authentic, and well-edited.
6. The essay should be in MLA style, have a bibliography, and correctly use in-text citations.
If your paper is about music, you might discuss how racial, cultural, and public identity affects a musician’s credibility and popularity. If your paper is about fashion, you could discuss the ethos of certain brands, professional wear, accessories and jewelry. If your paper is on politics, you might discuss common rhetorical techniques used by politicians in public situations. If you’re interested in film or illustration, you might discuss compositional tools used to communicate or intensify a certain idea. If you’re interested in video games, your paper could be on effective “tutorial” levels. If you like flowers, your paper could be on the rhetoric of flowers in rituals, ceremonies, gestures, etc. Your options are almost unlimited. If you’re unsure your topic is appropriate for this paper, send me an email.
November 6th — draft due for Peer Workshop #3
November 13th — peer feedback is due
November 15th — final version is due
If your rhetorical artifact is a YouTube music video, your audience member might be interacting with the artifact via a computer (smartphone, tablet, desktop, etc.) using the computer’s respective application. You might research and use concepts found in UI/UX design to support your rationale for this section; consider using scholarly articles when researching these concepts, particularly ones from the fields of psychology and cognitive ergonomics. “Gestalt Design” would be a popular search query. Here’s a great article on Gestalt. Moreover, it might be beneficial to think about and research the difference between signs, symbols, and signals, especially if you have a visual design related topic, such as propaganda.
some notes on rhetorical design
When applied, design concepts might exercise logos, if we were to use the language of Aristotle’s rhetoric. When examining logos, consider structure and not just logic. The structure of an artifact, the way it is framed and presented, can be influential.
Think about queue lines, like the ones that mark the route from the entrance of a fast food place to the cashier. And think about how certain lines are made without physical railings or rope. What other systems of persuasion might be present? One persuasive feature might be the ethos of the majority—if you see a bunch of people lining up a certain way, you might be more inclined to follow along. Derren Brown’s The Push contains many instances of rhetorical persuasion. Here’s one of his social experiments: the bell test. The movie is on Netflix, if you’re interested.
General Example: Aristotle’s rhetoric applied to inanimate objects
Think about a red carpet, outlined by velvet ropes. We can see how this artifact is telling us “walk on this to get to there,” the logos. What about the ethos and pathos projected from this artifact?
Remember that the ethos of an artifact is related to its credibility or character. When we see a red carpet and velvet ropes, we might imagine movie stars or nightclub settings. If so, those images would be embedded to those objects, the rhetorical artifact. You might even feel inspired to strut down that carpet like a celebrity—looking all fancy.
The pathos would be related to how the red carpet influences mood. If you’re feeling on the top of the world while dancing on that carpet, that’s the pathos of it; however, notice how this pathos effect results from the combination of the value and ideas of the other two components, ethos and logos. In this example, one dances merrily when they are in an exclusive space (logos) reserved for celebrities, or important people (ethos). It is important to note that these three rhetorical components are not examined independently from each other, and that they can be described interdependently for an artifact. Remember that emotion and logic are not disconnected just because pathos and logos are categorized in Aristotle’s rhetoric; if so, we would not be able to sympathize with acts of sacrifice and it would be harder to empathize with the unique circumstances of others. This is especially important to remember if you ever get into an argument with a significant other.
a digression on technology, language, and rhetoric:
If you’re at a computer and have a mouse, look at it. How did you know how to use it without being taught? Notice how the technology conforms to our identity, physically with our hands in this case. What about a suit or a wedding outfit from a well-known designer or brand? If we wanted to wear them, we would have to conform to the limits of those outfits or the designer’s sensibilities. In the latter example, we would be conforming to the image of the technology: the clothes. If you’re taken aback by naming clothes a kind of technology, see “HEATTECH”, look at the marketing around watches and eyewear, and think about the materials and manufacturing techniques related to clothing. Culture and abstractions are technologies.
Technology is the application of knowledge to do something. The quality of knowledge and the worth of our actions, the “do”, are judged. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, consider using different watches or lenses as your rhetorical artifacts for this essay.
Technologies are often accompanied by statements which allow for further imagination. For example, when the first correctional lenses were created and used, we can say that human senses can be corrected, and improved—that some people are not burdened at birth to have poor eyesight. With the invention of the microscope, we can say that unseeable things are not necessarily undetectable. With the invention of the photograph, we can say that an image of reality can be exactly recorded. With the invention of the assembly line, we might say that the principles of the assembly line are universal, and that they can be used to improve other sectors of life. We would then imagine and then install those principles, therefore industrial values, into offices, homes, schools, prisons, and institutions. The language might transfer over too, and parents might begin to say “I want to optimize our family’s productivity.” We’re not too far away from this, if we consider how the language of economics and tech have been imbedded into how we talk about relationships in the English language:
● You didn’t spend enough time with me!
● I have invested more into this relationship than you.
● I can’t do this; that person is just wired differently.
Here, the rhetoric of economics enters the rhetoric of private life.
In Jim Corder’s “Argument as Emergence, Rhetoric as Love,” Corder asks us to consider ourselves as living, breathing arguments: a rhetorical agent. He says that each of us carry a narrative on life, and that these narratives, or arguments, are in competition with one another. Think about how this idea might relate to one’s adoption of specialized language from dominant discourses and powerful literacies.
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