Unit One: Analyzing Rhetoric

To understand rhetoric, you have to learn to dig. Think of yourself as an archeologist seeking artifacts of rhetoric. You are Indiana Jones, probing an artifact for the ideologies and commonplaces that shape its meaning, reassembling the rhetorical appeals that went into it, and researching and reconstructing its origins and cultural content. Luckily for you, an artifact doesn’t necessarily have to be old to be rhetorically excavated. Indeed, you can analyze artifacts that you find today in your mailbox, on the walls of your classroom building, or on your computer screen. 

For the following assignments, you’ll practice presenting your findings in two different modes: an oral presentation and a thesis-driven academic essay. 

Assignment 1: Analysis of Civic Engagement Artifact

Select an artifact that frames the civic in a rhetorically compelling way. It could be anything from a corporate advertisement to a notice about an event or involvement opportunity happening on campus. This artifact could be contemporary or historic. Then, plan a three- to four-minute speech about the artifact based on RCL course material and discussions. After a brief introduction of the artifact, aided by image(s) or video (no more than 30 seconds) of the artifact in question, you will want to draw upon concepts raised in class discussion and materials to explain how the event or opportunity in question can be seen as civic and what ideologies and/or civic commonplaces are contained within or assumed by the artifact. Your speech might also explain how context and the rhetorical situation inform the message of the piece and how the artifact is framing the very idea of civic engagement.

Civic Artifact Speech Goals and Criteria for Evaluation

Assignment 2: Rhetorical Analysis Essay 

This four- to five-page, double-spaced essay will expand upon the topic or issue related to your chosen civic artifact by comparing your artifact to another piece within the same, similar, or opposing campaign connected to the topic.

Before drafting your essay, consider how the artifacts target, respond to, or construct their audiences. How do the pieces’ rhetorical choices make meaning? How do the pieces use the textual elements to marshall Aristotle’s three appeals: ethos, pathos, or logos? How do social and historical contexts, ideologies, and commonplaces come into play? What world does the text desire?

Then, take some of these questions and shape them into an overarching argumentative claim about the piecees to serve as your thesis. You want to link the rhetorical choices or strategies within the pieces to distinct ideologies or commonplaces you identify that make the persuasive argument float. Your essay should also discuss and analyze the rhetorical situations–the specific context or moment out of which the pieces have arisen.

Rhetorical Analysis Goals and Criteria for Evaluation



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