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 images or video (no more than 30 seconds), you will want to draw upon course concepts 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 piece’s message and how the artifact is framing the very idea of civic engagement.
Assignment 2: Rhetorical Analysis Essay
This four- to five-page, double-spaced essay will widen the scope of your analysis by comparing your chosen civic artifact to another piece that makes appeals (similar, different or opposing) connected to the topic.
Naturally, the success of your essay can be impacted by your choice of artifacts, so select a second artifact that plays well with the artifact you originally discussed in your speech. (In the past, some students have chosen artifacts that covered similar topics but were created during different eras, or targeted different audiences, or advanced different persuasive themes and tactics, or were composed in different mediums – say, a visual image or video compared against a speech or written work that tackled the same subject matter.
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 pieces 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 artifacts have arisen.
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