Category Archives: rcl

Unit 4 Ideas

When I think of the word controversy, I think of issues such as health care, abortion, gay rights, etc. However, there are a lot of other controversies that hit much closer to home, as well. Throughout the last couple weeks, my group tossed a lot of ideas around as to what controversy we can focus on with which we can survey students at Penn State. What do Penn State students have particular insight on? What might they care about?

One idea for our Unit 4 controversy is how many THON groups host parties with alcohol. Although there is nothing extraordinarily shocking about college kids drinking beer, drinking takes on a different light when it is done under an organization like THON. The Penn State Dance Marathon is a massive fundraiser to raise money to fight pediatric cancer. The slogan one can see everywhere around campus is “FTK:” For The Kids. Some people argue that people should not party with their THON groups because it is not “FTK-appropriate.”

Another controversy we discussed is the legalization of marijuana. It is not legal in some states to grow and/or use marijuana. With the passing of those laws came the increase in many people’s interest in the topic. Many people argue that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, so since alcohol is legal for people over 21 years, marijuana should be, too. Others argue that marijuana is much more powerful than alcohol because it takes until someone abuses alcohol to feel its effects.

Personally, I think either of these controversies would arouse a lot of response from the people we interview. Both topics hit home with specific (and very prevalent) groups at Penn State. My concern about both controversies (but especially THON) is that people will not want to give information about it. We would keep everyone anonymous, but I feel that people will hesitate to tell of their personal experience with THON parties because they do not want to get anyone in trouble and/or they do not want to indicate that they had any part of it. And for the marijuana legalization controversy, people will probably hesitate to answer because as of right now, marijuana is still illegal in Pennsylvania. Anyone who argues that the government should legalize it might hesitate to have their name (or anonymous ideas) associated with the topic.

TED Talks

Over the last several years, TED Talks have taken the country by storm. This form of “edutainment” is transforming the face of rhetoric and the dissemination of information. TED Talks are an important rhetorical development for a few reasons. 

TED Talks differ from regular speeches in their audience-centered focus. The goal of a speech is to spread knowledge about a topic. Although this is the end goal of a TED Talk as well, TED Talks first seek to engage the audience as one of the goals. With this goal in mind, speakers are far more concerned about captivating the audience’s interest than they would be in a speech. One example of how TED Talks seek to engage the audience is by expurgating the stage and speaker of obstacles. The speaker moves around the stage rather than leaning on a podium, which opens up the speaker to the room. The speaker does not hold notes and makes eye contact with the audience instead.

Why is all this important? It makes information readily available to anyone and everyone. Contrary to speeches where the usual audience consists of scholars or people interested in that particular subject, TED Talks seek to engage the masses. Beyond the style of rhetoric, TED Talks are also usually posted on, making them available to anyone on the planet. 

Blurred Lines

Unless you were living under a rock for the last four months, you have undoubtedly heard the song “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke. Full of catchy beats and funky vocals, the song quickly became a success after its release in July 2013. However, as the song skyrocketed to the top of the charts, so did its criticism. Many people feel that “Blurred Lines” promotes misogyny and perpetuates rape culture.  The “blurred lines” Thicke refers to degrade females and the song’s popularity only makes that message even more prevalent in the media. I looked into some articles about “Blurred Lines” that offered people’s criticism of the song.–> “Feminist Takedown of Robin Thicke…”

  • Author is Elizabeth Plank and her description on the website is: “Viral Content & Social Justice Editor at PolicyMic”
  • She makes the argument that Thicke’s lyrics make it seem like it’s okay and even sexy to pressure a girl into having sex. The video objectifies women as well as promotes the idea that sometimes stop means go.
  • She quotes Thicke’s comment about how America has more important things to worry about than naked women in his song. Her response is: “It’s not like women’s objectification is linked to any other serious social problem…like, I don’t know, violence against women?!” She goes on to explain how the song augments the already existing problem of making rape seem less serious in the media than it actually is.–> “In a Surprising Twist, Robin Thicke Is Now Convinced He’s Starting a Feminist Movement”

  • Author is Elizabeth Plank and her description on the website is: “Viral Content & Social Justice Editor at PolicyMic”
  • After an interview with Robin Thicke where he claimed “Blurred Lines” was supposed to start a conversation about feminism and the media’s objectification of women, Plank makes the argument that Thicke has no idea what he is talking about. This summarizes her argument: “There’s a way to question women’s systematic objectification in the media and Blurred Lines was not the way to do it. Women are already treated as play things in music videos. There’s nothing subversive about doing a worst version of what already exists. It’s like making a statement about the fact that people litter, by littering more. It’s lazy. It’s not admirable. It’s despicable.”
  • The article connects to other issues such as: hypocrisy in the media and where the fine line rests between art and nonsense.

Some people, however, feel that Robin Thicke received way too much backlash for the song. One example of such a belief was in the following article…–> “Blurring the Lines of Feminism”

  • The author only offered his or her initials, KC. He or she posted the article onto their blog which features the subtitle: “An occasional criticism of overwhelming opinions.”
  • She believes the song really is empowering and that if you take the time to actually listen to the lyrics, you will appreciate that the song is about freeing a woman from her sexist obligations.
  • This connects to many other issues, the most prevalent of which is the issue of what defines feminism? Is it gender equality, or has it become a way for women to dominate men? The article also connects to the issue of the effectiveness of feminism. Is it empowering women or condemning a woman’s right to sexuality?

Paradigm Shift Ideas

On Angel, a paradigm shift is defined as “a change from one way of thinking to another.” It is a cultural change- whether an invention, trend, or movement- that ignites a transformation in society. It is easy to think of paradigm shifts historically because we have witnessed its implications years later with clear hindsight. For example, the article mentioned how the printing press and vernacular language directly affected the Scientific Revolution. We can see now that printed books expedited the spread of thoughts which helped inventors and scientists of the time communicate, thus creating an explosion of scientific ideas. For our paradigm shift paper, though, we have to focus on something more current. We have to look at the world today, discern a distinct cultural shift, and trace it to its origin.

When I thought about modern cultural changes, two ideas came to mind: the explosion of gay pride and the popularization of hipster culture. Gay pride would be a fairly straightforward topic on which to find research. There are specific events and legislations I could look into to see if they contributed to the paradigm shift. Hipsters would be more challenging in that regard. They were not a popular social group when I was a child, but sometime around middle and high school, they became mainstream (:P). I think it might be challenging to find any research that hits on the social implications of hipster culture.

That being said, I think a paradigm shift paper and TED Talk on hipsters would be easier to find visuals for and it would be a lighter, more fun topic. I definitely am interested in writing about gay pride as well, but this is a more controversial topic and I do not want to offend anyone.

These are only two possible ideas for my paradigm shift paper; I might decide to go with something entirely different. But I think either one of these options would lead me to interesting places.

Rhetorical Analysis Reflection

So far, I think I am enjoying the rhetorical analysis unit a little too much. Call me a nerd, but I actually enjoy dissecting a piece of literature and analyzing how the author employs specific strategies to convince his or her audience of something. I decided to go with a piece of literature rather than a speech. In literature, the persuasiveness is more subdued. One has to read carefully and consider hidden meanings behind the text to discover the deeper implications of the story. In a speech, everything is more explicit. This is more tangible, but not as exciting in my opinion. I wrote several rhetorical analysis papers junior year, but none in my senior year (I took a film class). So it has been a while since I dove into a text so deeply.

I chose George Orwell’s essay “Shooting an Elephant” for my paper. The piece recounts an experience Orwell had in the British-controlled territory of Burma while he worked for the Indian Imperial Police from 1922-1927. Orwell was the sub-divisional police officer for the town of Moulmein when a tame elephant suddenly went wild and trampled people’s homes, possessions, and one unlucky man. The sub-inspector at the police station told Orwell to take care of it. For the rest of the essay, Orwell describes the build-up to shooting the elephant, his hesitation to do so, and the painfully slow process of killing the elephant. Orwell states that “it was a tiny incident in itself, but it gave me a better glimpse than I had had before of the real nature of imperialism– the real motives for which despotic governments act” (Orwell, 1).

Orwell wrote “Shooting an Elephant” in 1936, while Britain still controlled Burma. He had quit the Indian Imperial Police in 1927 out of disgust for imperialism and Britain’s disrespect of the natives. Orwell’s purpose in “Shooting an Elephant” is to convince people of the perverting and oppressive nature of imperialism. His audience is the people of Britain.

In my essay, I plan to write about several different strategies with which Orwell achieves his purpose. He employs animal diction, symbolism, imagery, and passive syntax throughout the essay in an attempt to portray imperialism as corrupt machinery which twists the nature of the oppressed and the oppressors alike.

Rhetorical Analysis Project Ideas

Most of the samples on the website of possible ideas for a rhetorical analysis ( are speeches of some kind given by a political, religious, or social leader. It makes sense to start from those ideas considering our rhetorical analyses are supposed to analyze how a piece “works to persuade its audience.” The purpose for those kinds of formal addresses is almost always to do just that: convince the audience of one thing or another. Perhaps to support a cause, condemn a recent social issue, or think in a certain way. I think I could definitely choose a speech of Martin Luther King Jr.’s and analyze his rhetorical strategies in an effort to persuade his audience of the urgent necessity for civil rights. His speeches are full of ethos, logos, and pathos.

However, there are other, less obvious pieces to analyze for rhetoric. In my AP Language and Composition class that I took junior year of high school, we spent most of our time writing rhetorical analyses. Many times we looked at historical literature such as Virginia Woolf, Benjamin Franklin, and George Orwell. I think this angle would interest me more because the authors seek to persuade their audiences in a more subtle way. The first thing they are concerned with is their style. I guess I find a rhetorical analyses of literature (that still seeks to persuade) more creative, and thus more intriguing.

One of my favorite pieces on which I wrote a rhetorical analysis was “A Hanging” by George Orwell. The piece tells the (true) story of a Burmese man’s execution under British Imperialists. George Orwell witnessed this execution first hand and it disgusted him, so he wrote the piece in an attempt to make readers realize how imperialism warps humans’ natural order. Obviously, I will not analyze this piece again (I wish!), but it gives me ideas of places to look. I think an analysis of work by Martin Luther (the instigator of the Protestant Reformation in Europe) would be interesting. The context for anything Martin Luther wrote would vastly differ from any modern examples of persuasion.

Pros and Cons of Speeches

Did you know that after the fear of death, public speaking is the most common fear for people to have? People fear talking in front of a group more than they fear ghosts, natural disasters, or snakes. Why is this the case? For one thing, public speaking means that everyone’s attention is on you. Sometimes attention is a good thing, but in the case of making a speech, you feel that their attention is often criticism or judgment. You know that not everyone will agree with you; not everyone is a friend or family member that won’t laugh at you. In a speech, you are putting your thoughts and opinions out there for everyone to hear, and that is a daunting notion.

That being said, there are many tactics that help people deliver effective speeches without having a nervous breakdown. 1) Believe in your message. If you truly understand and believe in what you are talking about, it is much easier to give your speech with confidence. 2) Prepare your points ahead of time. The days of simply reading off notecards in front of the class and passing that off as a speech are over. Now, we must not only write a speech, but know the information and the order in which we want to present the information off the top of our heads so that we do not stumble over our points. 3) Look the part; act the part. We have all sat through speeches where the speaker acts as if he/she could care less about the information he or she is presenting. He or she could actually be interested in the topic and genuinely trying to tell the audience about it, but something about his or her tone, dress, or delivery messes it up. To avoid this, I think it is important to remember the essential etiquette to delivering a speech: maintain eye contact, avoid the use of “umm” or “err,” and pace yourself.

Speeches are a decent way to express information because they are directed towards a target audience and not the entire world (like an article on a website would be, for example). Also, since a speech is given in person, audience members can ask their questions to the (usually) knowledgeable speaker afterwards. A disadvantage to a speech is that since it is in person, it cannot be stopped and reread like an article or online video could. (Granted, nowadays we often tape speeches so we can review them later, but this is still an initial disadvantage.) Another disadvantage to speeches is the quality of the speaker can vary. Sometimes, we hear from dynamic speakers who are easy to understand. But sometimes, the speaker is too soft-spoken, mumbles, etc.

Civic Engagement Speech: Artifact

photo (6) photo (7)

These are papers inciting students and faculty to come to a rally on Old Main Lawn in the late 1960’s. The rally is to protest unfair treatment of student protesters from the week before. The paper lists several reasons why the students have the right to speak their mind and how they were wronged when the police got involved.

This is a call to civic duty, albeit one of the counterculture. Whereas many times civic opportunities come from the government, this specific instance and other anti-Vietnam War protests go against the government.

I plan to explain the appeals they make within the artifact. Pathos: the title and phrasing such as “innocent students,” etc. Logos: they list all the reasons why the students are in the right and the law enforcement is in the wrong. Ethos: the advertisement is coming from fellow faculty members, which makes it seem likes less of a “hot-headed youth” concept. It gives the rally credibility.

The artifact demonstrates citizenship because it follows the logic that we, as citizens of the United States of America and as students and faculty of Penn State University, should care about our fellow citizens and students. We should want to help them because they need justice.


Letter From Birmingham Jail Rhetorical Analysis


1) “In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham.” MLK Jr. then goes through and explains how they followed those steps, so it makes the nonviolent demonstration seem like the only available option.

2) “One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. …groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.” He directly confronts the criticism posed to him, and thus knocks down logically all of their counterarguments.

3) “One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.'” This explanation clears the gray areas where people might call him a hypocrite.


1) “Was not Jesus an extremist for love…Was not Amos an extremist for justice…Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel…Was not Martin Luther an extremist…And John Bunyan…And Abraham Lincoln…And Thomas Jefferson…So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. …We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.” MLK Jr. cites several famous and respected “extremists” to make his own case more credible.

2) “I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates.” This explanation makes MLK Jr. seem more professional and it eradicates the idea that he is just an angry protestor.

3) “But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.” Before MLK criticizes the church for its failures, he reminds his audience that he is deeply attached to the church and cares about it very much.


1) “stinging darts of segregation” This phrase portrays segregation as physically painful.

2) “smothering in an airtight cage of poverty” This gives a clear mental image to disturb the audience.

3) “the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood” This creates a contrast between prejudice and brotherhood with associated emotional ties.