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Project 2: Rhetorical Analysis Essay


Rhetorical Analysis Essay

This four-page (double-spaced) essay asks you to analyze key aspects of rhetoric and to think deeply about how persuasion works.

Choose an advertisement, campaign, billboard, website, or store display that you deem to be rhetorically compelling. The piece of rhetoric can touch on matters relating to civic life or not. Write an analysis that will help your readers understand how the piece works to persuade its audience(s).

You initially might want to ask: How does the author target an audience, respond to an audience, and/or construct an audience? How does the work’s style make meaning? Why are the piece’s rhetorical elements selected and arranged as they are? How does the author use logic and emotion to persuade? How does ethos function? How do social and historical contexts inform the piece’s meaning? Where did the piece appear, and how is this significant? Does the author make interesting references to events or other works? If so, why? What world does the text desire?

Then, take some of these questions and shape them into a argumentative claim about the piece (a.k.a, your thesis). You want to link the rhetorical aspects of the piece to distinct subtext(s) you identify that make the persuasive argument float. In other words, identify what argument or commonplace assumption the piece first has to present or draw upon (say, about the nature of women, a certain quality of a celebrity, or a certain style of living) to persuade us in a more specific way. Your essay should also discuss and analyze the rhetorical situation–the specific context or moment out of which this piece has arisen.

Your goals for this essay are to:

1. Make strong argumentative claims about the piece and utilize good analysis sentences.

2. Present the rhetorical situation effectively, contextualizing this piece of rhetoric.

3. Show a strong capacity for rhetorical analysis and reveal the piece’s ideological underpinnings, commonplaces or subtext(s).

4. Demonstrate how rhetorical proofs (ethos, pathos, and logos) and other rhetorical choices contribute to the piece’s persuasive aims.

5. Write in a lively style.

6. Expand, challenge, and transform the audience’s understanding of the piece.


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