21W.016 | Fall 2016 | Undergraduate

Writing and Rhetoric: Designing Meaning


Essay 1

For this assignment, you should choose a speech made in the public sphere—for instance, any of the convention or policy speeches made by one of the candidates, or a speech about one of the candidates made by someone else at the conventions, or a speech by another public figure, such as President Reif. Many options are available on the course website, or at American Rhetoric. Your task is to analyze this speech using the rhetorical methods we’re studying in class, in order to explain its strengths and weaknesses. The specific speech, and the methods of analysis, are up to you; you will, of course, want to choose a combination of speech and analytical methods that reveals some insight: perhaps it will explain how specific features of the rhetoric worked to make the speech effective (or ineffective), or explain what other rhetorical appeals or strategies could have been developed, or why an effective speech is nonetheless logically flawed, etc.

The potential methods should be drawn from the readings. For instance, based on Consigny’s article, you could analyze the topic (concept) pairs, and how they shift the audience’s beliefs. Based on Selzer’s article, you could analyze which rhetorical appeals are being used, and how they work together (or perhaps pull against each other). You might also analyze whether those are the most effective appeals, or whether a different balance of ethos, logos, and pathos might be more persuasive. Based on Fahnestock and Secor’s article, you could analyze where an argument begins and ends, in terms of stases, and whether it has successfully fulfilled or put to rest that stasis. These are just examples; other approaches are possible. You can choose to largely draw from one method, or to combine methods where overlapping them will reveal deeper insights. The requirements are that you make explicit your methods, and that the methods must be drawn from the readings we’ve covered in class.

Your essay will need to briefly explain each concept it applies, introduce the sources of the rhetorical methods as well as the source of the speech you’re analyzing, and cite all sources according to MLA format.

As you write your analysis, consider:

The underlying logical structure of your argument (you’ll be making arguments of fact and definition (showing that a particular feature of the speech should be seen as an appeal to ethos, for instance, while another forms a central topic pair), of causation (showing the effects of a particular type of discourse, or what causes a stasis to be closed) of value (arguing that some pieces are working well and others less than well, or that the argument as a whole is effective or not), and of policy (arguing that an alternative type of appeal would work better, or that we should not be convinced by a line of reasoning). As you design your microarguments, you’ll need to consider the order in which to present them and how they link together to form a strong reasoning chain.

The rhetorical structure of your argument (considering your audience, what premises need to be spelled out and which can be left implicit? Similarly with terms—which need to be defined? What order will make the logic clear and also pique the reader’s interest?)

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2016
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments with Examples