Assignments

Essay 2

For this assignment, you should choose one debate exchange in the public sphere—that is, the sequence of statements and rebuttals in response to one question, such as the exchange on one topic in one of the debates, arguments presented for or against a supreme court issue, or two exchanges in different sides of the question about whether “Redskins” is an offensive name for a football team. Your task is to analyze this debate sequence using the methods we’re studying in class (especially appeals, stasis theory, Toulmin’s model, and argumentation schemes), in order to explain which side presented the stronger argument, and why, or why the debate as a whole worked well (or didn’t) to clarify the distinctions between positions. The specific debate sequence, and the methods of analysis, are up to you; you will, of course, want to choose a combination of argument and analytical methods that reveals some insight: perhaps it will explain why a particular debated question evoked a great or poor exchange, or how one or another of the debaters used a specific technique to win the exchange, or why understanding one or a combination of the theories can explain some feature of this debate or of debates in general that otherwise seems hard to understand.

The thesis of your essay, in other words, will follow the basic argument structure of:

Rhetorical theory X (or X and Y) gives us analytical method X’, which when applied to debate sequence A offers conclusion C.

As you write your essay, consider:

The underlying logical structure of your argument (what are your claims? What is your evidence base, warrants, and qualifiers? What allows you to analyze and make inferences? etc.)

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? How will you introduce the theory to the reader?)

Your development of authority and credibility—how does your introduction of the positions and arguments you’re analyzing show your broad understanding of the exchange, and of the issues at stake? How do your introductions of the theories, and your citation practices, show your rhetorical expertise? How does the depth of your analysis show your engagement and insights?

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