Short Analysis

We will take up rhetorical analysis – a form of analysis that focuses on purpose, audience, context, and the rhetorical strategies a text employs to achieve its purpose – as one of our main writing genres this semester. This short assignment (600-900 words) asks you to analyze one of our class readings thus far: Burke, Lang, Hunter, McIntosh, or Lakoff. You should submit your paper as an attachment via email before class the day it is due. Your analysis should address the following prompts:

  • What is the purpose of the text? We can approach this question in a few ways. What does the text aim to achieve? What does it encourage us to think, feel, or do? What is the main argument advanced by the text? What is the text about, and what does it have to say about what it’s about? What is the text’s orientation toward its main subject? (You don’t have to answer all these questions, just what seems most relevant.) Note that our understanding of purpose could depend on our understanding of the audience of the text, and there might even be different purposes for different audiences. So it could help to comment on possible audiences and readers of the text as well.
  • How does the context of the reading shape your understanding of it and its purpose? Context could include a range of factors. When and where was the text published? Does the text draw on or respond to any specific sources, events, or conversations? What else has this author published, and how does this fit into their other work? You don’t need to include all this information just for the sake of including it, but you should consider whether it shapes your understanding of the text. If it does, explain how.
  • Identify and comment on rhetorical strategies the text employs. A common rhetorical strategy involves developing a line of argument, a series of claims, reasons, and evidence. If the text makes an argument, what are the main claims, and how does the author support these claims? How does this line of reasoning help the text achieve its larger purpose? What about structure and style – how does the author’s organizational strategies and specific uses of language shape our understanding of the text? Are there any patterns worth noting?
  • Assess the uses and limits of the text. In what ways is the text helpful and productive? What sorts of questions, situations, problems, or challenges does it help us address? What are the text’s limitations? What perspectives does it overlook? What are its blindnesses or trained incapacities?

Even though these are framed as different prompts, you should aim to make connections between your thoughts so that your paper offers some larger insight into the text and how it works. Also, as you address these prompts, you should aim to incorporate specific quotes from the text in order to support and develop your analysis. You should include appropriate in-text citations and include a works cited page as well (the works cited doesn’t factor into the word limit). Our handbook has instructions for citations; use MLA or APA.

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