Essay # 1—Critical Rhetorical Analysis (CRA) of a Speech
Task: Select a written speech worthy of rhetorical analysis (i.e., a text that will reward your in-depth examination). Write an in-depth Critical Rhetorical Analysis of that text.
Length: 500 words, 2 (double-spaced) pages
• To examine a speech deeply and thoroughly
• To use and explore the tools of in-depth rhetorical analysis
• To use explicitly rhetorical strategies and techniques to persuade a mixed audience (us) that your insights into the text and into rhetoric are valid
• To tell us things about the speech and about rhetoric that are not obvious to the casual reader of the speech
• As always, to create new knowledge about texts and genres
• Select a meaningful speech—a good place to start looking is American Rhetoric http://www.americanrhetoric.com/
• There are many speeches that are eminently fruitful for a CRA that are not as famous as ones like King’s “I Have a Dream:” and Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.”
• It’s your responsibility to select a speech that has enough material for you to say significant things about.
Directions: How to Write a Critical Rhetorical Analysis (CRA)
An Essay of Critical Rhetorical Analysis systematically examines 1 unit of analysis and I fruitful passage in order to accomplish the following tasks:
1. To see how rhetoric operates in a text
2. to deeply explore how a particular unit of analysis works to achieve the text’s purpose(s)
3. to do a close reading of one key passage (1-2 paragraphs)
4. to answer a significant Research Question about the nature and function of rhetoric
Research question. The research question is what you want to find out about rhetoric by studying a particular text. The Research Question guides your analysis of the text. Your essay should contribute to our understanding of how rhetorical processes work as well as to our understanding of the text itself.
• Audience interest is generated by your Research Question about rhetoric.
• The Research Question must be stated explicitly as a question (with a question mark at the end, not buried in a that-clause).
• The Research Question must be stated in general terms (i.e., it does not name the specific rhetor nor the specific situation of the text you are dealing with)
o because the insight into rhetoric that you develop (your thesis) should be applicable to more than just the one text that you are analyzing
o because you should be able to expand your essay by adding a 2nd text that illustrates (and answers) the same question with some minor variations
• NO: “How does Plato use imagery to build a convincing argument about the nature of reality in ‘ The Allegory of the Cave’ ?”
• YES “How does a rhetor use imagery to build a convincing case about an abstract topic ?”
• Here are some sample research questions:
o “What devices does a liberal rhetor use to convince conservatives that a particular policy is necessary?”
o “What techniques can a rhetor use to build ethos when writing on a controversial topic?”
o “What specific devices can a rhetor use to create appeals to pathos in his/her audience?”
o “What types of metaphors does a rhetor use to convince the audience of his/her emotionally charged position?”
o “What rhetorical strategies does a minority rhetor use to achieve legitimacy for his/her cause?”
Select one of the following Unit of Analysis (again, it’s your responsibility to select the one that reveals the most about your particular speech):
• Logos (appeals to the audience’s reason and logic)
• Pathos (appeals to audience’s emotions)
• Ethos (techniques that make readers believe what is said because they trust the personality of the rhetor reveal in the text)
• Metaphor and other forms of comparison (analogy, similes)
• Tone (e.g., Irony, Sarcasm, Academic, Sentimental)
• Types of evidence used (& their effect)
• You create a Research Question in one of following ways:
o You have a question about rhetoric in mind even before you read the text
o Or you find something rhetorical that puzzles you in the text
o Or in the process of looking at all the units of analysis that you have collected, a question forms in your mind.
• Read that text carefully, noting various units of analysis. To illustrate, we’ll talk about John Doe’s essay.
• Then go through the text again, looking for and listing all examples of each unit. For instance, if you were looking for metaphors, you would make a list of all the metaphors in the text.
• Then categorize them–e.g., in Doe’s essay
o Metaphors that compare clowns to inanimate objects
o Metaphors that compare other people to clowns
o Metaphors that compare aspects of Doe’s personality to clowns.
• The list and categories, however, are merely raw data. If you simply gave them to your readers, they would ask, “So what?”
• The next step is for you to decide/discover the impact that unit has on the meaning and effect of the whole text and how it helps you answer your Research Question.
Structure of Your Essay
Your essay should have the following sections, and it must use these specific headings. Make this a coherent and unified essay. Remember that each section has its own purpose, so don’t evaluate in the analysis section, etc. Here are the sections:
• Introduction –an Intro does the following (not necessarily in this order):
o Names the author and the text.
?Establishes kairos—why should we particular readers (members of 21W.747 in 2010) care about this particular text at this particular time? Often at least part of the way to do this is to state your Research Question explicitly.
o Explain the rhetorical situation (the original audience, context, occasion, where the speech was first delivered, etc.).
o State your rhetorical question.
• Summary of the text (this should be brief). This summary must state explicitly the rhetor’s purpose, thesis and major points Explicitly use the terms text’s purpose, thesis, major points. The point of a Summary is to give us a sense of the rhetor’s points, not to give us a complete list of every minor point and example. Be very specific—there’s a significant difference between saying “he comments on the world situation” and saying “he denounces enemies of freedom and praises new democracies” (the latter is what you need to do).
• Analysis —This major section has two subsections (each with its own heading and each a minimum of one full paragraph).
o Unit of Analysis — Define the unit of analysis you will use and explain briefly why you have chosen this particular unit. Go beyond a mere dictionary definition to demonstrate that you have command of the concept. The end of our syllabus has numerous websites that should help here (no Wikipedia). Explicitly use that term throughout your essay. Use quotations as evidence, explicitly explaining how the quotation is evidence supporting your thesis.
o Close Reading — Select one key passage in the speech (1-2 paragraphs long), quote it in full, and then go through it with the proverbial fine-tooth comb, extracting everything possible from it—examine pathos, logos, ethos, stylistic techniques, appeals to audience needs and values, etc. Organize this section with each of your paragraphs focused on one thing (e.g., ethos, metaphors)—do not organize this section based on the order in which the speech’s sentences appear.
• Insight into Rhetoric– Explain what this particular text reveals to you about rhetoric. Here you explicitly answer your Research Question. How did your analysis of the unit support or prove your answer to your Research Question? What is the text’s diachronic and synchronic significance, if any?
• Reflection–This section gives you a chance to respond to the text and its implications, expressing your own point of view on the issues that that the text raises. Here you can speculate about the impact of the text or the lessons it teaches (or failed to teach). Explain what you thought of the author’s argument — did it work? Why or why not? What is the text’s relevance, if any, to your work and your intellectual life?