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Tools for Analyzing Rhetoric: The Rhetorical Triangle and SOAPSTone. What is Rhetoric?. As we discussed earlier, Corbet and Connors describe rhetoric as “the art or the discipline that deals with the use of written, spoken, or visual discourse to inform, persuade, or motivate an audience.”.
As we discussed earlier, Corbet and Connors describe rhetoric as “the art or the discipline that deals with the use of written, spoken, or visual discourse to inform, persuade, or motivate an audience.”
The art of rhetoric has its roots in ancient Greece. The sophists, a group of wise men who advised the government for a fee, emphasized the importance of logical and clear speech when discussing issues of politics.
The philosopher Aristotle split from the sophists and believed rhetoric should be a free endeavor. He wrote a text called The Art of Rhetoric which outlined rules how one engaging in rhetoric should behave. Aristotle argued one must use rhetoric “by any means possible” to reach their message to their audience.
Aristotle described two ways one can examine rhetoric. The first is called the Speaking Triangle.
Aristotle believed that a the structure and language of an argument are determined by the interaction between the speaker, audience, and subject of a text.
Let us return to Lou Gehrig’s farewell address:
Speaker: Speakers create a persona, or character in which he/she presents oneself. Gehrig cast himself as the humble hero who courageously fought a deadly disease
Audience: An audience has an expectation of a speaker that is either confirmed, denied, or altered. Gehrig’s audience expected him to have self-pity for himself after being diagnosed with a fatal illness, but instead he declared he was “the luckiest man on earth.”
Subject: Subjects are the topic addressed by the speaker and the context in which the speech is given. Gehrig gave his farewell address at a sold-out Yankee Stadium to announce his sudden retirement. The audience assumed Gehrig would discuss his “bad break,” but instead he gave a motivational speech focusing on how he was “the luckiest man on earth.”
Watch the following scene from the movie Braveheartand identify the speaker, audience, and subject of this speech.
A more specific way Aristotle suggested we analyze rhetoric is looking at Ethos, Pathos, Logos, also known as the Rhetorical Triangle.
Aristotle defined Logos as an argument based on evidence such as facts, statistics, testimonies, and those based on logical reasoning and common sense.
Appealing to Logos is important because it demonstrates a speakers expertise on a subject by providing evidence to support her claim.
Speaker – Ethos
Occasion – Why and When speech is given.
Audience – The people who observe or listen to the speech and their expectation and reaction.
Purpose – What is the speech trying to do to the audience?
Subject – What the speech is about?
Tone – The attitude of the speaker.
Another tool one can use to analyze rhetoric is SOAPSTone. If the Rhetorical Triangle is a wide angle lens of a speech, SOAPSTone is the close-up shot.
President Abraham Lincoln delivered “The Gettysburg Address” on November 19, 1863 as a dedication of the memorial for the 50,000+ soldiers who died 4½ months earlier during the Battle of Gettysburg.
The Battle of Gettysburg was a major turning point in the Civil War in which the Union demonstrated it could defend against an all out attack from the Confederacy who intended to invade Washington, D.C.
Lincoln was expected to give a victory speech, but instead his brief 272 words evoked the Declaration of Independence, personal freedoms, and a roadmap on how to repair the shredded ties that divided the nation. “The Gettysburg Address” is considered one of the greatest speeches in the English language.
Ethos: Lincoln evoked ethos just being President of the United States. But, he also used his ethos to appeal to the Confederacy. He makes an allusion to the Declaration of Independence declaring “all men are created equal.”
Pathos: Lincoln appeals to pathos by reflecting on how the living should never “forget what they [the soldiers] did here.” This is significant because he doesn’t distinguish sides, but notes all the fallen soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice for the country.
Logos: Lincoln appeals to logos by looking to repairing the country after a long Civil War. He discusses “the task before us” and adds “the nation shall have a new birth of freedom” – meaning we shall be a stronger America after we have settled the issues we have struggled during the previous years of war.
Speaker: The POTUS, but also a uniter, rather than a divider.
Occasion: The dedication of a war memorial .
Audience: All Americans, especially members of the Confederacy
Purpose: To motivate, to reflect, to evoke “the angels of our better nature.”
Subject: “the great task remaining before us.”
Tone: somber, reconciliatory, optimistic.
-Speaker –Audience –Subject
-Ethos –Pathos –Logos
-Speaker –Occasion –Audience –Purpose –Subject -Tone