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On Rhetoric Review of Rhetoric and its situations
Rhetoric Defined • Rhetoric is 2,500 years old • Originally considered as a study of the power of language. In the classical era it was purely defined as the art of persuasive communication through the appeal to logos (rationality), ethos (a person’s moral sense), and pathos (emotions). • In ancient Greece, there were no lawyers, so every land owning citizen needed to have to be able to defend, or persuade, a jury of his (no her) innocence of any crime.
Classical Definitions of Rhetoric • Plato: "art of enchanting the soul" (Phaedrus) • Aristotle: "Rhetoric is the counterpart of dialectic. It is the faculty of discovering in any particular case all of the available means of persuasion" (On Rhetoric) • Cicero: "Rhetoric is one great art comprised of five lesser arts: inventio, dispositio, elocutio, memoria, and pronunciatio. It is speech designed to persuade." (Of Oratory) • Quintilian: "Rhetoric is the science of speaking well, the education of the Roman gentleman, both useful and virtue."(Institutes of Oratory) • St. Augustine: "Rhetoric is the art of expressing clearly, ornately (where necessary), persuasively, and fully the truths which thought has discovered acutely." (On Christian Doctrine)
Contemporary Rhetoric • Contemporary rhetoric scholars have attempted to refine, revise, and extend the definitions of rhetoric to account for the fact that rhetoric has endured two millennia of critique. • At one time, rhetoric moved from the art of persuasion to the “art of expression” (Perelman 1079) in which the display and style of a speech was more important than its substance. This is where we get a modern definition as used by politicians and newscasters. • “Obama’s rhetoric on fighting poverty doesn’t match his policies.” • “Pope’s Rhetoric on Economy Worrying Rich Donors.”
Contemporary Rhetoric • Some “new” definitions: • Kenneth Burke: "the use of language in such a way as to produce a desired impression upon the hearer or reader" (Counter-Statement 210) • Also “The use of language as a symbolic means of inducing cooperation in beings that by nature respond to symbols” (Rhetoric of Motives 1032) • Burke’s important addition is the concept of “identification”—a writer attempts to create a connection with a reader through identifying with her/him in turn seeking that he/she identify with the writer. In other words, we cannot speak and magically change minds—instead, we try to create connections with others.
Rhetoric Defined, Again • Despite these nuances, rhetoric still remains the art of persuasive communication WITH the understanding that your audience is not a blank slate, that you have to acknowledge their concerns and differences, and that your argument needs to have evidence that appeals to those concerns.
Rhetorical Situation • One more name (not that you will remember or even have to) is Lloyd Bitzer. • Rhetoric just isn’t about the writer exerting some influence on the reader. Instead, communication is a whole situation consisting of a number of elements. Or, as Bitzer defines it: • “a complex of persons, events, objects, and relations presenting an actual or potential exigence which can be completely or partially removed if discourse, introduced into the situation, can so constrain human decision or action as to bring about the significant modification of the exigence"
Rhetorical Situation Defined • “Thing” – my highly technical term meaning speech, essay, movie, poster, advertisement, scientific study. (Sure, scholars might use the term “artifact” or “text”, and you might even use these two in your writing, but for now, let’s just stick to “thing”) • Audience – person reading/hearing the thing • Writer – the person creating the thing • Purpose – the writer’s intention of the thing • Exigence– some idea or happening that motivated the writer to create the thing • Constraint – the limitations of the situation, genre, writer, medium, audience, purpose • Modification – changing the exigencethrough the thing and/or situation. • Context – the situation itself and its evolutionary track.
Appeal to reason • Appeal to personality, values, or character • Appeal to emotions
Logos – Appeal to Reason • Logical appeal to an audience’s reason and understanding of the facts of a situation. Recognize, however, that facts can change, and different people will see different facts within a given situation. • Academic audiences prefer logos over other appeals • Scientific discourse requires logos and never pathos. Ethos in scientific discourse is established by lengthy literature reviews • Popular writing privileges personal stories, and thus, ethos and pathos are greater. Logos is often “revised” so as to make it easier for mass audiences to understand. • Connect with the reader using data and evidence that is generated for the purpose of informing.
Logos examples • “Pew Internet and American Life researchers found that 44% of ages 18-49 have used Wikipedia to find information” (1). • “According to a recent U.S. Census poll, 29% of movie theater revenues in 2007 come from food and beverage sales.” • “Kia offers a 10-year/100,000 mile standard warranty on all of their vehicles, so it stands to follow that they break down a lot.”
Ethos – Appeal to Character • Ethical appeal – claims and evidence from one’s character (to another’s character) • Establish character of author • Provide details about the character of the evidence • Demonstrate authority and credibility. • Authority -- The author/character knows about the subject, and provides evidence of such. • Credibility – The author/character is honest and respectful to the audience and provides relevant support to claims • Look out for fallacies involving Misplaced Authority • What does Bill Gates know about bicycles? • What does Al Gore know about computers? • What does Lance Armstrong know about politics?
Ethos How To • Style – complex, compound sentences, deliberate fragments, sentence order including inversions and conjunctive adverbs and phrases • Diction – word choice and usage. Sometimes appeals to first person plural (“we”) associates the character of the writer with the reader. • Format • Knowledge of subject and relating the subject to audience • Provide background (Situate!) your sources, whether experience, text, or testimony
Examples • “Bob’s rant-now website recently reported that over 60% of Americans like to eat pizza for breakfast.” • “Professor Jones has studied learning and memory theory for over twenty years and has served on the board of Harvard Medical school department of neurology.” • “I sat through every lecture. I read every assigned page. I earned an A. However, with little reservation I have to say that the First Year Seminar, Postcolonial Politics is the worst ten weeks spent of my life.”
Pathos • Emotional appeal – claims and evidence from the heart (and to the heart). • Connect with the reader using anger, sadness, happiness, and humor. You are trying to instill these emotions in your audience – trying to persuade them to feel emotionally as you do so that they will also be persuaded by your overall argument or claims in your argument. • There are not specific strategies or secret words or even groups of words that are guaranteed to inspire emotion. Any rational appeal can be used to instill an emotional message – it just depends on how it is framed. • Theory of proximity – the closer you are (or portray yourself to be) to the social, political, and ideological position of your readers, the easier you can persuade them using emotions. • A note about humor – a dangerous game because it relies on the theory of proximity to work correctly. The basic premise of humor is that it is absurd (all humor could be argued to be absurd). For the absurdity to work, a common assumption must be shared from which to riff off of.
Pathos Examples • “Through the fish-eyed lens of tear stained eyes, I can barely define the shape of this moment in time. And far from flying high in clear blue skies, I’m spiraling down into the hole in the ground where I hide.” • “I’ve long regarded Saturn’s misty tantalizing moon Titan as the Homecoming Queen of the solar system, courted and fawned over, stringing us along with teasing glimpses under her atmosphere, while Pluto was more like the chubby Goth chick who wrote weird poems about dead birds and never talked to anybody. Still, I just can’t stand by and watch as the solar system’s Fat Girl gets pushed down into ever-more ignominious substrata of social ostracism.”
Kairos • The opportune moment, finding that right time, is also an important part of a rhetorical situation. • Situations change quickly, so making an argument with evidence that is timely makes for a better argument than using old evidence or making an old argument. • Time is always relative
Examples • “Recent discoveries in astronomy have found that the earth revolves around the sun.” • “The U.S. Census Bureau reported that music publishers saw an increase in revenue by 22%.” • “Microsoft stock should remain high after the release of Vista.”
Types [Species] of Rhetoric Aristotle defined three “species” of rhetoric. • Deliberative – What should we do about the future • Forensic – What do we know about the past • Epideictic – Praise or blame in the present
Their uses 1. Deliberative arguments are used in politics and advertisements. They are used for writing about the future (do this, buy that, think this): • Exordium (Hook) – Creating goodwill, connecting with the audience • Narratio (Problem) – Background, situation, and problem. • Confirmatio (Proof, Solution) – Outlines a solution to the problem • Peroratio (Call to action) – Specific benefits of the solution and call to action 2. Forensic arguments are used in law and science. They are used to evaluate the past: • IRAC (Issue, Rule of Law, Analysis, Conclusion) • IMRAD (Introduction, Method, Results, Discussion) 3. Epideictic arguments are used to inspire, entertain, lament, praise, and blame
Caveats • Linear texts (movies, television, essays) rely on patterns of development to make a case. They more closely follow the hook, problem, solution, call to action. • Non-linear and static texts (print advertisements) have to rely on traditional arrangement, style, memory, and delivery.
How does all this work? • Thinking expends energy. Your body wants to conserve energy. Thus, it will find ways to expend less energy. Common patterns, models, and experiences will insert themselves in new tasks to help you conserve energy—and it is done subconsciously. • Theory (jargon, models, ideas) gives us a form and language to talk about thought. It allows us to use tools to create new jargon, models and ideas. • A good deal of rhetorical practice is implicit because its practice has been repeated for thousands of years. Using the language to talk about these implicit practice makes you smarter because it allows you to uncover and disassemble the subconscious thinking. In other words, it helps you figure out how language works.
Keywords • When doing any sort of rhetorical analysis, reflection essays on your use of rhetoric or your understanding of the rhetorical situation, then make sure you use the keywords • Audience • Purpose • Writer (or persona) • Exigence • Logos • Pathos • Ethos • Kairos • MOST IMPORTANTLY – Always provide evidence for what you are naming, drop the keyword, then explain what it means. • A recent editorial in The New York Times stated that while the economy was the most important concern in the presidential election, many Americans still tended to vote against their self-interest. The argument was effective because the writer provided election data from three years that show how people voted for tax cuts and less regulation of home loan lenders, yet now the national deficit is twice what it was, and many homes are in foreclosure. This effective argument relies on these logical appeals for its primary evidence. • DON’T say that there was “a lot of logos” or “I really saw the ethos” or “the pathos made me laugh.”
Any rhetorical analysis should attempt to do the following • Who is the audience(s)? How do you know? Be as specific as possible in describing the audience. Include as many details as you can in this description. Narrow the audience down as much as possible. • What is the primary purpose of the piece? What was it trying to persuade the audience of? What are the other purposes? Be specific and clear in describing the purposes. • What are some genre features used in this piece? Why were these particular genre features effective in reaching the audience and achieving the piece’s purpose? • Thinking about appeals to the audience (logos, pathos, ethos), how are these features persuasive for the piece’s audience and achieve the piece’s purpose? • Be specific in describing the rhetorically effective features. • Give examples from the piece to illustrate the rhetorically effective writing strategies you are describing.
Figure 3. Mercenaries 2 TV commercial. Youtube (2008). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FB2rvCJMk2k