This is not a particularly easy activity, but I want you to take a stab at doing some rhetorical analysis without any prior background information about the author, the time period, or the audience. I want you to go beyond the words to identify the writer’s motive (agenda), and his target audience.
1.Read the uploaded essay . You might consider printing this off since some of the wording is a bit archaic (hint, hint).
2.Use Flower and Ackerman’s method for rhetorical analysis of the essay (read the notes for Rhetorical Analysis).
3.Write your thoughts about the following questions:
•Intentions – Who is the author writing to? Think about the time period in history that is mentioned, etc. Who do you think the author is (e.g, profession, status, age, gender,…)?
•Conventions – What formatting, or wording, give you some clues about who and what this essay is about? Does the tone imply something about the author or readers?
•Context – What is the agenda of the writer? What are the author’s fundamental beliefs?
•Your Opinion – What was your reaction to the essay? Again, no right or wrong here – tell me clearly how this essay made you feel, and what it made you think about.
Rhetorical analysis is just a fancy way of suggesting how to look at any given text. It is important to be careful readers, as well as effective writers. Conducting a rhetorical analysis on a text is a way of looking at what the motives are of a writer, what methods the writer is using to persuade you to accept any given claim, and how effective you feel the writer is in achieving his/her agenda.
Rhetoric, by definition, is the study of the effective use of language. It involves the word choice you use to convey information. I believe everything is rhetorical. For example, I could say, “It is raining outside,” and I have let you know the current weather conditions. I could also say, “The raindrops are going pitty-pat on the brick walkway outside,” and I have conveyed the same information, just in a different manner. Even though we are working on technical communication in this course that does not mean it is devoid of style. When we delve into argumentation, you will see that this level of word choice is a crucial part of persuading someone to accept your point of view.
The following definitions by famous authors illustrate the importance of rhetoric, and why it is useful to study it as a way of determining the effectiveness of documents, or websites:
• Hemingway, in the The Green Fields of Africa, defined rhetoric by saying, “Rhetoric is the blue sparks from the dynamo.”
• Aristotle said, “Rhetoric is the art of discovering in the particular case the available means of persuasion. It has to do with things about which we commonly deliberate.”
• Kenneth Burke, a leading rhetorician today, said, “Wherever there is meaning, there is persuasion, and wherever there is persuasion, there is rhetoric.”
Basically rhetorical analysis involves considering the following aspects as related to this assignment:
• Purpose (Why is the website out there? To sell things, to recruit employees, unclear?)
• Audience (Who is the website content, and graphics, geared to – technical audiences, younger audiences, unclear?)
• Content (Is the content sufficient to meet the audience’s expectations, or is it too much, or too little?)
• Organization (Is the navigation through the site easy, intuitive, or is it a mess with broken links and no cohesiveness?)
• Style (Is the tone and visuals appealing? Does the site make you want to stay, or go?)
For Assignment 3, I will not be evaluating whether or not your opinions are “right” or “wrong.” I will be looking for an organization to your PowerPoint presentation, a list of criteria you used to compare the two sites, and the persuasiveness you use to convince a fellow student in your written script to visit the site that you decide is the most useful in the job search process.
Conducting a Rhetorical Analysis
Rhetorical reading strategies can help you understand a text. Sometimes the real point of a text needs to be inferred or constructed. You must create meaning from the words that you read (or the images that you see). Rhetorical analysis can also help you determine if the writer had hidden agendas.
Linda Flower and John Ackerman in their text, Writers at Work , developed a usable rhetorical reading strategy. This three-pronged method provides a good framework for the presentation that you will give for Assignment 3. They recommend that you read for:
Reading for intentions
Ask the following questions as you read: Who is talking here? Why did they write this text, and why did they write it the way they did? What are the goals (purposes) of the text? Thinking about the five W’s of news writing can help you identify the intentions of a writer: who, what, when, where, and why – with a big emphasis on why.
Reading for conventions
What conventions, or formatting, are being used to guide your reading? Ask yourself why the company chose to put the “face” it did for the world to see. Look at the visuals and format of the text. What can you infer about what is important to this company by the image that it projects? Reading for context
How does the text fit into a larger rhetorical context? What assumptions or belief systems does the text reveal? Look at the hyperlinks on the sites. What information is easy to find? What is difficult? This can tell you a lot about what is important to this company. The example I provide illustrates the use of the above rhetorical strategy, although it does not exactly match the content analysis for a job search that you will need to do.
Reading for context
How does the text fit into a larger rhetorical context? What assumptions or belief systems does the text reveal? Look at the hyperlinks on the sites. What information is easy to find? What is difficult? This can tell you a lot about what is important to this company.
In all this Cuban business there is one man stands out on the horizon of my memory like Mars at perihelion.
When war broke out between Spain and the United States, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain fastnesses of Cuba-no one knew where. No mail or telegraph message could reach him. The President must secure his co-operation, and quickly.
What to do!
Some one said to the President, “There is a fellow by the name of Rowan who will find Garcia for you, if anybody can.”
Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How the “fellow by the name of Rowan” took the letter, sealed it up in an oilskin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, and in three weeks came out on the other side of the island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and delivered his letter to Garcia-are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail. The point that I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, “Where is he at?”
By the Eternal! There is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning young men need, not instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing-“Carry a message to Garcia.”
General Garcia is dead now, but there are other Garcias. No man who has endeavored to carry out an enterprise where many hands were needed, but has been well appalled at times by the imbecility of the average man-the inability or unwillingness to concentrate on a thing and do it.
Slipshod assistance, foolish inattention, dowdy indifference, and half-hearted work seem the rule; and no man succeeds unless by hook or crook or threat he forces or bribes other men to assist him; or mayhap, God in His goodness performs a miracle, and sends him an Angel of Light for an assistant.
You, reader, put this matter to a test: You are sitting now in your office-six clerks are within call. Summon any one and make this request: “Please look in the encyclopedia and make a brief memorandum for me concerning the life of Correggio.” Will the clerk quietly say, “Yes sir,” and go do the task?
On your life he will not. He will look at you out of a fishy eye and ask one or more of the following questions:
Who was he?
Where is the encyclopedia?
Was I hired for that?
Don’t you mean Bismarck?
What’s the matter with Charlie doing it?
Is he dead?
Is there any hurry?
Shan’t I bring you the book and let you look it up yourself?
What do you want to know for?
And I will lay you ten to one that after you have answered the questions, and explained how to find the information, and why you want it, the clerk will go off and get one of the other clerks to help him try to find Garcia-and then come back and tell you there is no such man. Of course, I may lose my bet, but according to the Law of Average, I will not.
Now, if you are wise, you will not bother to explain to your “assistant” that Correggio is indexed under the C’s, not in the K’s, but you will smile very sweetly and say, “Never mind,” and go look it up yourself. And this incapacity for independent action, this moral stupidity, this infirmity of the will, this unwillingness to cheerfully catch hold and lift-these are the things that put pure socialism so far into the future. If men will not act for themselves, what will they do when the benefit of their effort is for all?
A first mate with knotted club seems necessary; and the dread of getting “the bounce” Saturday night holds many a worker to his place. Advertise for a stenographer, and nine out of ten who apply can neither spell nor punctuate and do not think it is necessary to.
Can such a one write a letter to Garcia?
“You see that bookkeeper,” said the foreman to me in a large factory.
“Yes, what about him?”
“Well, he’s a fine accountant, but if I’d send him up town on an errand, he might accomplish the errand all right, and on the other hand, might stop at four saloons on the way, and when he got to Main Street would forget what he had been sent out for.”
Can such a man be entrusted to carry a message to Garcia?
We have already recently been hearing much maudlin sympathy expressed for “the downtrodden denizens of the sweatshop” and “the homeless wanderer searching for honest employment” and with it all often go many hard words for the men in power.
Nothing is said about the employer who grows old before his time in a vain attempt to get frowsy ne’er-do-wells to do intelligent work; and his long, patient striving after “help” that does nothing but loaf when his back is turned. In every store and factory, there is a constant weeding out process going on. The employer is constantly sending away “help” that have shown their incapacity to further the interests of the business, and others are being taken on. No matter how good times are, this sorting continues: only if times are hard and work is scarce, the sorting is done finer-but out and forever out the incompetent and unworthy go. It is the survival of the fittest. Self-interest prompts every employer to keep the best-those who can carry a message to Garcia.
I know one man of really brilliant parts who has not the ability to manage a business of his own, and yet who is absolutely worthless to any one else, because he carries with him constantly the insane suspicion that his employer is oppressing, or intending to oppress, him. He can not give orders, and he will not receive them. Should a message be given him to take to Garcia, his answer would probably be, “Take it yourself!”
Tonight this man walks the streets looking for work, the wind whistling through his threadbare coat. No one who knows him dare employ him, for he is a regular firebrand of discontent. He is impervious to reason, and the only thing that can impress him is the toe of a thick-soled Number Nine boot.
Of course I know that one so morally deformed is no less to be pitied than a physical cripple; but in our pitying let us drop a tear, too, for the men who are striving to carry on a great enterprise, whose working hours are not limited by the whistle, and whose hair is fast turning white through the struggle to hold in line dowdy indifference, slipshod imbecility, and the heartless ingratitude which, but for their enterprise, would be both hungry and homeless.
Have I put the matter too strongly? Possibly I have; but when all the world has gone a-slumming I wish to speak a word of sympathy for the man who succeeds, the man who, against great odds, has directed the efforts of others, and having succeeded, finds there’s nothing in it: nothing but bare board and clothes.
I have carried a dinner-pail and worked for a day’s wages, and I have also been an employer of labor, and I know there is something to be said on both sides. There is no excellence, per se, in poverty; rags are no recommendation; and all employers are not rapacious and high-handed, any more than all poor men are virtuous.
My heart goes out to the man who does his work when the “boss” is away, as well as when he is at home. And the man who, when given a letter to Garcia, quietly takes the missive, without asking any idiotic questions, and with no lurking intention of chucking it into the nearest sewer, or of doing aught else but deliver it, never gets “laid off,” nor has to go on a strike for higher wages. Civilization is one long, anxious search for just such individuals. Anything such a man asks shall be granted. He is wanted in every city, town and village-in every office, shop, store and factory. The world cries out for such; he is needed and needed badly-the man who can “Carry a Message to Garcia.”