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Rhetoric: A User’s Guide Advanced Rhetorical Writing Matt Barton.

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1 Rhetoric: A User’s Guide Advanced Rhetorical Writing Matt Barton

2 What’s it good for? Rhetoric is a useful tool for –Constructing an Identity –Making Persuasive Arguments –Interpreting Symbols, Texts, and Events Rhetoric kicks in when more by-the- numbers systems won’t cut it.

3 Rhetorical Theory & Practice Most fields have a “dominant paradigm” that its workers follow to generate new knowledge. –Rhetoric is a “grab bag” of conceptual tools; a “whatever works” methodology.

4 Rhetoric of Cell Phones The way you use your cell phone is a form of rhetorical practice. –You can use the cell phone as a “theatrical prop,” staging conversations or showing off how important you are. –A cell phone can reassure you (and argue to others) when you’re feeling insecure or lonely. –There are generally two audiences with a cell phone: The person you’re calling, and the people standing around listening.

5 Rhetoric of Travel Traveling is a way to get outside our comfort zones and open our minds to new possibilities. –Although we can’t ever have a truly “authentic experience” or a true escape from our “everyday lives,” traveling can help us “remain vigilant” and “self-critical” about ourselves.

6 Rhetoric of Advertising “Advertising acts as an immensely powerful propaganda tool for a consumerist ideology that may impoverish our psyches almost as readily as it empties our wallets.”

7 Understanding Ads “Advertisements are best understood as responses to other claims and as continuations of ongoing conversations.” –Let’s take a look at the “big picture” of the advertising phenomenon, not just focus on isolated ads.

8 Evolution of Ads In early forms, ads were designed to hawk “snake oils” and “miracle cures” to a rather naïve public.


10 “Reason Why” Strategies Later ads tried to present a “talky” ad that identified a problem, then explained why their product would solve it.



13 Power of Suggestion Later ads abandoned the direct approach and focused on “bending people’s attitudes.” –Customer: Buys products they need. –Consumer: Buys products they want.


15 Argument vs. Suggestion Arguments invite skepticism and counterargument. Suggestion invites identification. –Suggestions lets you get away with ads that would never work with arguments.

16 suggestion

17 Miller Man Law

18 The Absurdity TV commercials try to make us feel like buying their products will help us form a “unique and authentic” identity. –Just like all the other millions of consumers who fall for the same line… We’re Unique! Absolutely unique!

19 The Benetton Effect Why pay $50 more for a shirt just because it has a company logo on it? –Put emphasis on the brand name.

20 Final Thoughts on Rhetoric Rhetoric is useful because it –Promotes better, richer conversations that are capable of Forestalling conflict, Overcoming difference, Converting enmity to critical understanding And difference to identification. –Rhetoric shapes conversationalists capable of both critical listening and thoughtful speaking.

21 The End of Conversation Our conversation is not the means to the good life. –It is the good life.

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