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Introduction to RHETORIC

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1 Introduction to RHETORIC
From Everyday Use: Rhetoric at Work in Reading and Writing, by Hephzibah Roskelly and David A. Jolliffe, Second Edition

2 Rhetoric refers to two things:
The art of analyzing all the language choices that writer, speaker, reader, or listener might make in a given situation so that the text becomes meaningful, purposeful, and effective. The specific features of texts, written or spoken, that cause them to be meaningful, purposeful, and effective for readers or listeners in a given situation.

3 ACTIVITY Read the scenario carefully. Then, in small groups, discuss the choices involving language that Randall Leigh makes in order to be persuasive. Evaluate the specific features of his requests to his classmates.

4 What does “Being Skilled at Rhetoric” Mean?
Becoming skilled at rhetoric is a valuable part of your education, one that you will work on throughout your school years and beyond. Consider the following:

5 What does “Being Skilled at Rhetoric” Mean?
Being skilled at rhetoric means reading not only to understand the main and supporting points of what someone writes but also to analyze the decisions the rhetor (speaker) makes as he or she works to accomplish a purpose for a specific audience.

6 What does “Being Skilled at Rhetoric” Mean?
Being skilled at rhetoric means being able to examine a situation – in school, in Katy, in society as a whole – and determine what has already been said and written, what remains unresolved, and what you might say or write to continue the conversation or persuade readers to take action.

7 The Rhetorical Triangle
Anyone creating or analyzing a text must consider three elements: The subject and the kinds of evidence used to develop it The audience – their knowledge, ideas, attitudes, and beliefs The character of the rhetor – in particular, how the rhetor might use his or her personal character effectively in the text


9 ACTIVITY Reread the scenario about Randall Leigh and the bus fare. Then, in your small groups, discuss the following questions: What kind of persona, or “mask,” did Randall try to present to each of his three audiences – Brandon, Kim, and Nate? (This speaks to the CHARACTER of the rhetor) What assumptions do you think Randall made about each of the three audiences – Brandon, Kim, and Nate – that led him to make decisions about how to present his case? (This speaks to the AUDIENCE of the message) What kinds of plea, evidence, or proof did Randall employ with each of the audiences to try to persuade Brandon, Kim, and Nate to lend him the bus fare? (This speaks to the SUBJECT of the message) What do you think Brandon, Kim, and Nate knew about Randall – his personality, his job, and so on – that led them to react the way they did to his entreaties? (This speaks to the audience’s opinion of the SPEAKER)

10 Understanding Persona
Writers usually want the persona they develop and the voice they use to be genuine, to reflect who they really are. Occasionally, however, writers use the masks of another voice for comic effect or to underscore the seriousness of a position they believe in. Ellen Degeneres’ 2009 Tulane University Commencement (Graduation) Speech (9:30)

11 As you watch and listen, respond to the following:
1. What kind of person does Ellen seem to be? 2. Who is the audience for this text? 3. What seems to be the relationship between the speaker and the audience? 4. What is the central idea that this text develops? 5. How is the text developed – through examples? Descriptions? Stories? 6. How is the text organized? How are its parts connected? How does this arrangement of parts help the development of the text? 7. What is the context for the text? 8. How does the context influence Ellen and her relationship with the audience?

12 Possible Responses 1. Authentic, sincere, funny,
2. Tulane graduates, faculty, family and friends of those graduates 3. Warm, respectful. Ellen is a New Orleans native, so that lends her credibility to speak at Tulane University, located in the Crescent City 4. Be true to yourself; finding your way may take time, but it’s worth it in the end; adversity will teach you; your definition of success will change throughout life 5. Through stories of her life’s lowest points and highest successes 6. Starts with humor emphasizing that she did not attend college, much less Tulane University. Makes fun of herself with “Common Cement” play on words. Tells stories of her rise to fame, fall, then resurgence. Reveals what she learned from her life. Ends with humor. 7. Addressing graduates who lived in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina – she acknowledges their hardships and their enjoyment of life in a party city. Ellen addresses that the graduates are moving from an academic life to a working life. 8. These graduates have already experienced living through a strong hurricane, an unusual and stressful event. If they can survive Katrina, then certainly, they can meet future obstacles. Ellen’s stories relate how she persevered through her own challenges. Mutual respect.

13 Understanding Audience
A successful speaker or writer generates effective material by capitalizing on what audience members already know, making them curious to know more about the topic, and then satisfying their curiosity by providing facts, ideas, and interpretations that build on what they already know.

14 Understanding Appeals
A rhetor employs LOGOS by offering a clear, reasoned, central idea (or ideas) and developing it (or them) with appropriate evidence to appeal to an audience’s sense of logic. A rhetor appeals to ETHOS by offering evidence that he or she is credible – knows important and relevant information about the topic at hand and is a good, believable person who has the readers’ (or listeners’) best interests in mind. A rhetor appeals to PATHOS by drawing on the emotions and interests of the audience so that they will be sympathetically inclined to accept and buy into central ideas and arguments.

15 The Appeals and Context
Every piece of writing always exists in context, or situation, that prompts the writer to write about a certain subject, audience members to read (or listen to) the piece, and a purpose to determine how the writer approaches both the situation and the audience. A piece of writing works in three closely related ways – to convey its information and points to readers (or listeners), to influence their thinking, and perhaps even to change their actions. These ways are the appeals: ethos, logos, pathos.

16 ACTIVITY Read “Corporate Sponsorship of Our Schools” by Joel Caris. It was posted on “The Scrivener,” a website that welcomes submissions from high school writers. After reading the editorial, respond to the following questions in your small groups. 1. What is the context (situation) of this piece of writing? In other words, what happened to cause Caris to pen this editorial? What specifics did Caris include? (did he give when and where it happened?, relate why this happened?, tell why it was done?) If so, write each of these down on your paper. 2. How does Caris establish credibility (ethos)? 3. How does he employ logic (logos)? 4. How does he appeal to emotion and interests of the audience (pathos)?

17 ACTIVITY What I noticed:
This did not sound like a high school student’s voice. Why? Diction – “somewhat disturbing event” (line 1), “substantial prize” (line 10), “monetary assistance” (line 11), “blatantly pandering” (line 27), “partaking in corporate sponsorship” (line 31), compromising their objectivity and true purpose (line 35-36) Logical explanation of context (situation) Parallel structure in second sentence – “The shirt did not have a marijuana leaf on it, did not promote alcohol or tobacco, and implied nothing sexual.” Mature analysis and expression of his opinion Sophisticated punctuation use – dashes for emphasis

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