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Doing Rhetorical Criticism Lecture and textbook notes that ..
Doing Rhetorical Criticism Lecture and textbook notes that cover selecting the artefact, analysing the artefact, formulating the research question, writing the essay, the critical method and how the artefact works.

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University of Waterloo
ENGL 104
Michael Hancock

Doing Rhetorical Criticism January-11-11 4:33 PM  Processes of rhetorical criticism involves four steps Selecting an artefact Analyzing the artefact Formulating a research question Writing the essay Selecting an Artefact  Artefact can be thought of as a set of signs that are taken together as creating an interrelated set of meanings.  Artefact should be interesting. Consider own experiences and influences  Make sure it is appropriate for the method you will be applying  Artefact is the data for the study  Symbol of interest that is capable of generate insight about rhetorical processes  Appropriate for method in two ways Must contain kinds of data that are the focus of the units of analysis of the method. Units of analysis focus attention on certain dimensions of an artefact and not others. Scanning devices for picking up particular kinds of information Should be something you like or dislike, puzzles or baffles, cannot be explained. Analysing the Artefact  Each method of criticism has its own procedures for analysing an artefact  Apply units of analysis at this step o Metaphor analysis: involved in coding artefact for metaphor Engage in close and systematic analysis of the artefact and become thoroughly familiar with  dimension highlighted by method  Coding: observations Formulating a Research Question  What you want to find out about rhetoric by studying an artefact o Contribution to rhetorical theory  To create a research question, create a question for which your analysis is the answer  Research questions are about four basic components of communication o Rhetor. Some questions deal with relationships between rhetors and their rhetoric. Might be concerned with motive or worldview of the rhetor. "How do cowboy references function in the rhetoric of politicians?" o Audience. Concerned with relationship between artefact and audience. The kind of audience an artefact constructs as its preferred audience, how it functions to facilitate certain values and beliefs in an audience. "What is the ideal audience constructed by and for reality TV shows? o Situation. Deal with relationship between artefact and the situation or context in which the artefact is embedded. Impact of a situation on an artefact, rhetor's definition of a situation in an artefact. " How do political leaders define exigencies following a national crisis?" o Message. Most questions deal with the message of the artefact. Specific features of the artefact that enable it to function in particular ways. Kinds of arguments constructed, types of metaphors used, key terms used, combination of rhetorical strategies and characteristics that create a particular kind of artefact. "What are the features of an effective apology?"  Three mistakes: 1. Avoid broad and generic questions. "How does political rhetoric about war function?" -> narrow the scope of the question. "What rhetorical strategies do political leaders use to justify unpopular wars?" 2. Wording of question does not allow exploration and explanation of anything interesting, yes/no questions. "Do political leaders justify unpopular wars?" -> begin question with words and phrases like How? In what way? What rhetorical processes? What rhetorical strategies? 3. Do not include specific artefact in research question. Question should be larger than the artefact you are analysing, though some methods are an exception. "How does the NRA make its ideology palatable to resistant audiences?" -> How do organizations with strong ideologies construct messages that appeal to normally resistant audiences?" Writing The Essay  End result of the analysis  Five components: introduction that discusses the research question and its contribution to rhetorical theory and significance, description of artefact and context, description of method of analysis, report of the findings of an analysis, discussion of the contribution the analysis makes to rhetorical theory  Introduction o Orient the reader to the topic, present clear statement of purpose o Identify the research question, usually stated as a thesis statement: "In this essay, I will explore the functions of reality television shows for their audiences to try to discover the appeal of such programs." o Generate interest: suggest they will learn something important, provide information about other studies that do not provide satisfactory answers. Description of artefact o Brief overview or summary of the artefact near the beginning of the essay Film: when it was released, who directed it, plot summary, major characters,  significant technical features o Provide context for the artefact within social, political, economic arrangements of which it is part.  Harry Potter: tell about author, number of books in the series, amount of money generated at box office for films, controversies generated among some religious groups. o Highlight aspects of the artefact that are most important to your analysis o Justify why the artefact is appropriate to analyse in order to answer the research question.  Important in historical context, culturally significant, successful in generating money Description of Method o Identify method being used, who created it, define key concepts, briefly lay out basic tenets or procedures  Fantasy theme: description would include mention of creator (Ernest Bormann), definition of basic terms (fantasy theme, rhetorical vision), brief explanation of method's assumptions Report of the findings of the Analysis o Bulk of the essay o Results of the analysis of the artefact; what you discover from an application of the method of criticism to the artefact, provide support from data o Use relevant literature to support ideas Contribution to rhetorical theory o Essay ends with discussion of contribution to rhetorical theory o Contribution is answer to the research question o Move away from specific artefact to answer question more generally and abstractly o Contribution likely in one of two ways: identifying new concepts or identifying new relationships among concepts. Concepts and relationships are two basic elements of theories. o Concepts are components, elements, or variables the theory is about. Statements of relationships are explanations about how concepts are related to one another, identify patterns in the relationship  Rhetorical theory concerning process of credibility: to be credible a rhetor must demonstrate intelligence, moral character, good will toward the audience. Concepts are intelligence, moral character and good will, theory posits that all three concepts contribute to the audience's perspective that the rhetor is credible which is the statement of relationship. o Theory of the particular case: make a contribution without moving beyond particular artefact. Suggests that the analysis of the artefact allows you to suggest a theory that encompasses the case more fully than the alternatives Standards of Evaluation for Critical Essays  Standards of evaluation are justification, reasonable inference and coherence  Standards rooted in two primary assumptions: o Objective reality does not exist. Reality constituted through rhetoric o Critic can know an artefact only through personal interpretation of it. Impossible to be objective, impartial or removed from the data because values and experiences are reflected in how you see and write about an artefact.  Justification o Argument made by a critic o Must offer reasons in support of the claims you make o Use ample quotations and descriptions  Reasonable Inference o Must show how you moved from data of the artefact to the claims you are making o How claims made can be reasonably inferred from the data  Straight lines represent rigidity: visual lack of variation and deviation  Coherence o Order, arrange and present findings in a way that is congruent and consistent. o Findings do not contradict one another o Findings should be equally concrete or abstract, equally specific or general. The Critical Method Examines artefacts critically o Artefacts influence through meanings. Artefacts urge people to act and think in certain ways.
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