Rhetorical Analysis

This assignment will ask you to put on some slightly different lenses as you read material in the course about monsters. Genre, you learned, has to do with the way a written text’s or film’s or video’s form corresponds to its function–the actions that its creator wants it to have in the world. Rhetoric is related: in fact, genre is, itself, a rhetorical consideration. But there are also a lot of other ways rhetoric works that you’ll read about in course texts and that you’ll need to be aware of for this assignment and, more important, for many, many other situations in and out of the university.

As Janet Boyd, the author of one of your course readings, defines it, rhetoric is “what allows you to write (and speak) appropriately for a given situation, one that is determined by the expectations of your audience, implied or acknowledged, whether you are texting, writing a love letter, or bleeding a term paper” (100). That definition implies that the specifics of what makes up “rhetoric” (more on that below) can be found across genres. So, on a given topic (like “monsters”), there are patterns that can be identified in many different examples of speech and writing.

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Borrowing from both Boyd and from Laura Bolin Carroll, here are some specific rhetorical considerations:

audience. We never write or speak entirely in a vacuum, no matter how alone we think we are while we’re composing. Good rhetoric has an audience in mind, even if it’s more of an imagined audience than a real one.
exigence. Rhetoric is often based on our responses to situations. Something happens, and among all the possible responses, we often want to put language into use. Identifying what the specific exigence is can help us strategize rhetoric.
constraints. Constraints are like the tools we have at hand to create rhetorical responses. For instance, if your teacher asks you to write a paper, you know that you have resources like computing devices, paper, and printer ink, but you also have library resources, a place (or places) to get the writing done, and time to do the assignment. All of those things can work to your advantage, but they also simultaneously limit what you’re able to do. Want to include a full-color photo in your paper? Sure: just make sure you have enough color ink or enough money to pay for printing.
pathos, and
ethos. These are very old Greek words that describe different ways a “rhetor” (anyone who uses rhetoric) tries to appeal to her/his audience. You’ll read about these terms in both Boyd and Carroll. In short, they refer to a rhetor’s attempts to be reasonable, emotionally appealing, and credible.
diction, tone, and jargon. Rhetoric works at the level of sentence and even word choice. Rhetors try (and sometimes fail) to match their formality–through vocabulary and even length of sentences–to what they believe their audiences expect. And they try to use words that are either familiar to their audiences or that they believe their audiences should know. (That’s why a lot of textbooks use boldface to introduce you to new terms. They want you to learn the “jargon.”)
This isn’t a complete list, of course. But it’s a good start in developing terms and concepts that are useful in analyzing and articulating how examples of rhetoric work, no matter the genre.


To complete the Rhetorical Analysis, reread Poole’s “Monstrous Beginnings” and then select one other text from our course related to monsters. Take notes on both that are related to their use of rhetoric. You may already have taken notes on the readings, but this time, write (for yourself) about how each text shows evidence of each of the rhetorical considerations above.

Once you have those notes, go back over them and mark where the texts might be doing very different and/or very similar things relative to a couple of the rhetorical considerations. For instance, do the two texts use distinctive diction or jargon? Do they both seem to respond to a specific event (like the 9/11 attacks)? Do they employ a lot of appeals based on emotion? Select two or three rhetorical considerations that you think are especially noteworthy for the texts. Visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhetoric for more details.

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Then, when you draft the Rhetorical Analysis paper itself, you should write

An introduction that introduces the texts you are analyzing and that expresses an overall statement (a “thesis”) about what you analyzed in the texts.
Body paragraphs that discuss the specific rhetorical considerations you choose to explore and that provide specific examples from the texts.
A conclusion that helps your audience (OK, primarily me) understand the significance of the connections you explain in your body paragraphs to the ongoing conversation about monsters.

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