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ENG 105-08 (Ryan): Unit 2 - Rhetoric, Summary, and Analysis

Unit 2 - Rhetoric, Summary, and Analysis

Assignment : Citizen Summary and Analysis

For the second assignment for this semester, you will be reading and analyzing a selection of your choosing from Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine. You will choose a selection of text or aspect of the book to summarize and analyze rhetorically. You will consider the choices that Rankine makes narratively and rhetorically throughout her book, in both textual and visual ways. You will use quotations from the book as well as contextual information that you seek out yourself. This assignment will serve as a precursor to the cultural narrative and analysis, where you will use Rankine’s process as a model for your own visual and rhetorical analysis of a cultural subject. (Length: minimum of 3 pages double spaced)

Rhetorical knowledge can be broadly defined as knowing how rhetoric works and how to use it.

While one common use of the word rhetoric is to mean false or meaningless speech - "I've had enough of your rhetoric," said Aunt May - a more traditional definition (given by J.A. Cuddon and M.A.R. Habbib in The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, "Rhetoric") is

the art of using language for persuasion, in speaking or writing; especially in oratory.

Note: Rhetoric does not have to involve language. For example, visual rhetoric (both moving and still images), aural rhetoric (sound and music), and non-verbal rhetoric (sign language, body language) are other rhetorical forms that don't necessarily involve words. In the past two decades, the term digital rhetoric has increasingly been used to describe forms of communication that occur online.

Ultimately, any communication with an audience can constitute an act of rhetoric.

Where is rhetoric? Well, it's all around us: every ad we watch on television, every website we visit, every sign on a billboard or flyer for an event on campus, when your friend tries to convince you to go see a movie: these are all different acts of rhetoric. When used effectively, rhetoric enables us to persuade others to act or believe in a different way, like a coach motivating his team at halftime, a parent telling their kid they did a good job, or a leader trying to convince voters to support their policies.

How old is rhetoric? While rhetoric itself is probably as old as human communication, formal study of rhetoric began in the ancient world (see for example Plato's disputes with the rhetorical teachings of the Sophists, Aristotle's foundational work the Rhetoric, or this book on even older traditions) and continues into the present day.

Can you recommend some new(er) books for learning about rhetoric? Sure! Try these.

For the related topic of prose style, you may wish to consult the Prose Style Analysis box on the Criticism & Theory page of this guide.