Rhetorical Situation

Learning Objectives:
After successful completion of this learning unit, you will be able to do the following:
Clearly and critically assess the Rhetorical Situation in both textual and visual arguments.
Distinguish the difference between the Rhetorical Appeals (ethos, logos, pathos) and explain how they function in textual and visual arguments.
Develop and apply criteria for evaluating effective textual and visual argumentation in a well-organized paper.

Topic:
There are numerous terms that we toss around when deciding what makes for effective argumentation. Traditional rhetorical analysis (outlined by Aristotle) says that every argument is based on a triangulation of appeals to the emotions (pathos), to values (ethos), and to logic (logos). But an exact balance of this trio might not be most important–maybe an effectively emotional appeal would persuade more people; maybe you feel that reason/logic is the most important element, etc. While the term “rhetorical analysis” may seem technical to some people, it is an activity we participate in daily—every time we read or view something or talk to someone we are assessing their credibility (whether or not we believe them) based on the use of evidence, the use of reason, and the use of emotion. The credibility of the person or story depends on how the material is presented. For this assignment we will look more closely at defining purpose and function in arguments with special attention to the role of audience in defining what rules and values delimit what an argument ought to do.
Writing Task:
Write a 800-1000 word rhetorical analysis in response to one of the following options listed below—remember a rhetorical analysis asks you to assess how effectively the argument is presented—you are not arguing your position on the topic:
For all Three Options Your essay should:
research 2-3 sources on the “rhetorical situation” and Aristotle’s triangulation of appeals (logos, ethos, pathos)–be able to explain these concepts and cite the sources you consulted as part of your paper.
offer clear criteria (rationale) for evaluating an effective visual or textual argument. YOU MUST USE AND DEMONSTRATE THAT YOU UNDERSTAND THE TERMS LOGOS, PATHOS, AND ETHOS–show how they apply to the visual or textual argument you analyze.
examine the information, claims, issues, and assumptions found in the texts/images.
be unified around your own main line of argument (your own thesis that states which text/essay or image/poster is most effective and why)
Support all assertions with specific references from the texts/images as well.
Don’t forget to include a works cited page and intext citations following the MLA format.Writing Tips: Quotations
Here is a text-based Rhetorical Analysis Sample
Resources for Writing, Revising, Editing, Citing Sources, etc.
Option I:
Compare and Contrast
Compare and contrast the following two essays on social media activism and their use of the Rhetorical Appeals (logos,ethos, pathos).
Erin Lee’s “How Effective is Social Media Activism”
Brian Dunning’s “Slacktivism: Raising Awareness”
These two essays are taken from the following textbook: Signs of Life in the USA: Readings on Popular Culture for Writers. 9th ed., edited by Sonia Maasik and Jack Solomon, Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2018. To include this citation on your works cited page, you must follow the format for citing a work in an anthology (scroll to the correct format).
(Links to an external site.)

Your paper should establish a criteria (standards/key points) for evaluating an effective argument in order to assess the arguments’ effectiveness. Your thesis should answer this question: Which essay more effectively uses the rhetorical appeals (logos, ethos, pathos) to convey its message?
In the body of the paper you will want to examine the rhetorical situation—purpose, audience, tone/message and assess the author’s use of logos, ethos, pathos (that is appeals to logic, ethics, emotion). Be sure to quote from the essays (individual words and sentences) as support for your assertions.
Research 2-3 sources on “rhetorical situation” and Aristotle’s triangulation of appeals (logos, ethos, pathos) and cite these sources in your paper as part of your analysis. Be sure to include them on your works cited page. Your are welcome to use these rhetorical analysis links, or research your own–there are many great cites out there.
Option II:

Go to BlackLivesMatter.com
(Links to an external site.)
Links to an external site.
and assess the rhetorical situation for the organization. What is their purpose and who is their audience? (here you want to read how the organization defines themselves and their goals/mission on the home page—this would be their purpose) (read the sections under the “about” tab on the home page).
Next, based on your assessment of the website’s purpose, which instagram image or images (1-3), most students analyze just one image very closely, are most effective at conveying that purpose/message to their intended audience—Your thesis should answer this question: How effectively does the BLM instagram posting you’ve chosen use the rhetorical appeals (logos, ethos, pathos) to convey BLM’s message to its intended audience.
(Images that the organization posts can be viewed through the instagram icon at the bottom of BLM’s website). It is important that you use instagram postings by BLM as these represent the identity the organization wants to project. You might consider comparing and contrasting what you see as an effective visual argument for the organization based on their stated purpose versus a less effective image. Keep in mind that this is not a review of the organization itself—you are assessing the relationship between the organization’s stated purpose (how they describe their goal/mission) and the instagram images used to convey that purpose/message–to give a history of BLM would NOT fulfill the assignment. Be sure to include a criteria or rationale for evaluating an effective visual argument. You must demonstrate an understanding of the terms ethos, pathos, logos in your paper and apply them to an analysis of the instagram image or images (1-3) you chose. The majority of your paper should be a detailed analysis of the image or images.
Research 2-3 sources on “rhetorical situation” and Aristotle’s triangulation of appeals (logos, ethos, pathos) and cite these sources in your paper as part of your analysis. Be sure to include them on your works cited page. Your are welcome to use these rhetorical analysis links, or research your own–there are many great cites out there.
Option III:
Diversity Posters
View Western Washington’s annual Diversity Poster Competition. Again, assess the rhetorical situation for the poster competition—what is their purpose/goal and who is their audience? (read the “history and philosophy” section)https://housing.wwu.edu/reslife/diversity
(Links to an external site.)
Links to an external site.
Next, assess which poster from the past ten years (as a visual argument) most effectively conveys the University’s purpose or theme for the competition and the degree to which this is accomplished or not? Conversely, which poster is the least effective. Your thesis should address this question: Which poster most effectively uses the rhetorical appeals (logos, ethos, pathos) to convey the University Residences message about diversity. (You can analyze one image or poster or compare and contrast several). Your paper should include a criteria or rationale for evaluating an effective visual argument and include a detailed analysis of the image using all three rhetorical appeals (logos, ethos, pathos)–cite specific visual elements and explain how these elements appeal to logic, ethics, emotion.
Research 2-3 sources on “rhetorical situation” and Aristotle’s triangulation of appeals (logos, ethos, pathos) and cite these sources in your paper as part of your analysis. Be sure to include them on your works cited page. Your are welcome to use these rhetorical analysis links, or research your own–there are many great cites out there.

NOTE: If you responded to options II or III please include the images you assessed in the final draft. If the images or posters have no title, I often give them a short title to make references to the image/poster easier in the body of the paper. However, I always give enough visual detail as support so my reader will understand my analysis without actually having the image in front of them.

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