Oratory in the Age of Obama

A course in rhetoric for the Honors College of Rutgers Camden

First Paper Assignment — Short Rhetorical Analysis

Due: Tuesday, February 23 (in two hardcopies for class and in electronic form by 2/25 in the drop box on sakai)

This first formal writing assignment provides an opportunity to engage the terms and concepts we have encountered thus far by employing them as tools for analyzing a rhetorical speech situation. In this case you are asked to introduce and to briefly describe a particular rhetorical performance and then proceed to analyze that performance in terms of specific appeals, e.g., to authority, to a speaker’s ethos (credibility, virtue, identity), to time, to common sense, to timelessness, and the like.

You have lots of room to negotiate here, and that is both a good thing and a bad thing. You should think of this three page paper as three sections that hold together: an opening paragraph or two that identifies a particular event and introduces a claim of yours about relevant appeals; a second section devoted to targeted description of the situation in which you discuss matters of audience, exigence, occasion and other contextual factors; a final section in which you ‘prove’ your case with supporting details from the text/speech. Only the briefest of closings is required here.

You might think of this effort as searching for and then presenting a theme–in this case an appeal–you found alive within a text. You help your reader to see and understand the purpose and intended effect of that appeal. A strong essay of this kind carefully uses a range of terms but remains focused on illustrating the interpretive value of one term in particular. Your best guide is this endeavor is Killingsworth’s methods of analysis. Successful papers find a way to knit the sections together by demonstrating how a particular appeal responds well to the situation, e.g., by meeting the expectations of an audience or by inviting an audience to understand itself in a new way.

What to analyze? You may choose for your subject any of the speeches we have encountered thus far in our texts or something else of recent vintage that attracts your interest. You will need to supply the text of your speech and, as appropriate, any link to audio or video.


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