rhetorical analysis

rhetorical analysis

Description  Details

Discipline English Language

Assignment type : Essay


Rhetorical Analysis

Vital Info:

Length: 3 pages, plus a multimodal component (See Step 3)

Sources: The image, advertisement (print or video), music video/song of your choice.

Format: MLA

The Project

We live in a world overflowing with images and messages, and all this is full of symbolism. The definition of a symbol is an object, person, or action that has meaning beyond itself. In other words, there is a literal meaning and a figurative, or symbolic, meaning to almost anything. This meaning is derived from context, which refers to the events and situations surrounding a subject.

For Project Three you will perform a rhetorical analysis, in which you analyze a subject of your choice in an effort to determine what messages the creators are sending beyond the obvious ones. You will choose a subject (an advertisement, a poster, a work of art, a music video &/or a song, a commercial, perhaps even a single word) then you will analyze that subject by examining the imagery and language it contains, or the power and connotations it represents (think about how certain words have so much power and are representative of many various feelings and attitudes) as well as the context that inspired or surrounds it or in which it appears. You will analyze the choices made by the writers and/or designers of your chosen subject, looking at how they interpret the rhetorical situation, their choice of genre, and their rhetorical stance. (Rhetorical stance refers to the underlying message that is being sent in your subject.) You will consider how your subject is used in our culture, what it represents beyond itself.

The purpose is to help your audience develop a deeper understanding of your subject through your analysis. You will use detailed analysis to determine what messages (beyond the obvious) the people who created or who use your subject are sending.

Choosing a Subject:

This is your first challenge. Every piece of media (posters, advertisements either print or video, written works, etc.) can be subjected to a rhetorical analysis. So can language and our use of it. You should choose a subject that you find interesting and one that you are willing to invest some time into analyzing. Below are some tips:

  • If you want to analyze advertising, consider choosing more than one ad.

o Choose a specific product (for example, Coca-Cola) and compare an ad from the past vs. an ad from the present. How have changes in our cultural attitudes affected the way the product is sold?

o Choose a product category (for example, cars) and compare ads from the past and present or compare and contrast ads for different brands. How have marketing strategies for this product changed over time and why might that be?

o Focus on a topic such as gender or race or sexuality and compare how marketing strategies have changed to reflect the times by comparing ads from the past and present, OR by comparing various current ads for the same product that are tailored for specific audiences. For example, many products now have ads that are created specifically for a gay audience, but these ads only appear in “gay-friendly” publication or on similar TV networks. If you do not regularly see those publications or networks, you may not be aware that these ads even exist. Analyze how the product is sold to specific audiences.

o Google “sexist retro ads” and then choose one or two that you find interesting. How have depictions of women (and men) changed (or not changed) in advertising over the years.

o Consider watching two different TV networks and analyzing the advertising that appears there. What do the ads reveal about the people it is assumed are watching and what messages are being sent to them?

  • You may write about music videos &/or songs. You could analyze videos in all sorts of ways, looking at how they reflect specific issues or concepts that are relevant to the times, or how women are depicted, as well as depictions of race or sexuality. Or you may find any number of other types of imagery going on. What messages are being sent? How is the artist(s) represented? You may want to contrast the lyrics of the song with the imagery to determine if the two work together or are sending two different messages (Think Beyonce’s “Formation”),
  • Choose an image such as a concert poster or an event announcement and analyze how it appeals to a specific audience.
  • Pick up a magazine and look at the photo spreads (these are different from advertisements. A photo spread is like a visual essay that the magazine puts together. They often contain products, but they differ from advertisements in that they are considered “editorial content.”). What sorts of imagery is being used? Consider the magazine. What is its subject matter? Who is the intended audience? How is that reflected in the photo spread?
  • Choose a piece of writing and perform a rhetorical analysis on it. You could choose a poem, an essay from your textbook, or something you have read online. You will use the same criteria to analyze the written text that you use to analyze a visual text. What, beyond the obvious, is the writer implying? What subtle messages are being sent? Are underlying prejudices or assumptions lurking beneath the surface?
  • It is possible to perform a rhetorical analysis on a single word. Think about certain words that contain power (curse words, insults, labels). For example, “feminist” is a very powerful word in our culture that has recently undergone a sort of reclamation by many people. What does the word “feminist” imply? How is it used (as an insult, a dismissive label, a badge of honor, etc.)? Do different people or groups use it for their own purposes? Has its meaning changed over time?

Structuring Your Analysis:

Step 1: You should begin by analyzing the elements of your subject. If it is a magazine or website, then you should create an outline of it (if it is a large website, you can focus on the home page and perhaps one other main page of the site) describing the content and function of each area of the page. If you have chosen a poster or a 2D advertisement you should describe all the elements of the piece. If you analyze a commercial or video, consider elements of visual design, the script, the actors or performers, etc. If you are looking at a song, pay close attention to figurative language and symbolism. Whatever your chosen subject the goal is to perform an initial close reading so that you have a clear understanding of the elements at work in the piece. Only then can you begin to analyze your subject in more depth. You should ask questions regarding the purpose of each element and the rhetorical strategies behind it.

Step 2: After you have performed the initial analysis described in Step 1, you can begin to organize your essay. While analyses will vary depending on the your subject, most of you will want to organize your analysis around the specific elements of your subject on which you want to focus, such as imagery and design, use of color, text or dialogue, the way that people are depicted in the material, music (if analyzing a video or commercial), and lyrics if you are analyzing a music video, the various uses of a word depending upon venue. Pay special attention to analyzing the rhetorical situation (the inspiration behind the piece. What may have inspired the author or designer to create the work? Or the situation in which your subject appears), analyzing genre choice (why does the author/designer choose that particular medium and what are the expectations that come with it? Why do we use certain words in specific situations but not in others? Is it possible for a word or an image or a performer to represent more than one thing?), and analyzing the rhetorical stance (explaining how the writer/designer uses the rhetorical appeals–ethos, pathos, and logos—and how he/she uses tone and various elements of style). Also consider the following:

  • Put the subject in its context. Consider the time in which it was created. What was going on socially, culturally, or politically that might be influencing the message the creator’s are sending?
  • Question the motives of the creators. What, beyond the obvious goal of getting your attention, might they be up to? Are they trying to get you to think about a subject or issue in a new or different way? Are they trying to manipulate your emotions? Are they sending subtle messages about gender, race, sex/sexuality, politics, etc?
  • Look beyond the surface of your subject to find hidden meaning. That is your goal here.

Thesis: Develop a thesis that clearly asserts a message about the deeper meaning you have discovered in your subject. This thesis statement should avoid stating the obvious and reveal to you readers an insight into your subject that they would not initially have considered.

Step 3: The concept of multimodality refers to the ways in which readers and writers today interact with various media beyond the written text. As part of this project, I want you to consider how you would like to incorporate some aspect of multimodality. Here are some options:

  • First, if your subject is an image, please include a copy of that image in the body of the essay. If your subject is a commercial or music video, be sure to include it in your multimodal component.
  • Prepare a Powerpoint or Prezi to accompany your analysis. How can you use visual design to help shed light on your subject and reveal the key points of your analysis?
  • Share your subject on social media and ask for reactions from your friends or followers. What do the various reactions indicate about your subject? How can you use these reactions to develop your analysis? Take screen shots of the discussions your subject generates and turn them into a multimodal presentation.
  • If you don’t want to make a Powerpoint or Prezi, make a video that relates to your subject. Consider conducting interviews to get reactions from various people, or include your subject and then make a commentary about it.
  • As part (but not all) of the multimodal component of your analysis, consider initiating an email or social media exchange between yourself and the writer or designer or with someone related to your subject. Incorporate some details from that exchange into your project.
  • Be prepared to share the multimodal component of your project with the class.

Students who meet expectations will 1. Meet all the above requirements for length and content. 2. Submit a project that clearly analyzes a subject and contains a thesis that clearly states a succinct message about that subject. 3. Include a multimodal component that is clearly relevant to both the assignment and the subject.

Students who exceed expectations will 1. Do all of the above. 2. Submit an analysis that shows real depth and that digs beyond the obvious to reveal interesting and relevant points. 3. Use the multimodal component to their advantage, not just as an after-thought but as a vital component of the project.

Format MLA

Academic Level: Undergraduate/Bachelor

Volume of 3 pages (825 words)

Type of service: Custom writing

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