Richard Leo Enos

Rhetoric Review, Vol. 25. No. 4, 357-87

This piece is a collection of reflections by noted rhetoric scholars on the development of rhetorical analysis.  In the general sense, most of the writers situate their understanding of the genesis of the field in terms of the following authors:  Wichelns, Black, Bitzer, and the explosion of authors during the social reclamation efforts of the 80s and 90s.  To move forward, I’ll highlight the speaker and key points from each.

1.   Richard Enos:

a.  the study of discourse in the social context is the greatest achievement of rhetorical criticism.

b.  early 20th century conceptions of rhetoric excluded anything that wasn’t “nonmimetic, civic discourse that was agonistically performed before immediate audiences” (362).

c.  New methods of rhetorical analysis developed as the “province of historical rhetoric dilated to include other types of expression” – namely women’s, A.A., etc.

2.  Karlyn Kohrs Campbell:

a.  Barriers to rhetorical criticism: it’s conceived in Aristotelian and Ciceronian terms.

b.  Cross cultural use of these elements of rhetorical criticism:  credibility

c.  Principles of rhetoric: a)rhetoric is ubiquitous, b)rhetoric is indigenous – linked to cultural         histories, values and traditions, c)rhetoric is the study of language.

3.  Andrew King:

a.  The revival of rhetoric as a study of inquiry was the result of the revival of civic infrastructure in the early 20th century and was brought to full bloom by the Progressive era.

4.  Celeste Condit:

a.  Adoption of “empathy studies” as research method.  Empathy studies asks that the researcher “begins with a modicum of openness and uncertainty and simply tries to lend as empathetic an ear as s/he possibly can to multiple voices.  The goal is not to promote one “side” of the discourse over the other, nor to synthesize, though either of those may sometimes be the product.  The goal is to construct discourses on can best embody (whether at the social or individual scale)” (370).

b.  This listening process will reveal sites of rhetorical investigation that aren’t oratory – namely bodies and the “broader ecologies in which we swim” (370).

5.  Richard Jensen

a.  Social movement rhetoric began to develop as a response to the inadequacies of neo-Aristotelian methods to account for the irrational aspect of protest rhetorics of the 1960s.

b.  Bowers and Ochs “The Rhetoric of Agitation and Control”

c.  Jensen asks that rhetorical critics of the 21st century “combine current theories of rhetoric with traditional theories used in previous movement studies to explain how new technologies. . . have impacted the role of leaders and the organization of movements” (374).

6.  Sonja Foss

a.  Agency as Rhetorical Criticism

i.  Step One – Select an artifact.

ii.  Step Two – Choose how to analyze or interpret the artifact.  You can choose a scripted interpretation and apply it to an artifact to see if it works, or you can use an artifact from which you will draw interpretations.

iii.  Step Three – Sharing criticism – Share your work with others and see what sorts of other interpretations develop.

7.  Martin Medhurst

a.  Defines rhetoric as “a mode of thinking, doing, and ultimately, being.  Rhetoric is a mode of analytical thinking that helps the critic ask important questions and explore significant dimensions of public culture” (381).

8.  David Zarefsky

a.  Developing the idea that “method” could/should be substituted with “attitude”

b.  Suggests using two questions to enact this ‘tude: 1)What’s going on here, and 2) What about it?

c.  Suggests revisioning the artifact of the rhetorical analysis not as text, but as object.

9.  Jennifer DeWinter

a.  Context is key to rhetorical analysis – not just “criticism.”

b.  Some rhetorical criticism methodologies:

i.  etic methodology – “In the etic approach, the critic is concerned with generalized statements about rhetoric that are derived from well-defined methodological procedures” (392)

ii.  emic methodology – “The emic approach, on the other hand, is completely situated within one rhetorical situation as it is contextualized in culture and history, thus the observations or patterns described can only be valid in relation to that one particular setting and cannot be described by a generalized theory that is imposed on a particular rhetorical situation” (392).

c.  Recommendation of longitudinal studies  –  uses Darwin’s evolutionary writings as an example of how rhetoric is longitudinal.

d.  Rhetorical criticism, regardless of method, should serve a purpose.

Selzer, Jack.  “Rhetorical Analysis:  Understanding How Texts Persuade Readers” in Bazerman, Charles, and Paul A. Prior, eds. What Writing Does and How It Does It: An Introduction to Analyzing Texts and Textual Practices. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004.

I thought, to some degree, that I practiced rhetorical analysis when writing.  This chapter confirmed that knowledge.  Selzer breaks up rhetorical analysis into two camps: contextual analysis and textual analysis.  Though at the end of the chapter Selzer recommends NOT separating the two forms of analysis, in his guide to rhetorical analysis he does so for illustrative purposes.

For both forms of analysis (but especially for textual analysis) Selzer relies heavily on ancient rhetorical vocabulary/method.  He recommends using/considering:

a.  types of rhetoric (deliberative, forensic, epideictic)

b.  cannons of rhetoric (inventio, dispostio, elocutio, memoria, pronuntiatio)

c.  appeals (ethos, pathos, logos)

d.  dispostio’s components (exordium, narratio, confimatio, refutatio, peroration)

Foss, Sonja. Rhetorical Criticism:  Exploration and Practice. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1989.

In Chapter Two of this oldie-but-goodie, Foss lays out a very programmatic way to conduct rhetorical analysis.  I’m going to use a lot of bullet points here:

a.  The Overall Method

  • i.  Discovery of the Rhetorical Artifact and Research Question
  • ii.  Formulation of the Critical Method
  • iii.  Critical Analysis of Artifact
  • iv.  Writing the Critical Essay

Discovering the rhetorical artifact and research question

  • a.  artifact and question simultaneously as impetus
  • b.  question as impetus
  • c.  artifact as useful

b.  Discovering the research question

  • a.  random stimulation (hokey?)
  • b.  alternative perspectives (see artifact from other perspectives)

i.  perspective as particle (constituent parts)

ii.  perspective as wave (how does artifact work with spatiotemporal change?)

iii.  perspective as field (how does artifact function in field?)

  • c.  topics

i.  definition

ii.  comparison and contrast

iii.  cause and effect

  • d.  reversal (pursue opposite direction/understanding)
  • e.  asking ‘why?’
  • f.  choice of entry point

Formulation of the Critical Method

  • a.  Use existing methods
  • b.  Create a method from an existing concept (what I usually do!)
  • c.  create new method

Content of Analysis

  • a.  introduction
  • b.  description of artifact
  • c.  description of critical method
  • d.  report of findings of the analysis
  • e.  interpretation
  • f.  evaluation of findings
  • g.  contribution to rhetorical theory (did you revise the field as a result of findings)

Stance or “How I learned to deal with socially constructed realities”

  • a.  Argumentation (detailed, reliable description)
  • b.  Coherence (is it understandable for your reader?)
  • c.  Acknowledgement of subjectivity
  • d.  presentation of choice

After giving us the low down on the method of “doing” rhetorical criticism, a lovely essay follows that describes E.T. as the embodiment of mythic transcendence in the face of postmodernity.

Rhetorical Analysis – Fahnestock and Secor

A nice definition of rhetorical analysis is provided at the beginning of this chapter.  F&S note, “Because it is based on a view of language as a medium of communication and not a system of representation, it assumes that speakers and writers have intentions or designs on readers and hearers, and it seeks to identify the verbal means typically used to achieve those intentions or designs” (177).  F&S go on to recognize that NO language exists without purpose and as such, there are no “innocent exchanges” in language.

After recapping the ancient rhetoricians that were covered adequately by Selzer in the Bazerman piece, F&S take up some Roman tenants of rhetoric.  They illustrate the stases – or the ancient taxonomy of issues (fact, definition or quality/value) as well as taking up the topoi or Aristotle.  They also address the notions of high, middle and low style.  Making mention of Burke and the “New Rhetoric” of Olbrechts-Tyteca and Perelman, F&S recommend the following four basic characteristics of rhetorical analysis:

a.  Rhetorical analysis pays attention to the who, when, where, and probably why of a text

b.  Rhetorical analysis uses an identifiable vocabulary drawn from the rhetorical tradition and/or from a particular school or theorist

c.  Rhetorical analysis identifies language choices that serve the rhetor’s ostensible purpose, or perhaps, depending on the interpreter, his or her unconscious or subverted purposes

d.  Rhetorical analysis seeks to uncover the argument of a text.

After concluding an example analysis of a piece by Stanley Fish, F&S recognize the rich history of “discourse analysis” on the sentence and word level; however, they make sure to note the subjective/invested nature of the researcher in that endeavor.

One Response to “CCR691 – Week Four – Rhetorical Analysis”

  1. Eileen E Schell

    I was struck by the generational rhetoric of the long Enos et al piece. Edwin Black’s text is the pivot point. In 1965, Edwin Black blew the lid off of rhetorical criticism and the Neo-Aristo approach that had become so popular from the 1920s-on. Later Jensen points out that the 1960s made people realize that rhetorical analysis is not just analyzing great speeches or civic discourse; it can be protest rhetorics and analyses of actions and mass movements. There is also discussion of feminism, globalism, and culture (Campbell), discussion of the body and non-human coding (Condit), and others. We have a historical narrative of the development of rhetorical criticism told from different vantage points. It also seems pretty interesting, and it’s clear that the movement is from methods to methodological diversity and to examining how rhetoric as a field had to respond to social and political movements and changes in material culture. But I also think that things are portrayed as being a bit more open than they really are. I’d like to talk about that more in class–how do these established scholars have freedoms that those starting out in rhetorical analysis may not? How do the textbook analyses provided by DeWinters show how rhetorical criticism is still held to methods that the scholars in the Enos et al piece seem to eschew?

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