Rhetorical Analysis

This past week of classes (really class) we discussed more on the topic of rhetorical analysis, emphasizing its role in American politics. After three weeks of classes there are many things I have learned for certain about rhetorical analysis and the role it plays in society.

Doctor  Martin stated in class that rhetoric is the best means of persuasion in any given situation. Two things one should consider when beginning their rhetorical analysis are 1. To whom is this directed? and 2. What is the purpose of my argument? After asking those two questions, one can move on through the process of rhetorical analysis which is made up on five canons; invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery. While approaching these five canons several issues of the rhetorical strategy appear; tone, language, body language, and effectiveness are just a few. Next I will break down and explain the five canons of rhetorical analysis.

The first canon is invention. Along with a fellow classmate, I was assigned a presentation on this canon which helped me better understand the role it plays in rhetorical analysis. Invention is simply creating, composing, writing ideas that will help communicate your argument to the audience. This step allows you to brainstorm and prewrite major points that you’d like to address in your argument or speech. Invention is a major step in the rhetorical process because it is the very first step you take to better understand what you’re eventually going to say or write. We use this step literally everywhere; creating, composing, writing, and thinking. My partner and I also found ways to improve using the invention canon which includes thinking more, writing more and talking more. The brainstorming step is essential in gathering information you’ll eventually communicate to your audience.

After invention we move on to the second step of rhetorical analysis which is the arrangement. During a class presentation we learned that arrangement is key but also tends to be the step where students struggle the most. One simple outline of arrangement that was used as an example in the discussion goes as follows:

  1. Introduction
  2. Statement of fact
  3. Confirmation
  4. Reputation
  5. Conclusion

During the discussion, the speakers pointed out that the first step, the introduction, provides credibility from the speaker to the audience. Credibility plays a major role in rhetorical analysis as a whole, because the audience needs to feel secure and trusting of the speaker. We also learned that the second step, statement of facts, should remain neutral. Bias opinions during the representation of facts may throw the audience off as well as effect the credibility of the speaker. The last step, the conclusion, should summarize major key points the speaker has given to remind the audience of the overall reason for the speech.

The third step of rhetorical analysis is style. This appeals to pathos, which was pointed out by the presenters of this canon. Style works through the presenter, and this canon is used especially to appeal to the audience. A speaker can do that by choosing the proper diction in a speech as well as controlling their emotion. Too much or too little emotion can greatly impact the style of the speaker which would then effect the message being given to the audience. The presenters of this canon also acknowledged that too much or too little emotion should be determined by the speaker acknowledging both sides of the topic at hand. This also provides the speaker with credibility.

The fourth step is memory. This step impacts both the speaker as well as the audience in several ways. The group that presented this canon acknowledged that memory is key in the other four canons of rhetorical analysis:

  • For invention, memory allows the reader or creator to access outside knowledge for the topic on hand. This can in turn benefit the reader by allowing them a better base to build up their case or point.
  • Style involves memory because it is important for the audience to remember key things about the speaker which in turn will allow the audience to better remember the point the speaking was trying to make.
  • Memory is important in delivery because, as the presenter pointed out, if you remember the information you are delivering better, you will deliver the information better. This also benefits the speakers credibility.
  • A solid arrangement of the material being presented will not only make the content for the speaker easier to remember, it will also allow the audience to better recount the information presented by the speaker.

The final step in rhetorical analysis is delivery. Presenters of this canon informed the class that delivery is contingent on three things

  1. The speakers state of mind
  2. How prepared the speaker is
  3. The audience

The delivery takes all the work you’ve done in the four steps prior and creates a platform for the speaker. Delivery not only includes the communication of content from speaker to audience but also nonverbal communication by the speaker. These nonverbal communication cues include hand gestures, facial expressions, and the body language and tone of the speaker. One comment that automatically popped into my mind during the presentation was something I hear from my mother quite often, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”

Let’s imagine you are listening to a speech given by the CEO of a corporation. A unique speech with a memorable style of speaking and diction who appears to be aware and knowledgeable  on the information being delivered in a professional manner  will have a more positive response from audience members than a speaker who appears to be unorganized and clueless on the content of the speech.

The five canons of rhetorical analysis impact more than just English majors. This process is also used by politicians, scientists, and teachers. It is important as an English major to notice day-to-day the rhetorical analysis being used in my everyday life. From professors to presidential speeches, these five canons play a major role in the daily lives of citizens.

Next time Trump gives a speech, one should consider the roles each canon played during the speech.

Until next time,

xxo Bri


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