Journal assignments

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These should be thoughtful but informal writings. Don’t worry about stylistic polish and don’t try to tie off all of the loose ends like you would in a formal paper. It’s perfectly OK to be basically speculative or exploratory rather than definitive. Be ready to talk about what you’ve written in class.

1. Due 9/9. Describe – or simply print off/link and attach – a spectacular rhetorical failure. Analyze why it failed, using the criteria and ideas in Roberts-Miller: Why is this an ineffective text? (N.B. Don’t use the same text you plan on using for your rhetorical analysis paper.)

2. Due 9/16. Compare and contrast these two speeches with the same exigence, one given by General George S. Patton in 1944, one given by Lee Fetterman in 2003. Use the criteria in Roberts-Miller, and any additional ideas you may have gained by reading Chapters 1 and 2 of Herrick. One point of entrance for your analysis might be: What can you conjecture about the differences in audience between the two speeches, based on the differing choices the rhetors make? But that’s a point of entrance; don’t stop there. By the way, an interesting performance of a somewhat altered text of Patton’s speech is available here. An alternative question you might raise is: Given the difference in between an audience of inexperienced soldiers in 1944 and a movie audience in 1970, why did the producers of the movie make the changes that they did?

3. Due 9/23. Review Herrick’s discussion of how “Rhetoric Builds Community” on pp. 20-21. Use some of the concepts discussed there and some of the rhetorical analysis theory/practice we’ve already read/done to examine a well-defined community you’re familiar with. Your tentative thesis for this entry is that Hogan is correct when he asserts that your chosen community is “largely defined, and rendered healthy or dysfunctional, but the language [it] use[s] to define [itself] and others” (qtd in Herrick 20).

4. Due 9/30. Contemplate a rhetorical interaction you’ve had in the past, in which you could have chosen between a number of different ethoi (plural of ethos), a number of different personas you feel comfortable inhabiting. Which of these possible ethoi did you choose and why was it, in your mind, a better choice than the other possibilities?

5. Due 10/7. Stock-taking time. Thinking back over what we’ve read so far, what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned that you can apply to your own teaching and/or writing? Brainstorm some practical ways you can use it. Make it something we haven’t yet discussed in class.

6. Due 10/14. Here is a relatively famous use of pathos by the televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, which seems to validate Aristotle’s disdain for the pathetic appeal. Find a brief speech or piece of writing that doesn’t validate Aristotle – that uses pathos really well – and explain why.

7. Due 10/21. Select a controversy you want to argue about – it can be anything other than political: historical, literary, cultural, scientific, whatever. Develop several ways of talking about it, using at least four of Aristotle’s lines of argument. OR: Parody a Socratic dialogue, but make a serious point with the parody.

8. Due 10/28. Repeat #5, but do so using something we’ve read since October 7.

9. Due 11/4, Now that we’ve started to read primary texts, brainstorm about a few possible ideas about one or more of them for your final course paper. Remember it’s a relatively brief one, so you need to choose a narrow topic, and consult “Bean on the Writing Process”; your basic goal here is NOT to arrive at a thesis – that’s premature – but to define a problem, tension, or interesting pattern in something (or things, but not more than two) that you’ve read, and start to brainstorm about what you need to know/think about to be able to get a handle on the problem/tension/pattern.

10. Due 11/18. Repeat #9, using a different text or texts.

11. Due 11/25. Attempt a Burkean pentadic analysis of a visual text – an ad would be ideal. Include the ad or other visual text. OR: Read this New York Times editorial by Frank Bruni and the interview with Pope Francis that is Bruni’s exigence. Comment informally, particularly in re: Bruni’s ideas about self-aggrandizement being central to contemporary US culture, and tie it to some of the ideas about ethos in what we’ve read. OR: Take a look at this article on vapid corporate speak and how much it sings for powerful people nowadays – you can safely skim everything after the first 14 paragraphs (i.e., after “the Tobacco Institute, Occidental Petroleum, and various Wall Street firms”). Find another thread of common language in today’s world that you’re familiar with, and try to do the same kind of rhetorical analysis of it (i.e., describe both the language and the implications of its being so influential) that Silverstein is doing here. It doesn’t have to be any kind of “official,” mainstream language, and maybe shouldn’t be – for example, “leetspeak” would work.

12. Due 12/2. Repeat #5, but do so using something we’ve read since October 28.

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