Rhetorical Analysis Essay
Rhetorical Analysis Prompt
This assignment asks you to produce a thesis-driven analysis, complemented by secondary sources, of an aspect of rhetoric in an assigned text.
Building on what you learned in the critical reading response paper, you will now write a more expansive rhetorical analysis of your primary text. Depending on your instructor, your essay may still be focused on genre (the form), or it may involve other aspects of the rhetorical situation.
As you have learned from the first essay, “content and form are not mutually exclusive categories” (23-24 AGWR). Similarly content and form should also not be read independent of context and audience (intended, invoked). As such, your RA essay should not simply be a rehash of the Critical Reading Response assignment in depth and style, but should represent an evolution of your rhetorical analysis skills as far as exploring other points of the rhetorical triangle, assuming your instructor has asked you to do so.
Consider this assignment an opportunity to further explore and expand a line of analysis that you began with your Critical Reading Response assignment – either in terms of genre or context, or both – and then develop that analysis into a more complete and complex argument.
The inclusion of secondary sources is intended to strengthen your argument in the context of academic discourse. You will weave relevant and credible sources smoothly into your argument so that it exists as part of an ongoing dialogue among multiple parties involving the text being analyzed.
Your instructor will provide more information about the particulars and the focus for this essay.
Minimum length: 6-7 pages. Typed, double-spaced, and presented in MLA format. A minimum of three (3) secondary sources, not including the primary text being analyzed, must be used to develop the essay. A working bibliography with source annotations will be required as part of the final draft.
Instructions: Read the assignment in detail before proceeding. Once you have read and understood the questions, respond to each numbered question in detail and in complete sentences. There is no specific word count for this assignment, but I will look for detail, thoughtful response, specificity and attention to the particular questions. The more effort you put into answering these questions, the better off you will be for writing the rhetorical analysis essay.
1. Identify the text you will look at. This one’s easy, since everyone is writing on PKD’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
2. Context. What relevant details of your text’s context will enter your analysis? None is not a valid answer.
a. Think in terms of historical context:
i. What was going on politically, socially, etc. at the time of the book’s publication or the film’s release?
b. And cultural context:
i. Where does the text fit within the history of its genre?
3. Audience. What is the text’s audience? Be specific. “People who read” is not specific. Think in terms of demographics and psychographics. Think of what knowledge they must have to understand the text, or what knowledge would enhance their appreciation of it. You must link the audience to the text somehow. Hint: Use PKD’s comments from his speech about his feelings about the United States at the time.
4. Rhetorical focus. What rhetorical concepts will you use to construct your argument and guide your analysis? Tell me the major ones. In one sentence, explain what aspect of the text you will examine using the rhetorical device.
a. You can write more than one sentence on a single rhetorical concept; that’s actually a good thing.
b. Minimum 4 sentences (but you will need more as you write your paper).
c. These should be specific and thus limited in scope – they are equivalent to topic sentences of paragraphs.
d. It is ok for one point, maybe two, to be based on your secondary source readings, but you will need a bunch of original analysis. If you’re using PKD’s ideas, make it clear. But your own voice and ideas should really come through here. If a point was made in the reading, but not linked to evidence, and you think that you can ‘prove’ the point with evidence you have found, then that would count as ‘original’.
f. For your rhetorical focus, you need to think in terms of genre conventions and how they get used and subverted by the rhetor (i.e., Philip K. Dick uses the science fiction convention of the “robot other” by creating androids who are nearly identical to their human makers in order to foreground the danger of ideological humanism…) — and please put the emphasis on the “in order to” part of your formulation. You also want to think in terms of rhetorical devices: that means themes, imagery, character, metaphor, plot, etc.
5. Specific scenes/passages. For each sentence, identify one piece of textual evidence you will examine. This could be a scene or a written passage. If the sentence does not make it clear, then tell me which aspect of the scene you will be referencing. One scene might support several of your sentences from above (again, actually a good thing).
6. Sources. Identify at least one source you will use to assist you in your argument. Briefly state what point you want to use. This could come from the class readings. Or it could come from some preliminary research.
7. First Attempt at a Thesis. Now go back over the information you have filled in for context, audience, rhetorical focus points, scenes, and sources. Do you see a coherent argument about the text forming? Try to write a thesis – a sentence (sometimes two) that makes an argument – incorporating these aspects of your argument.
a. Keep in mind the characteristics of a good thesis (pp. 190-197 in the AGWR).
b. If you figure out, as you go along, that you’ve written four (topic) sentences that are too unrelated to go in the same paper, then try to find the best fit with 2 or 3 of them. You might not end up using the ones you ignore, but they will count for credit for your proposal. At worst, they will have provided some practice for you so future brainstorming will be easier.
c. Your thesis MUST include the following: the name of the text, the name of the primary rhetor (PKD), one or two dominant rhetorical concepts, and an arguable specific conclusion (or two very related conclusions) that extend directly from those concepts (and appear in or follow from your topic sentences).
d. Your thesis MIGHT include some detail/statement about how these concepts link back to the context or audience. One or both of these might be in your ‘arguable specific conclusion’.
e. Conclusions that are NOT acceptable as ‘arguable’ or ‘specific’ : the text is ‘true’, ‘funny’, or ‘relatable’.
f. Example. “In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, author Philip K. Dick uses the science fiction convention of the “robot other” by creating androids who are nearly identical to their human makers in order to foreground the danger of ideological humanism in a Cold War era mired in xenophobic aggressions.”
i. Uses rhetorical concepts/devices: the use of a specific genre convention
ii. Context: the Cold War
iii. Text and primary rhetor: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
iv. Specific: “to foreground the danger of ideological humanism,” “creating androids who are nearly identical to their human makers,” etc.
v. Arguable: My emphasis on PKDs “foregrounding” of an ideological critique. Also, it connects the use of a specific device to a rhetorical purpose and an effect on the audience.