When a writer or filmmaker is trying to make an argument, they use many different kinds of rhetorical tools to help them. Sometimes these tools are straightforward, and other times, they can be much more subtle. As a critical reader and viewer, it is important for you to be able to recognize the tools that are being used to formulate an argument and, sometimes, to deliberately manipulate your feelings or thoughts. In this assignment, you will be analyzing a piece in this class that has at least one distinct argument. You will discuss what that argument is, why the writer is making it, and what tools the writer is using. (A list of vocabulary, with definitions, has been provided for you on Blackboard under “Rhetorical Terms List.”)
Here is the list of articles and/or films you may analyze; please choose only ONE from this list:
Haskins and Sawhill – Perspectives on Poverty
Rector and Sheffield – What is Poverty in the United States Today?
Moore – Capitalism: A Love Story (available at MTIS in college library)
DuVernay – 13th (available on Netflix streaming)
Coates – The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration
Alexander – “A System of Racism and Social Control”
Shriver – The Female Face of Poverty
Solnit – Covering Haiti
After you have chosen the piece you wish to analyze, you must answer the following:
What is the writer or speaker’s main argument?
Who is the writer? What gives him or her authority to discuss this subject? (ethos)
What is the context (kairos) or rhetorical situation for the piece? Why was it written?
Who is the audience for the piece? What is their background or level of education? Are there people for whom this piece is not accessible?
Does the speaker’s bias show in the piece? Does this affect how effective the piece is?
What is the writer’s tone? What are some of the choices in diction (words) the writer makes to express his or her tone?
You do NOT have to do this assignment in essay format! While you are expected to give concrete examples and strong evidence in your answers, you are not required to make an argument about the piece. This is also not an assignment about your personal feelings towards the piece; while you may argue that it is too biased or the evidence is ineffective, your goal here is to demonstrate your understanding of how the piece works in rhetorical terms.
Your analysis should be between 500 and 700 words. You may write a longer piece, but it does not guarantee you will earn a better grade. Please remember to include the word count at the end of your assignment.
Direct quotes from the piece must be given clear citations. Remember to name speakers or interviewees if using a quote.
Please format your assignment according to MLA style. A Works Cited page is NOT required.
As always, you will submit this assignment though the correct link on Blackboard by 11:59 PM on the due date. Late assignments will be accepted, but I reserve the right to dock your grade depending on the lateness of your submission.
This assignment will be graded on:
The strength of your analysis, which is demonstrated by evidence of reading comprehension and critical thinking
The development of your reasoning, which is demonstrated by your choice of examples, quotations, and other forms of evidence
Your clarity, which is demonstrated by writing skills (including grammar, syntax, vocabulary, and sentence construction