Rhetorical Situation

• The Rhetorical Situation
• By: Kate Lavia, supplemented by Purdue
Why write?
When do you write?
Why do you write?
Do you enjoy writing?
Why or why not?
Why do you hate to write?
– Writing is thinking!
Writing is Thinking
• Training in analytical thinking and
complex writing can teach you to:
– Ask the right questions
– Identify the problem
– Research the solutions of others
Writing across the curriculum
• Professors want you to use discipline
specific methods that ensure rigorous,
systematic, and reliable modes of
• All knowledge stems from the desire to
know, from the process of inquiry, from
asking questions.
What is a Rhetorical Situation?
– Rhetoric: Using language effectively to
persuade, inform, educate, or entertain
– Rhetorical Situation: The circumstances in
which you communicate.
The Rhetorical Situation
The Writer
• Your culture, personal characteristics and
interests affect what you write about and
how you write it.
Writer: Factors which can affect
your writing include:
Your age
Your experiences
Your gender
Your location
Your political beliefs
Your parents and peers
Your education
Writer: Looking at Issues as
Someone Else
• Think about the characteristics that define who you are:
age, gender, background, location, politics, etc…
• Now, write a short opinion piece about one of the
– Alcohol, Animal Rights, Drug Legalization, Gun Control
– Women In The Military, Immigration, Global Warming
– Sex Education, Prayer In Public Schools, Hate Crimes
• What personal characteristics do you think most heavily
influenced your opinion on that issue? Why? What do
you think someone on the opposite end of the spectrum
would say about this issue? Why?
Purpose: Your Reason For Writing
• Category or type of writing
• Genres hinge upon purpose and the
needs/expectations of the projected
• Examples: fiction, autobiographical story,
news article, review, letter to the
editor/editorial, rhetorical analysis,
criticism, persuasive essay
Genre: Movie examples
• Look up a plot synopsis of the following
movies online: The Shining, Taxi Driver,
Silence of the Lambs, Willy Wonka,
Home Alone, Mary Poppins.
• What genre (drama, horror, comedy,
etc…)best describes each movie? Why?
What features or characteristics led you
to that conclusion?
Genre: Movie examples, cont.
• The Shining (recut):
• Taxi Driver (recut):
• Silence of the Lambs (recut):
• What impressions do you have of these clips? What are the
possible imagined plot lines? What kind of a movie would you think
this is based on the trailer?
Genre: Movie examples, cont.
• Willy Wonka (recut):
• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSz-XXBKEv8
• Home Alone (recut):
• Mary Poppins (recut):
• What impressions do you have of these clips? What
are the possible imagined plot lines? What kind of a
movie would you think this is based on the trailer?
Genre: Movie examples, cont.
• Movie goers have certain expectations
based on the trailer and the genre being
• Scholars within the three major
disciplines have the same kind of
expectations, and they will be just as
confused if you don’t adhere to their
Genre/Discipline: Sciences
Scientists work in the fields of:
Biology, chemistry, physics, ecology, anatomy,
Scientists emphasize observation and
objectivity and the rigor with which it
dissects thinking.
Writers generally use:
Precision and clarity
Shorter, denser sentences
Objective, not subjective language
Few to no personal pronouns
Genre/Discipline: Social
• Social scientists work in the fields of:
– Psychology, political science, economics,
sociology, anthropology, and sometimes history
• Social scientists study human behavior, with
all of the ambiguity that comes with it.
• Writers generally:
– Focus on more complex sentence structure
– Emphasize objectivity (difficult to do when
discussing human nature)
– Do not use personal pronouns, though it
depends on the writing situation
Genre/Discipline: Humanities
• Humanists work in the fields of:
– Literature, art, languages, religious study,
philosophy, and sometimes history
• Humanists study the ways humans create
meaning and focus on interpretation as well
as making the abstract concrete.
• Writers often:
– Use more creative language
– Construct longer, more sophisticated sentences
– Do not use personal pronouns, depending on
the type of writing
Audience: To Whom are you Writing?
• Many of the same factors
which affect the writer also
affect the audience
– Age
– Social class
– Education
– Past experience
– Culture/subculture
– Expectations
Audience: Adams example
• Read through Adams’ petition to waive his mathematics
requirement, and then in small groups answer
questions 1 and 2 under “For Class Discussion.”
• How might the university committee see this issue?
– 1) Faculty reject Adams’ claim that general education
requirements should serve students’ individual career interests.
– 2) Adams’ position threatens his immediate audience, the
committee, with a possible flood of student requests to have
various requirements waived on the grounds of their
irrelevance to a particular career choice.
Topic: What you will write about
• May be broadened or narrowed
depending on the length of your writing
and your interest
• Topics should be appropriate to the
rhetorical situation you are in
• The “situation” which generates the need
for writing
• Affected by the
– Time period or timing
– Location
– Current events
– Cultural significance
Rhetorical Situation
What this means…
• You need to be aware that a rhetorical
situation exists every time you write.
• You need to adapt your writing depending
on your purpose and your audience.

similar documents