Studio 2 Critical Research and Writing (Honors)
Studio 2 Critical Research and Writing (Honors) WRT 209
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Date Created: 10/21/15
WRT 209 Spring 2005 Strategies for Analyzing the Rhetorical Situation Adapted by Elisa Norris from Trimbur John The Call to Write 2 Edition NY Longman 2002 The goal of analyzing the rhetorical situation is not just to understand the content of a piece of writing or how the writer put it together but to understand its context Analyzing the rhetorical situation involves asking questions like these Who is the writer I What called on the writer to put his or her views down on the pa e I What kind of relationship is the writer trying to establish with readers I How does the writer s work relate to the larger context of discussion about an issue Certainly the following set of reading strategies will not be needed when you read sports scores recipes weather reports or gossip columns But there are occasions when analyzing the rhetorical situation is important because you want to get a fuller picture of what you re reading For example if you are reading arguments about ballot measures in a coming election the more you know about the writers and their purposes the better you will be able to interpret their writings and decide if and how they should influence your own position The same is true in any kind of discussion where the issues are disputediwhether the dispute is about advocacy of a living wage for all workers at your college or about how literary critics differ in their interpretations of Mary Shelley s Frankenstein Three Strategies for Analyzing the Rhetorical Situation Strate 1 Usin Bac round Information Background information about the context of issues the writer and the publication where the writer s work appears can be useful in understanding the rhetorical situation and how the writer identifies the call to write As you will see the information you turn up about the context the writer and the place of publication does not speak for itself You need to interpret this information in order to determine what it means for your analysis The Context afIssues To understand the context of issues for the writing you re analyzing you ll need to fill in some background information Here are some questions to help you do so I What do you know about the particular topic the writer is treating If your knowledge is limited where can you get reliable background information I What have people been saying about the topic What do they think the main issues are What seems to be at stake in these discussions Do people seem to be divided over these issues If so what positions have various people taken What proposals or interpretations have they offered The Writer Information about the writerihis or her education credentials experience politics prior publications award institutional affiliations reputationiis often summarized briefly in an author note following an article or on a book s dust jacket The background information can give you some clues about the writer s authority to speak on the topic and the perspective he or she is likely to bring to it Such background information can also make you aware of the assumptions readers might make about the writer Here are some questions you may find useful I Based on what you know about his or her background how much authority and credibility can you attribute to the writer Is there reason to believe that the writer will provide informed accounts and responsible arguments whether you agree with them or not Does the information you ve found offer suggestions about why the writer was moved to write on the topic What political cultural social or other commitments is the writer known for How are these commitments likely to influence the writer s argument I How do these commitments relate to your own views How is this relationship likely to in uence your evaluation of the writer s argument The Publication Type of publication can also provide you with some useful background information Readers are likely to form very different impressions based on the type of publication in which a writer s work appears Here are some questions to ask about the type of publication I What do you know about the publication Who is the publisher Is it a commercial publication Does it have an institutional affiliationito a college or university an academic field of study a professional organization a church Does it espouse an identifiable political social cultural economic or religious ideology If the publication is a periodical what other writersiand types of writing and topicsiappear in the issue I Who would be likely to read the publication Strategy 2 Analyzing the Writer s Relationship to Readers The purpose of analyzing the writer s relationship to readers is to understand where the writer is coming from on whose behalf he or she is speaking and the common ground the writer is asking readers to share In some instances the writer will address one particular audience while in others the writer will try to appeal to many different audiences In either case the writer will have to make some key assumptions about readers knowledge of the topic and their point of view on the issues it raises Analyzing the writer s relationship to readers is an especially important reading strategy where the issues under consideration are contested and the writer is attempting to line them up on one side or another It can help you figure out where you stand on the issues and where your own allegiances reside Here are some questions to help you identify the writer s allegiances and relationship to readers I Based on what you have read and the available background information on the writer can you identify on whose behalf the writer is speaking Whose interests does the writer seem to represent Where do her loyalties seem to reside I What assumptions does the writer seem to make about readers Is the writer trying to establish common ground with a particular audience or with many different audiences Does she seem to assume that some readers are already predisposed to share her perspective and social allegiances What would it mean to agree with the writer How would agreement position readers in relation to what the writer and others have said about the topic Would agreement align readers with certain groups individuals points of view institutions valuesiand put them into opposition with others What would readers have to believe to agree with the writer Strategy 3 Analyzing the Writer s Language Words and phrases can39y powerful associations that can sway readers to share or reject what a writer is saying It is one thing after all to refer to business executives as corporate leaders or entrepreneurial visionaries and quite another to call them fat cats or robber barons The choice of terms reveals the writer s attitude and the perspective the writer is inviting readers to share For this reason it is useful to look at some of the ways writers use language to in uence their readers Reading closely the actual words that writers use can give you some clues to understanding where they are coming from and what they are trying to accomplish Tone The tone in a writer s voice is one of the first things readers respond to because tone projects the writer s attitude and a sense of the writings intended effect The tone can be serious or lighthearted formal or informal stuffy or downtoearth distanced or intimate Sometimes readers can hear sarcasm anger self importance flippancy and many other attitudes in a writer s tone Denala anCannatalian Words have precise meanings which you can find in the dictionary These are their denatative meanings For example the denotative meaning of a virus is a microscopic organism that can replicate only within the cells of a living host and nationalism means a feeling of loyalty to a particular country Nonetheless the meaning of these terms is not exhausted by their denotation They also conjure up connotative meanings depending on the circumstances in which they are used Cannatatian means that words take on a certain coloring and emotional force based on how writers use them Nationalism for example might call up images of unity and belongingness but it can also release fears of war and ethnic antagonisms Virus may lead the reader to think of new and mysterious killer diseases invading the country from the Third World Figures afSpeech Figures of speech compare one thing to another You have probably learned that similes use the words like or as to make a comparison Metaphors make an implicit comparison as though one thing is actually another Often figures of speech are used to describeito set a scene or create a mood Figures of speech however are not simply decorative They also provide ways of thinking and carry judgments on the writer s part Stereotypes Stereotypes are oversimplified representations that fit people into unvarying categories These broad generalizations break down under careful scrutiny but appear to carry powerful and often selfserving explanations Women are more emotional than men is a classic stereotypical statement that justifies why women won t do well under the stress of positions of authority and therefore shouldn t be promoted over men Along the same line stereotypes of poor and workingclass people and racial and ethnic minorities have created popular images of white trash drunken Indians welfare queens that make subordination of one group to another seem necessary and inevitable They are used to shame people who fall under the stereotype In this sense stereotyping people events and behaviors can stigm atize others and thereby distance us from their fates January 26 2005 New York Times ON EDUCATION At Stanford Tutoring Helps Make a Janitor Less Invisible By SAMUEL G FREEDMAN ALO ALTO Calif DOROTEO GARCIA worked his usual morning shift as a janitor in the art museum set along the palm lined promenade leading into the Stanford University campus Hours before the doors opened and the tourists arrived he moved nimny in heavy work boots well practiced in making himself unobtrusive and being ignored He passed amid the Egyptian mummy case and Zulu beadwork the silver dragons from China and the Rodin bronzes all those treasures vacuuming carpets mopping floors dusting shelves sponging tables emptying garbage cans scrubbing toilets He earns 1014 an hour at a university whose students pay nearly 40000 a year in tuition fees and room and board Then lunch break came on this blustery January day and Mr Garcia zipped up his jacket and headed for his English lesson Through the arches and across the tiled arcades of the campus this hacienda wi skateboards and latte he reached El Centro Chicano the hub for Stanford39s Hispanic students Eric Eldon the Stanford senior who tutored him was waiting They sat in a small conference room with posters of Cesar Chavez the late leader of the United Farm Workers and opened a binder of lessons Today39s was titled quotMaking Requests With his high rounded cheeks and hooked nose Mr Garcia had a profile like something from a basrelief at Chichen Itza Mr Eldon with spiky black hair scruffy beard and very horizontal glasses looked more like a character from a Gus Van Sant or Richard Linklater film An immigrant father age 41 and an Americanborn student of 23 they bent together over a list of quotpolite expressionsquot for a janitor to use with his boss They lingered over the phrase quotCan1 bother you as Mr Eldon explained that yes bothering someone is usually impolite but in this sentence meant something more like quotIs it OK if1 ask you They went through dialogues of a Stanford faculty or staffmember requesting a janitor39s help Before the lunch break ended Mr Garcia was on the final page of the lesson developing a more sophisticated kind of request a letter to the governor of California on the issue of allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver39s license Hardly anyone around Stanford beside Mr Eldon knew it but Mr Garcia had grown up in Mexico reading the political novels and essays of Octavio Paz Carlos Fuentes and Gabriel Garcia Marquez When you are a janitor in a university of affluence a university of soft hands there are a lot of things people don39t know about you Bridging that divide was one of the major reasons for creating the tutoring program at Stanford and several other campuses in the Bay Area Jointly operated by student volunteers janitorial contractors and Local 1877 of the Service Employees International Union the project brings together as many as 55 pairs of janitors and students at Stanford For the union and its members 85 percent of them immigrants from Mexico and Central America the English classes meet both immediate and longrange goals Learning even the rudiments of English can save a janitor from being fired for not responding to a request he does not understand With some uency a janitor can get off the night shift and onto days A rankandfile janitor can try to become a shop steward An immigrant can try to pass the citizenship test For the Stanford students meanwhile the tutoring provides a sense of purpose and hum an connection that cannot be taught Many of these undergraduates won admission partly by doing quotcommunity service for the most cynical of reasons to build their re39sume39s Their courses here resound with the armchair radicalism of Orientalism neocolonialism deconstructionism white studies critical race theory queer theory blah blah blah quotThere39s a lot of privilege in this place and a lot of ignorance about that privilege Mr Eldon said quotPeople are used to having maids and servants If they trash their dorm they39re used to having someone else clean it up He continued quotYou can take classes on all sorts of highfalutin political theories and trends But to me none of them teaches as much as being connected to people outside of Stanford quot Fittingly then the tutoring program arose from an alliance between Local 1877 and Stanford students as the union was engaged in several bitter rounds of contract negotiations in 2000 One outcome of the union39s organizing efforts statewide meanwhile was the establishment of an educational trust fund with employers contributing one cent for each hour worked by each janitor Local 1877 put its share of the fund toward the tutoring system both at colleges and hightech companies where paid teachers lead the literacy classes Most of the project39s current budget of 500000 a year though comes from state aid IN the three years that Mr Eldon has known Mr Garcia three years of barbecues and soccer games as well as English lessons the student has crossed the actual and metaphorical divide between Palo Alto and its hardscrabble neighbor East Palo Alto There beyond the 101 Freeway Mr Garcia splits a oneroom apartment with his son Ernesto a Stanford janitor and communitycollege student His wife and younger son remain in Oaxaca Mr Garcia keeps his snapshots of them on the wall and he keeps a native Mexican cactus outside the front door Sometimes in sentimental moments Mr Garcia writes poetry about the people and place he left nine years ago At a distance it is easy to remember the good parts not the failed economy that sent him from high school into the farm fields from the depleted fields into town to sell tools and from town to El Norte After nearly four years of tutoring Mr Garcia has become at least a bit less invisible He has spoken to incoming freshmen as part of orientation He wrote an oped column for the student newspaper And he has even written a poem about his time on the night shift that is now part of the curriculum for his fellow janitors It reads in part He doesn39t carry books or binders He uses a mop and feather duster Instead of a computer he works with a vacuum He keeps the university clean while everyone else sleeps But now at one in the morning a janitor dreams while awake hoping for a better future for his kids SAlIUEL G FREEDMAN is an awardwinning writer and professor at Columbia University A former ks reporter for The New Y ark Times he is the author of four acclaimed boo Email sgfreedmannytimescom
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