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2.1: Basic Questions for Rhetorical Analysis

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    What is the rhetorical situation?

    • What occasion gives rise to the need or opportunity for persuasion?
    • What is the historical occasion that would give rise to the composition of this text?

    Who is the author/speaker?

    • How does he or she establish ethos (personal credibility)?
    • Does he/she come across as knowledgeable? fair?
    • Does the speaker’s reputation convey a certain authority?

    What is his/her intention in speaking?

    • To attack or defend?
    • To exhort or dissuade from certain action?
    • To praise or blame?
    • To teach, to delight, or to persuade?

    Who make up the audience?

    • Who is the intended audience?
    • What values does the audience hold that the author or speaker appeals to?
    • Who have been or might be secondary audiences?
    • If this is a work of fiction, what is the nature of the audience within the fiction?

    What is the content of the message?

    • Can you summarize the main idea?
    • What are the principal lines of reasoning or kinds of arguments used?
    • What topics of invention are employed?
    • How does the author or speaker appeal to reason? to emotion?

    What is the form in which it is conveyed?

    • What is the structure of the communication; how is it arranged?
    • What oral or literary genre is it following?
    • What figures of speech (schemes and tropes) are used?
    • What kind of style and tone is used and for what purpose?

    How do form and content correspond?

    • Does the form complement the content?
    • What effect could the form have, and does this aid or hinder the author’s intention?

    Does the message/speech/text succeed in fulfilling the author’s or speaker’s intentions?

    • For whom?
    • Does the author/speaker effectively fit his/her message to the circumstances, times, and audience?
    • Can you identify the responses of historical or contemporary audiences?

    What does the nature of the communication reveal about the culture that produced it?

    • What kinds of values or customs would the people have that would produce this?
    • How do the allusions, historical references, or kinds of words used place this in a certain time and location?

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