Essay Assignment

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GWRTC 103: McDonnell
Fall 2010

Project #1

To analyze the rhetoric of something is to determine how that something persuades and positions its readers or viewers or listeners.

—David Rosenwasser and Jill Stephen

Background:

Part of your job as a reader of texts is, of course, to understand the overall purpose of a text. As a critical reader, though, you must dig deeper, interpreting the meaning below the surface, unpacking the writer’s assumptions, considering what may be missing from the author’s perspective, examining the strategies the writer uses to appeal to the audience, and evaluating the overall success of the argument.

Every argument has a rhetoric—the art, the craft, the moves a writer makes, intentionally or not—to gain reader interest and assent. Close reading and interpretation of these features is called rhetorical analysis, and for your first formal written project of the semester, you will engage in this process. Arguments surround us, but not everyone who produces them adheres to our definition of argument as “mature reasoning.” Critical thinkers must be able to see in, around, underneath, and through various arguments.

Assignment:

  • Locate a 2010 Breeze article or letter to the editor (must be an argument) that interests you and that will provide you with plenty of material to analyze. (http://breezejmu.org/category/opinion/)
  • Analyze your article’s argument in 1,000-ish words
  • No secondary sources required, but permitted if relevant
  • Follow MLA format for the structure of the paper and documentation of the source(s)

Importantly, as asserted by experts in one of the supplemental readings I’ll provide you with, “a rhetorical analysis will be a persuasive piece itself: you’ll need to make a claim about the item or article you are studying to explain how [and] how well it works” (43). In other words, your rhetorical analysis is itself an argument about the methods used by the writer. As confirmed by Rosenwasser and Stephen in Writing Analytically (4th ed.), “Analysis…argues for understanding a subject in a particular way.”

Objectives:

  • To demonstrate critical reading skills.
  • To practice writing academic discourse.
  • To recognize the various features of an argument and determine which ones are most important in a particular text.
  • To analyze a text carefully and accurately.
  • To make a claim about the success of the argument.
  • To marshal textual evidence in support of your claim.
  • To arrange your evidence effectively.
  • To summarize, paraphrase, and quote when appropriate.

Guidelines and Deadlines:

F    9/10      Article summary due (submit through Digital Dropbox); be sure to provide link to selected article; Go for the Gold modules 1-8 scores due electronically (must score 100 in each module)

W   9/15      bring page one of your draft to class for a workshop activity

F    9/17      Full draft due (submit through Bb Assignment function)      

W   9/22      revised draft due

F    9/24      Reader Comments Suggestions (RCSes) due through email to writers by class time (cc me)

M   9/27      Project #1 portfolios due; meet in the lobby of Carrier Library

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