What we’re up to:
Preparing for the rhetorical prompt
Let’s start by looking at the prompt we worked on during the practice test: Samuel Johnson’s “Debtor’s Prison.”
Here I want to note that the goal is not to “Easter egg hunt” for particular strategies, but to instead see how and author makes choices to achieve a purpose and to explore why he/she made those choices for this audience/medium/situation.
How to do a framing analysis
In small groups, imagine that you want to convince people that:
People should not-under any circumstances–use Twitter.
Write a short 2-sentence framing device what would capture the reasons why Twitter is bad.
After sharing, we’ll talk about how to write an analytical body paragraph which will explore the strategy behind framing devices. Some ideas to consider:
- You first must establish what is being compared to what. For example, Using Twitter is like arming 140 character time bombs with the potential of destroying your relationships every time you press return. This compares Twitter to a time bomb.
- Then, you connect the metaphor to author’s purpose–either overall or in the particular part of the argument–buy connecting other elements of the metaphor to elements that are relevant to the situation. Time bombs are unstable and unpredictable. Time bombs are violent and cause chaos. Time bombs cause anxiety and fear.
- Finally, you make a case for the indirect or implied elements of the framing devices and how they might influence the audience. Time bombs are the devices of supervillains–power-mad evildoers who revel in destruction, not unlike the mindset of teenagers who have too much time on their hands.
- Some common types of framing devices are identity frames, characterization frames, power frames, conflict frames, risk frames, and loss/gain frames.
Analyze the following framing device by Ben Carson on QP.
We need to get to the bottom of any problems of discrimination. But the larger issue here is, how do you react when something is wrong? If you have an unpleasant experience with a plumber, do you go out and declare a war on all plumbers? Or teachers or doctors? Of course not. And it makes no sense to do that with police either.
How to do a tonal analysis
Tonal analysis or examinations of diction hinge on exploring how an author uses particular word choices and how those word choices provide us insight into how the author sees his audience, opposition, or the world. Usually, the process goes like this:
- Choose words or phrases that seem particularly pungent. They are poetic or well-chosen or descriptive.
- Make sure you understand what those words describe or modify.
- What are the connotations behind the words you chose? Go beyond positive and negative and look for adjectival descriptors that capture nuance.
- Explain how the word choices have some sort of function. They give us insight in how the author wants to characterize someone or something.
Do a tonal analysis (QP) of this passage that uses an analogy to describe the mindset of the extremely rich:
Yet you gasp: one avaricious little boy is jealously guarding a mountain of toys for himself. A handful of other children are quietly playing with a few toys each, while 90 of the children are looking on forlornly — empty-handed.
The one greedy boy has hoarded more toys than all those 90 children put together!
“What’s going on?” you ask. “Let’s learn to share! One child shouldn’t hog everything for himself!”
The greedy little boy looks at you, indignant. “Do you believe in redistribution?” he asks suspiciously, his lips curling in contempt. “I don’t want to share. This is America!”
And then he summons his private security firm and has you dragged off the premises. Well, maybe not, but you get the point.
How to do a claim/evidence analysis
Here you need to be clear on three things:
- What is being argued (claim)?
- What are the reasons that this claim is argued to be true (reasons)?
- What are the assumptions behind this argument (warrant)?
So, if I make an argument that The Avengers is a disappointing movie because it only has one female superhero (who doesn’t have any magical powers), I’m implicitly saying that without a more gendered-balanced cast, I’m going to be disappointed. And I’m implying that you should be too. What sort of audience or culture would have a similar reaction?
Think about what aspect of the rhetorical triangle reward the choices or reason and warrant and why.
OK, analyze the logical argument in the following excerpt from The Week.
The novel phenomenon of American upper-middle-class helicopter-parenting, in which kids are scheduled, monitored, and supervised for their “enrichment” at all times, is now being enforced on others.
It’s an odd way to “help” a child who is unsupervised for five minutes to potentially inflict years of stress, hours of court appearances, and potential legal fees and fines on their parents. Children who experience discreet instances of suboptimal parenting aren’t always aided by threatening their parents with stiff, potentially family-jeopardizing legal penalties. The risk of five or even 10 minutes in a temperate, locked car while mom shops is still a lot better than years in group homes and foster systems.
OK, let’s talk about some other types of analytical examinations we might do are the following:
- Rhetorical figures like alliteration or anaphora
- Ethos-type credibility arguments for oneself or against one’s opponents
- Appeals to particular emotions
Finally, let’s try to use QuestionPress to practice a bit more.
Here’s that gigantic list of pricing rhetoric I mentioned in class.