Rhetorical Analysis Essay
Due: 11:59pm, October 19th
Instructions: Read the transcript of David Foster Wallace’s graduation speech given at Kenyon College in 2005. If you prefer, you can listen to it as well. Just look up “This Is Water” and his name on YouTube. You will, though, probably have to refer to the document if you wish to quote from his speech. I recommend reading it twice: the first time to digest and react to it, and the second to give it a close reading for the analysis part. When finished, write an essay that does the following:
Provides a rhetorical analysis of the speech itself. Refer to the questions from the previous assignment pasted below, if you’re unsure what to address. Make sure you address what you think the purpose (telos) of the speech is and what DFW’s main argument is. Also, when considering rhetorical appeals, it’s always best to quote from text itself. Give a quote and then explain how it is making a particular rhetorical appeal.
Give your reaction about the rhetorical effectiveness of DFW’s speech. Why or why not was it effective to you? Be sure to reflect on your own “context” as you assess its effectiveness. (This is the part where you get to address the ideas of the paper, but make sure you do so in relation to whether it makes his message effective or not. You can also explain why you had your reaction(s).
The essay should be around three pages long. You won’t have a hard time filling the pages if you’ve done a close reading of the text. Below are some tips about what to keep in mind:
Be mindful that there are two audiences here: the intended audience (graduates of the college and their parents) and the unintended audience (you). You should focus on the former for #1 and the latter for #2 above.
Pay close attention to how he uses language when considering evaluations of ethos and pathos in the speech. (This is where you use quotes.)
It will be useful to look up some biographical information about DFW himself to make sure you can address ethos properly in your paper.
* Questions from previous assignment:
Do a rhetorical analysis: What argument is the author making? What methods are used to make the argument (logos, ethos, pathos)? What is the purpose (telos) of the text? Is the purpose different from the argument? Is the setting (kairos) of the text appropriate or timely? Do you think the author makes their argument effectively? Why?
Analyze the context: What is the context (“the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs”) of the text? Does the author have any contextual or cultural influences that influence the text? Do you (the audience) have any contextual or cultural influences that affect your reaction to the text?
The ideal paper is one that answers all of the questions above in way that “flows” rather than reading like a list of answers to questions. For example, it may be interesting to organize your paper based on the main ideas he expresses and then how he uses different rhetorical appeals to get us to see what he’s getting at. There are other ways you may choose to organize as your paper as well.
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