ap06 englang roskelly 50098


1 What Do Students Need to Know About Rhetoric? oskelly Hepzibah R University of North Carolina Greensboro, North Carolina mphasis on st udents’ ability to age and Composition Exa m places strong e The AP Langu mpose essay responses. effectively as they co analyze texts rhetorically and to use rh etoric teachers, th ere fore, to consid It’s an importa ts need to kno w nt question for er what studen is ofte od term in ord er to writ n misundersto idently and skil lfully. about th e conf first proposed b y Aris totle, and emb The traditional definition of rhetoric, ellished over the centuries teachers, is that rhetoric is the art of observin g in any given by scholars and case the “available means of persuasion.” learning to put names to th ings I already “The whole process of education for me was a line spoken by Kinsey Millh one, Sue Grafton’s private in vestigator in o ne knew.” That’s alphabet mystery novels, C is f or Corpse. Wh en I began a graduate of her series of program pecialized in rhetoric, I wasn’t quite sure wh at that word meant. But once I that s was introduce d to it, I realize d rhetori c was something I ha d always known about. Any of these opening paragraphs might be a suitable way to begin an essay on what s they begin a co urse of study that emphasizes rhetoric and students need to know a Exam. The first acknowledges that the prepares them for the AP English La nguage out teaching rhetoric is a valid one. The second establishes a question teachers ask ab working definition and suggests that the wr iter will rely on classical rhetoric to propose answers to the question. And the third? Perhaps it tells more about the writer than about any people (including herself when she hat m the subject. She likes mysteries; she knows t was a student) don’t know much about the term. But that third opening is the one I choose to begin with. It’s a rical decision, bas ed on what I know of myself, of the rheto subject, and of you. I wa nt you to know something of me, and I’d like to begin a establish my purpose right away, an conversation with you. I also want to d Millhone’s is all abou t giving a name to something we line states that purpose nicely. Rhetoric who understa nd that are well on their way already know a great deal about, and teachers to teaching rhetoric effectively in their classes. The first thi ng that stud ents need to know about rhetoric, the n, is that it’s all around us in conversation, in movies, in advertisements an d books, in body language, and in art. We ious of it employ rhetoric whether we’re consc or not, but becoming conscious of how rhetoric works can tra nsform speaking, readin g, and writing, making us more successful mmunicator and able co discerning audiences. The very ordinariness of s and more rhetoric is the single most important tool for teac hers to use to help students understa nd its dynamics and practice them. Spec ial Focus in English Language and Com position: Rhet oric 7

2 Exploring several writers’ definitions of rhetor ic will, I hope, reinforce this truth about the me useful terms for students as they commonness of rhetorical practice and provide so Aristotle’s, whose work on rh etoric has been analyze texts and write th eir own. The first is es, and who teachers still rely on for basic employed by scholars and teachers for centuri understandings about th e rhetorical transaction. e: Subject, Audien The Rhet er’s Per son a orical Triangl ce, Speak may be defined as th e faculty of ob serving in any given case the a Rhetoric vailable means of persuasion. —Aristotle Aristotle believed that from the world around them, speakers could observe how communicat ion happens and use that unders tandi ng to develop sound and convincing arguments. In order to do that, speakers n eeded to look at three elements, graphically represented by what we now call the rhetorical triangle: Aristotle said that when a rhetor or speaker begins to consider how to compose a speech— that is, begins the process of inve ntion—the speaker must take into account three elements: the subj ect, the audience, and th e speaker. The three elements are connected and interdependent; hence, the triangle. subject eaker evaluates what he or she knows Considering the means that the writer/sp already and needs to know, investigat es perspe ctives, and determines kinds of evidence or often ta ught how to conduct research into a proofs that seem most useful. Students are te evidence , and it is the subject point of subject and how to support claims with appropria the triangle that students are most aware of and fe el most conf ident about. But, as Aristotle sh ows, knowing a subject—the theme of a novel, literary or rhetorical terms, reasons for the Civil War — is only one facet of composing. audience means speculating about the re ader’s expectations, knowledge, Considering the and disposition with regard to the subject wri ters explore. When students respond to an assignment given by a teacher, they have the advantage of knowing a bit of what their Spec ial Focus position: Rhet oric 8 in English Language and Com

3 audience expects from them because it is often spelled out. “Five to seven pages of error- rly.” “Use two outside sources.” “Have fun. ” free prose.” “State your thesis clearly and ea to a student writer what the reader expects and will look All of these instructions suggest ic of assignments we make as teachers is a for; in fact, pointing out directly the rhetor good way to develop students’ rhetori rstanding. When there is no assignment, cal unde writers imagine their readers, and if they fo llow Aristotle’s definition, they will use their own experience and observation to help them decide on how to communicate with readers. The use of experience and obse speaker point of the triangle. rvation brings Ari stotle to the d feel, and what they’ve seen and done to Writers use who they are, what they know an find their attitudes toward a subject and thei r und erstanding of a reader. Decisions about formal and informal language, the use of narra tive or quotations, the tone of familiarity or objectivit considering their speaki ng voice s on the page. y, come as a result of writers My opening paragraph, the , attempts to give readers insight into me as well as exordium y expe into the subject, and it comes from m rience as a reader who responds to the personal voice. The creation of that v oice Aristotle called the persona , the character the speaker creates as he or she writes. angle to help studen Many teachers use the tri ts envision the rhetorical situation. Aristotle saw these rhetorical ele ments coming from lived experience. Speakers knew how to communicat e because they spoke and listen ed, studied, and conversed in the world. Exercises that ask students to observe care fully and comment on rhetorical situations in action—the cover of a magazine, a co nversati on in the lunchroom, the principal’s address to the student body—reinforce observation an d experience as crucial skills for budding skills to their writing and interpreting of rhetoricians as well as help students transfer literary and other texts. Pathos , and Ethos Appeals t o Logos, —speakers to hearers, hearers to subjects, In order to make the rhetorical relationship speakers to subjects—most successful, wri ters use what Aristotle and his descendants d the calle : logos, ethos, and pathos. appeals logos when they offer clear, reasonable premises and They appeal to a reader’s sense of proofs, when they develop ideas with appr e details, and when they make sure opriat readers can follow the progression of ideas. The logica l thinking that informs speakers’ decisions and readers’ responses forms a large part of the ki nd of writing students accomp lish in school. Writers use when they demonstrate that they are credible, good-willed, and ethos ts, and when th knowledgeable about their subjec eir thinking to readers’ own ey connect th ethical or moral beliefs. Quintilian, a Roman rhetorician and theorist, wrote that the ial Focus in English Language and Com position: Rhet oric 9 Spec

4 speaker should be the “good man speaking well.” good character meant This emphasis on e best intentions and the most thoughtful that audiences and speakers could assume th ents’ us e of research and quotations i s often as m uch search for truths about a n issue. Stud peal, demon l ap an ethical as a logica strating to their teachers that their character is thoughtful, meticulous , and hardworking. light them, they use of readers, and high When writers draw on the emotions and interests , the most powerful appeal and the most immediate— hence its dominance in pathos advertiseme nts. Students foreground this appeal when they use personal stories or text of analytical writing, whe observations, sometimes even within the con re it can work dramatically well to provoke readers’ sympathet ic reaction. Figurative language is often nnections readers make to th used by writers to heighten the emotional co e subject. Emily Dickinson’s poem that begins with the met aphor “My life had stood—a loaded gun,” for example, pr ovokes readers’ reactions of fear or dread as they begin to read. sure to note how intertwined the three are. As most teachers teach the appeals, they make John F. Kennedy’s famous line (an example of the rhetorical trope of antimetabole, by the way), “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country,” calls attention to the ethical qualit ies of both speaker and hearer, begins to e country’s ills by enlisting the direct help of its citizens, propose a solution to some of th and calls forth an emotional patriotism toward the country th at has already done so m uch for individu als. Asking students to invest igate ho w appeals work in their own writing highlights the way the elements of dicti on, imager y, and syntax work to produce conscious of the way they’re unconsciously persuasive effects, and often makes students exercising rhetorical control. Any text students read can be useful for tea chers in teaching these elements of classical eches, becau se they’re immediate in connecting speaker and hearer, provide rhetoric. Spe kespeare’s Julius Caesar, good illustrations of how rhetorical relationships work. In Sha Marc Antony’s speech allows readers to see clearly how appeals intertwine, how a speaker’s persona is established, how aim or purpose controls examples. Sojourner Truth’s repetition of the phrase “Ain’t I a Woman?” shows students the power of repetition and balance in writ ing as well as the power of ge sture (Truth’s gestures to the audience are usually included in texts of th e spee look for ch). Asking students to ansactions in novels, in poems, in plays, and in nonfiction will expose how rhetorical tr all writing is. rhetorical Spec in English Language and Com position: Rhet oric 10 ial Focus

5 Cont pose ext and Pur Rhetoric is wh at we have inst ead of omniscience. —Ann Berthoff It’s important to note th —or confronted only indirectly—two other at Aristotle omitted in which writing or speaking occurs and elements of the rhetorical situation, the context that underlies many of the writer’s decisions. In part, the emerging aim or purpose Aristotle and other classical rhetoricians could as sume context and aim since all speakers and most hearers were male, upper class, and concerned with addressing important civic, nsiderations affect every element of the public issues of the day. But these two co rhetorical triangle. Some teachers add circles around the triangle or write inside of it to ements to rhetorical show the importance of these two el understanding. f’s statement suggests the importance of context, t he situation in which Ann Berthof the way that an exploration of that situation, a rhetorical writing and reading occur, and analysis, can lead to understanding of what un derlies writers’ choices. We can’t know for sure what writers mean, Berthoff argues, but we have rhetoric to help us i nterpret. The importance of context is especially obvio us in comedy and political writing, whe re controlling ideas are often, maybe even usually , topical, concerned with current events ch sometimes is that the ev and ideas. One reason comedy is difficult to tea ents alluded to are no longe r current for readers and the humor i s missed. Te achers who have taught Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” for ex ample, have to fill in the context of the Irish famine and the conseque nt mind-nu mbing depr ivation in order to have students reac t appropriately to the black humor of Swift’s solu tions to the problem. But using humorist David Se dar is’s essays or Mort Sahl’s polit ical hu mor or Dorothy Parker’s wry social commentary udents to do research on the context in provides a fine opportunity to ask st which these pieces were written. Students who understand context learn how and why they write differently in history class and English or biology . And giving students real Spec ial Focus position: Rhet oric 11 in English Language and Com

6 contexts to write in—letters to ool reforms, study notes for the editor, proposals for sch rhetorical choices in form and content. other students— highlights how context can alter Intention should be a study of misunderstandings and their remedies. Rhetoric . . . —I. A. Richard s Richards’s statement reveals how key or aim is to rh etorical effectiveness. intention Words and forms carry writers’ intentions, bu se aims can be t, as Richards indicates , tho readers perceive intentions exposes where and how miscommunicated. Investigating how communicat ion happens or is lost. F or Richar ds, rhetoric is the way to connect intentions ers and writers. Intention is sometimes with responses, the way to reconcile read embodied in a thesis statement; certainly, st udents get lots of pr actice making those lear. ed out througho ut a piece, and it often changes. statements c But intention is carri Writing workshops where writers arti culate intentions and rea ders suggest where they m or lose them give students a way to realize intentions more fully. perceive the Many texts students read ate how intentions may be misperceived as well as can illumin ed effectively. “A Modest Proposal,” for example, is sometimes perceived as communicat n anguished. Jane Addams’s “Bayonet Charge” horrific by student readers rather tha speech, delivered just before America’s entran ce i nto World War I, provoked a storm of protest when it seemed to many that she was impugning the bravery of fighting soldier s who had to be drugged before they could engage in the muti lation of the bayonet charge. ng her intention in later documents, her career was nearly Although she kept restati xample (in part because you ruined, and her reputation suffered for decades. I use that e may not be familiar with it) to show that st udents can find much to discuss when they examine texts from the perspective of mi sunderstandings and their remedies. Visual Rhetoric iveness and comp lexity is to make use of the One way to explore rhetoric in all its pervas visual. Stude nts are expert rhetoricians when it comes to symbolic gesture, graphic film. Wha t does Donald Trump’ s h design, and action shots in and gesture accompanying his straightforward “You’re fired” on the recent “reality” tele vision program The Apprentice signal? (Notice the topical context I’m us ing here: perhaps when you read this, this show will no longer be around.) Why does Picasso use color and action in the way he ainting organized in columns that ? Why a re so many Internet sites does in his p Guernica e visual to the linguistic, students gain sometimes compete for attention? Linking th confidence and control as they analyze and produce rhetoric. Spec in English Language and Com position: Rhet oric ial Focus 12

7 Con clusion bout rhetoric? Not so much the names of its trop es So what do students need to know a e to hunt for examples of asyndeton or and figures, although students often lik n identify them in texts they read they can in periphrasis, and it is also true that if they ca ten to great effect. (If you’re int erested in turn practice them in th ing, of eir own writ nts do some work with figures of speech and the tropes of classical rhetoric, having stude visit the fine Web site at Brigha pe d by Professor Gideon m Young University develo d Silva Rhetoricae , literally “the forest of rhetoric”: Burton calle humanities.byu.edu/rhe toric/silva.ht m. That site provides hundreds of terms and ’s more important to recognize how figures definitions of rhetorical figures.) However, it them effectively to persuade and communicate of speech affect readers and be able to use dentify them, and the exam itse lf places little e on an ability to name than it is to i mphasis parallel constructions in a sentence is (a figure where one item in a series of zeugma a single word), but great emphasis on a student’s abilit y to write a sentenc e governed by that shows a nstructions affect r eaders’ responses. n awareness of how parallel co Students don’t need to memorize the five canons of classical rhetoric either—invention, arrangement, style, mem ory, and delivery—alt hough studying what each of those canons might mean for the composing processes of toda y’s student writers might initiate provocative conversation about paragraph leng th, sentence structure , use of repetition, and format of final product. about rhetoric is in many ways What students need to know what they know already about the way they interact with oth ers an d with the world. Teaching th e connections between the words they work with in the classr oom and the world outside it can challenge owerful ways as they find out how m uch they can use what th ey and engage students in p persu know of the available means of n more. asion to lear Some useful books on rhetoric: Crowley, Sharon, and Debra Hawhee. Ancient R rary Students. 3rd hetorics for Contempo Ed. New Yo rk: Pearson/Longman, 2004. Covino, William A., and David A. Jo lliffe. Rhetoric: Concepts, Definitions, Boundaries. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1995. zkiewicz, and Keith Walters. s an Argument. Lunsford, Andrea A., John J. Rus Everything’ 3rd Ed. New York: Bedford, St. Martin’s, 2004. even. Rhetorical Power. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1989. Mailloux, St Spec in English Language and Com position: Rhet oric ial Focus 13

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