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Rhetorical Analysis Working with Visual Texts & Rhetorical Concepts

In our increasingly visual world, it is important to understand how visual texts do rhetorical work. Just like written texts, visual texts make arguments aimed at particular audiences. The images we see every day (commercials on TV, billboards on the side of the freeway, ads on social media, etc.) are made up of a series of visual strategies tailored to a specific group of people. Analyzing an image involves many of the same procedures as analyzing a written text: specific elements and details of the image are closely examined in order to determine meaning and effectiveness.

Your Task:

You will choose a visual text on your own that you think makes an argument and targets a specific audience—this can be a still image, like a picture or poster, or it can be a video, like a commercial, public service announcement, or music video. Once you’ve chosen your text, you will perform a rhetorical analysis of your visual text, focusing on how different rhetorical strategies are used to create a specific argument.

Section 1: Introduction (1-2 paragraphs):

Introduce and contextualize your chosen text. Introduce key aspects of the rhetorical situation (the author, the title, genre, intended audience, context, exigence, and purpose) for the text, inform the reader about the topic’s significance, and highlight the author’s overall argument. Discuss two to three main claims that you see the text making. Discuss the role that rhetorical strategies play in supporting the overall argument and subsequent claims. Identify three to four rhetorical strategies to examine throughout the body paragraphs of your paper. Similarly, as part of the introduction, clearly signal, through the implementation of metadiscourse and a discussion of your chosen strategies, the thesis or argument your paper intends to put forth and prove.

Section 2: The Body, in Which you Present Your Central Analysis (3-5 paragraphs):

Accurately describe and explain the author’s significant supporting rhetorical strategies. Locate and provide examples of at least three to four and explain each in detail. Illustrate your interpretation of each strategy with a poignant quotation and offer an explanation that indicates how these chosen pieces of language support your interpretation of the author’s argument (imagine you are operating like a lawyer making a case). Make sure all these elements line up in an organized and succinct manner. As you examine the author’s key rhetorical strategies, include discussion of the evidence used to support your findings. Discuss the types of evidence the author uses to support their claim. If more than one kind of evidence is used to support the claim, what combination of evidence does the author select? Explore why the author might have used a combination of evidence types. How does the author present the evidence? What do you notice about the author’s description of the evidence (word choice, elements selected or left out, framing, etc.?). How effective is this evidence? Note: listing evidence is not a critical discussion – the discussion must consider how the evidence supports/strengthens each specific claim

Critically discuss the assumptions your author makes in the text. Because the author makes these assumptions toward what their audience believes, values, or thinks about the topic, how does the evidence they present strengthen or potentially weaken their case? (You can focus on elements that most lend themselves to analysis).

Section 3: Your Conclusion, Which Details the Significance of Your Findings (2-3 paragraphs):

Conclude your paper by presenting a thoughtful discussion of one of the following: a) how some element of the text relates to your own experience, b) how the author has impacted your thinking and/or views on this topic, c) the significance of the argument for the lives of other generations of people.

Additional Information:

o Papers are expected to be 5 pages in length

o Please select an easy-to-read font (like Times New Roman, Calibri, Arial, Lato), use 12 pt. font, set the margins at 1 inch on all sides of the document, and meet other current MLA format guidelines.

o Use specific quotes and lines of evidence, and when doing so, be sure to give credit where credit is due. Ex. Writer X asserts, “….” (O’Donnell 06:29-06:45).

o A Works Cited Page

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