Rhetorical Analysis

Rhetorical Analysis

How has the facemask functioned rhetorically in 2020 and 2021?

Why has the concept of “cancel culture” generated so much controversy in recent years?

How has the rhetoric surrounding police reform treated the obstacles outlined in Robert McCartney’s article about former cop and current Georgetown Law professor Rosa Brooks (see https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/rosa-brooks-police-reform/2021/02/20/6cb2bad4-72c4-11eb-85fa-e0ccb3660358_story.html)? Consider focusing on Blues Lives Matter or Defund the Police rhetoric, and use the topic to discuss the pros and cons of demonstrative and deliberative rhetoric in police-reform discourse.

How has the push for identity-based justice and equity shaped the marketing of products by corporations? What rhetorical strategies do companies use to market their products during Pride Month and/or during Black History Month or the Black Lives Matter era more generally?

How has the viral video of George Floyd’s death functioned rhetorically to change the conversation about race and criminal justice in America?

How have scenes of looting functioned rhetorically in public discourse about race and criminal justice in America?

Analyze the rhetorical function of President Trump’s trip to St. John’s Church during protests in Washington, D.C., on June 1, 2020, at which he posed for photographs holding a Bible.

Wilfried Reilly, a provocative Black political science professor at historically-Black Kentucky State University, argues that systemic racism is a conspiracy theory (see https://www.spiked-online.com/2021/02/10/systemic-racism-is-a-conspiracy-theory/). Do you see similarities between its rhetoric and that of other conspiracy theories such as QAnon? (This article by Anastasiia Carrier about QAnon might be interesting to look at: https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/02/19/qanon-conspiracy-theory-family-members-reddit-forum-469485)

Explore the role of narcissism (excessive interest in or admiration of oneself) in our public discourse, particularly in demonstrative rhetoric that focuses on group identity and group victimhood.

Analyze the rhetorical strategy of a specific 2020 presidential candidate for a specific audience. Why do you think the candidate was or was not able to appeal to a wide enough range of voters to win his or her party’s nomination and then win the presidency?

Consider Robin Givhan’s article about the intersection between fashion, politics, and social influence in 1968. What messages do contemporary fashion choices send about different identity groups? (Alternatively, you could take an in-depth look at another era.)

Discuss how a celebrity’s public appeal demonstrates Kenneth Burke’s theory of rhetorical identification. How, for example, has Megan Rapinoe, a star on the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, become an influential cultural figure? You might discuss why she has built so much credibility with so many people yet simultaneously become so reviled by so many other people. Is leadership possible in contemporary America without becoming as polarizing as Rapinoe? Discussion-generating public figures like Megan Thee Stallion and others would be interesting options here as well.

Analyze the rhetoric surrounding the extremely ill-fated idea of the “Super League” in European soccer.

Find an advertising campaign that targets a specific demographic and analyze how the argument attempts to convince the demographic to use its product or service. White Claw and Disney Plus might be interesting campaigns to look at.

Examine an advertising campaign’s use of a social or political message (or compare and contrast multiple campaigns). Examples might include companies’ offering promotions for Pride Month or Nike’s marketing strategy with Colin Kaepernick. These efforts often cause some controversy. What rhetorical concepts render them worthwhile for the company?

Consider Lili Loofbourow’s critique of “event politics” and apply it to a contemporary example such as the protests surrounding George Floyd’s death and/or the response to it.

Carl Jung theorizes that the human soul contains both light and darkness. Postmodernist entertainment also offers interesting commentary on the duality of the human soul. Use a specific example to discuss how this duality manifests itself in contemporary rhetoric. The Halloween holiday might be an interesting example, as would the politicians mentioned in Alexander Blum’s article or rappers like Da Baby and 21 Savage.

The large number of people hoping to move to the USA from Latin American has become a major topic in public discourse. How do public figures on one or both sides of the debate surrounding this wave of attempted immigration use rhetoric in attempts to persuade their audiences to react to this approach? Have these attempts been successful? Why or why not?

Do some research about the rhetoric surrounding the opioid epidemic sweeping much of the USA this decade. How has this epidemic shaped public attitudes about drugs?

Russian President Vladimir Putin enjoys high approval ratings among the citizens he leads, according to polling data from unbiased international organizations. Why has Putin’s rhetoric been so successful with his Russian audience and/or international audiences outside Russia?

The rhetorical term “radical Islamic terrorism” has been a flashpoint in assessing attitudes toward terrorism. Should US political leaders use this term?

The term “white privilege” has become increasingly common to refer to everyday advantages that some people claim white people have over African-Americans and other minorities, yet polls show that this term has not convinced many white Americans. In fact, forty-three percent of all Americans now believe that “discrimination against white people has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities,” according to a scientific poll released November. Why has “white privilege” rhetoric fallen flat with so many Americans?

The term “black-on-black crime” took off as a rhetorical tool in the 1980s and continues to be in use today, both by white observers and by African-Americans such as President Obama. Why has this term been effective in persuading people that black people are at least partially responsible for the problems in black communities? What problems or misconceptions might result from this term?
A recent poll shows that sixty-eight percent of Americans think that “political correctness” is a “big problem” in society. What, if anything, does “political correctness” actually mean, and why does this concept bother so many people?

Since American voters elected President Trump, protests against him and his policies have erupted internationally. Are these protests effective rhetorically with the audience they need to persuade? If so, how? If not, what would a persuasive anti-Trump strategy be?

What role does the proliferation of social media play in the polarization that characterizes America right now?

You may also focus on the rhetoric of any of the other topics we’ve covered this semester, including gangsta rap, country music, immigration, political correctness at universities, criminal justice, terrorism, and contemporary American politics. Please run your idea past me before you get deep into it.

Successful papers will use the rhetorical concepts from this semester, a number of which are compiled under “Rhetorical Vocabulary” under Assignments on Canvas, to explain the rhetorical strategies and techniques involved in the topics.

Remember, the general point of rhetorical analysis is to examine how communication appeals to a specific audience’s emotions, value system, and logic. Don’t lose sight of these key elements. An audience, especially, must be a significant part of your analysis here.

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