WEEK TWO: The Rhetorical Situation


Wood, Chapter 2



We began week two by dealing with a little business. Namely, getting as many students as possible into my Composition 2 email group. If I don't have your preferred email address yet, please email me at reacheb@gmail.com — and if you know people who are in the class but aren't on my mailing list yet, remind them to email me!

We then spent most of the class talking about what we mean by THE RHETORICAL SITUATION. According to your book, you can think about the Rhetorical Situation using the acronym TRACE: Text, Reader (or AUDIENCE), Author, Constraints, and Exigence.

While the text (argument), reader (or audience), and author (or speaker) are fairly self-explanatory, constraints and exigence might need some explaining. Constraints are simply the limits of the Rhetorical Situation. These could be anything from time or space limitations (you've only been given 5 minutes to speak, or 500 words to write, for example) or the limitations of your audience caused by the members own attitudes, assumptions, and beliefs. Exigence is the reason for the argument. What has happened that has made this argument necessary right now...in this time and this place?

Basically, the important thing to remember is that argument doesn't exist in a vacuum...it is always the product of the culture surrounding it...the time period that it's a part of and the audience you are trying to address. It is particularly important to consider your audience...to analyze your audience's beliefs, prejudices, and assumptions and to understand and empathize with those in your audience. You will never reach your audience until you understand your audience.

After the break, we discussed how to identify purpose in an argument...as well as how to look for the main claim and sub-claims, how to figure out the rhetorical situation, and how to identify the audience. We practiced dissecting visual arguments this way as a class and then broke into groups for a graded group Analysis of a Visual Argument using TRACE. For some good examples of visual arguments, follow this link.



Read Wood, Chapter 3

TRACE Analysis