Essay 1 Assignment Sheet: Rhetorical and Social Discourse Analysis
Choose a piece of rhetoric from any visual medium produced in the last year as your primary source and write a critical analysis of it. Specifically, this essay should address how the rhetoric operates in its sociocultural context.
Note: Avoid explicitly political advertisements as your primary source (these are less challenging).
Your essay must include:
1) a clear thesis statement that articulates whether the rhetoric challenges or reaffirms a
prevalent social discourse, or represents an emerging social discourse. (see discourse definition below)
2) a sound, logical structure that allows you to provide your reader with both summary,
context, analysis and argument.
3) The essay should be written in proper academic diction.
4) The essay should follow all relevant MLA guidelines (formatting and source citation
and documentation, including a separate works cited page).
Your essay must effectively summarize the primary source/visual rhetoric. If possible,
provide at least one excerpt from the rhetoric.
– 1 primary source (the rhetorical subject of your analysis)
Note: This is the only required source for this essay. However, if you choose to include
additional research in your essay, those sources must always be cited.
Analytical/Critical Thinking Questions
Here are some questions that may be helpful for Essay 1.
- What is the purpose of the rhetoric?
- What is the relationship between the rhetoric and its audience? Is it willfully controversial/confrontational? Or, is it attempting to be deferential? Does the rhetoric rely on nostalgia?
- What is the visibility of the rhetoric, relative to its sociocultural context? Are we dealing with a blockbuster film, an avant garde work of art, a Super Bowl commercial, a regional commercial?
- Which larger discourses can you identify in the rhetoric, or, which discourses are absent? Note: any time you perform a textual analysis, what is absent is just as crucial to consider as what is present in the text.
- Aesthetic questions: how does the rhetoric use dialogue, humor, music, its visual
composition, etc. to make its overall message resonate.
- What is the interplay between aesthetics, purpose, audience and discourse?
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