Writing the Rhetorical Critical Essay
The rhetorical critical essay should perform a critical reading of a rhetorical artifact in light of one or more concepts drawn from the classical or contemporary theories of rhetoric as studied in class, or any concept of rhetoric approved by your instructor.
Please note: the following headings organize these instructions, NOT your paper. Read carefully.
“Invention”: Get an idea for your paper.
The essay presents a formal thesis that argues for a rhetorical strategy operating in the artifact and connects that strategy to a theoretical concept in some original way. The essay then proceeds to demonstrate the thesis by analyzing the text in its context. You are not limited to a single theory, or a single text. Instead, your thesis should be powerful enough to dictate, and to limit, your theoretical approach as well as your choice of text. Your thesis should not simply string together multiple concepts separated by “and”. If you can articulate in a single sentence the logical connection to more than one concept, the flow of your paper should be clear from that statement. The argument presented in your thesis should be strongly articulated throughout the essay, particularly at strategic points of transition such as the beginning of paragraphs, the transition from context to textual analysis, and from the body of the paper to the conclusion, etc.
“Arrangement:” Organize your paper into a beginning, middle and end.
The introduction includes a narrative description of the artifact and the general subject, the thesis, and a preview of the proceeding analysis. The body of the essay must include exposition of the theory and the social/historical context of the artifact, plus the analysis of the text(s). Include only such information as is necessary to support your argument. Make sure your argument, as first expressed in your thesis, is completely but concisely elaborated in the body of the essay. The conclusion should include only a summary of what you have found and a few closing lines. You may (but are not required to) discuss further implications of your criticism in your conclusion, but this should not be construed as license to introduce new ideas or results of your analysis that are not dictated by your thesis. If you find yourself writing about something in the body of your paper that is interesting but not particularly related to your thesis, you should consider rewriting your introduction so it fits your actual analysis, rather than the other way round.
“Style:” write well, be concise, use MLA Form or Chicago Humanities.
In addition to following either MLA 8th Ed. or Chicago Humanities, you might consider picking up a copy of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. It contains good advice for things like comma placement and sentence structure. Corbett’s Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student also has very good advice along these lines. By now you are familiar with the parenthetical reference system. For this essay you will employ a reference list rather than a bibliography. Include only those sources you cite in your essay. As always, make sure you have a title that captures the essence of your essay, and format page numbers etc. as if the paper were to be printed out. The essay should be 12-20 pp.
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