Mykhailo TurchanovMatthew GuenetteSummer 2018 English 1
Down the rabbit hole
In this assignment I invite you, my reader, accompany me in a long and difficult journey. I’ll do my best to understand what rhetorical situation is and how it applies to real life. Firstly, I’ll summarize Keith Grant-Davie’s essay “Rhetorical situation and Their Constituents”. I’ll bring main definitions and his suggestions for developing of Rhetorical Situation. Then, I’ll try to effectively use acquired knowledge from Grant-Davie’s essay to analyze the Advertisement. It will show us: does the concept of Rhetorical Situation really apply to real life? In other words, I will review Ad rhetorically by examination of each rhetorical part in it. And finally, I will share with you my thoughts and impression of the Rhetorical Situation. Is it important for people or it is some boring and useless theory that has no connections with real life? Can rhetorical approach be helpful in writing? We’ll see. So, follow me down the rabbit hole.
Part I: A Summary of “Rhetorical Situations and Their Constituents”
Keith Grant-Davie wrote an article “Rhetorical Situations and Their constituents” for people (especially for teachers) who are interested in writing and rhetoric. In this article, Keith Grant-Davie analyzes original definitions of constituents of rhetorical situation to make the boundaries between them clear and stable; moreover, he states that scheme for analyzing of rhetorical situations should be developed by more complete and profound analysis of exigence, accepting the rhetors as independent part of rhetorical situations and by admitting that any part of rhetorical situations may be plural.
First of all, Grant-Davie with help of famous scholars defines rhetorical situation as “a set of related factors whose interaction creates and controls discourse” (265). According Grand-Davie these factors are exegince, rhetors, audience and constraints. Grant-Davie defines exigence as “the matter and motivation of the discourse” (266); he states that the exigence should be reviewed in specific order — firstly, it should be reviewed by fact and definition (What is a rhetorical problem? What is a topic and definition of this rhetorical problem), then by cause and value (Why are we need to participate in discourse? What are the possible consequences of unresolved rhetorical problem?) and finally by policy and procedure (What are the real goals of rhetorical problem? How should we resolve the rhetorical problem?).
The next constituent is the rethor. According, Grant-Davie the rhetors are “those people, real or imagined, responsible for the discourse and its authorial voice” (269); he insists that rhetors should be an independent constituent of rhetorical situation because without rhetors there would not be a discourse. He believes that we should consider and be aware that rhetors are as significant for analyzing rhetorical situations as the audience. Also, Grant-Davie highlights that rhetors and audience are intertwined by fact that rhetor changes the identity of audience and vice versa, the audience changes the identity of the rhetor.
Then, Grand-Davie defines audience as “people, real or imagined with whom rhetors negotiate through discourse to achieve rhetorical objectives” (270). He maintains that audience and rhetors are independent and dynamic; during a discourse there are often such situations where a rhetor takes the place of audience and vice versa.
The last part of the article centralizes on constraints. Grant-Davie tries to avoid too broad definition of constraints, so he excludes elements of rhetor (like his status, his manner of presentation) and elements of audience (like audience’s beliefs, attitudes, traditions, prejudgment) from constraints. He defines constraints as all factors in the situation, aside from the rhetor and the audience, that may lead the audience to be either more or less sympathetic to the discourse and that may therefore influence the rhetor’s response to the situation (273). He explains that constraints could be positive and negative.
Keith Grand-Davie states that there are often such rhetorical situations, where we meet plural exigencies, rhetors, audiences and constraints and we should accept this fact. Thus, in this article Grand-Davie shows that we regularly meet rhetorical situations in real life by providing interesting examples and he gives us advises how we suppose to analyze these situations. He encourages us to ask questions like what are the roles of each other in the rhetorical situation.
Part II: A Rhetorical Analysis
There is an interesting commercial for BigPond (an Australian internet service provider). The TV ad is placed in the setting of a parent (Dad)/teacher (woman)/student (boy) interview. A man and his son sit in front of a teacher in an empty classroom. They carefully listen for teacher’s reprimand. “Here’s an example of what I’m talking about”, says the teacher while she looks at her notes. “What does January 26 mean to Australians? Everyone gets a day off to watch cricket.” The teacher looks at Dad with a reproach suggesting that the answer should be absolutely different. In the next scene Dad escorts his son out of building and he says “Next time maybe you should mention the tennis as well” And finally voiceover says, “Learn more with BigPond Broadband”.
If, as Grant-Davie notes, rhetors are people responsible for the discourse and its authorial voice, then the teacher is clearly the rhetor in this situation. The teacher initiates the discourse with Dad in an attempt to encourage him to give his son reliable sources of information (it could be encyclopedias, people or reliable Broadband that gives opportunities to learn whatever you want) for enlightening the boy. As his teacher, she wants that each child in her class learns new and true things. Thus, we might see the teacher’s motivation, her exegince, her student gets wrong information about obvious facts. She wants to change the reality where her student does not have reliable sources because it can be even dangerous for him in future. She negotiates through discourse with Dad who in this situation is the audience that has enough power to make a difference to the boy. There are several constraints that have effect on the rhetor and on the audience, place and characteristics of Dad and his son. As a positive constraint for the rhetor we can mention the place of the discourse; the discourse happens in school where the rhetor has more authority. Negative constraints for the rhetor are the fact that the son is very persuadable (he is a very young boy), the boy would believe whatever Dad says and the fact that she cannot always filter information that boy obtains. Also, Dad (audience) is not very clever or he has specific life views, so most likely this conversation will not have an appropriate effect.
After I analyzed this rhetorical situation I can better understand each side (rhetor and audience) of the discourse. I can better understand the constraints that affect the situation and I can start thinking about possible solutions (compromises) to this rhetorical problem. I can better understand humor; a hilarious situation, where Dad despite teacher’s efforts, still genuine believes that he is right; he believes that January 26 is just a day-off for watching cricket and tennis and he says that to his son. The most significant thing about this assignment (analysis of ad) is that it gives me the strong evidence that rethorical situation is literally everywhere, even in such simple and routing thing like ad on TV. It gave me a motivation to find more such rhetorical situations that surround me.
Part III: So What?
Keith Grand-Davie’s essay is very significant for anybody who is struggling with writing, including myself. He reveals a hidden path that shows us how to improve our writing or reading by rhetorical analysis. He reviews original definition of rhetorical situation and their constituents with his comments. When I read his essay I can feel how he encourages writers, including myself, to use rhetorical principles in real life; he provides a lot of examples from real life suggesting that rhetorical situations are almost everywhere. After I read his essay, I started to find rhetorical situations that surround me and I found many of them. For example, my friends often ask me to borrow them some money and after I read this essay I started to better understand this situation; I started to recognize rhetors in my friends, exegince in asking money for their needs, audience in myself, and constraints in my mood and my traits. Thus, I could improve my negotiating skills and easier find compromises with them. And this approach is effective in many others fields of life, from routine like watching advertisement on TV to business (college, job) interactions. And my belief in rhetoric was totally consolidated by assignment to rhetorically analyze a commercial. I took the first advertisement I saw on TV and guess what? I immediately found the rhetorical situation in this advertisement. Therefore, we can absolutely confidently tell anyone that rhetoric is useful and fitting for real life.
Also, when I read Grand-Davie’s essay I was astonished when I learn that rhetorical situations exist in writing as well as in real discussions. From his essay I learnt that rhetorical situation creates the discourse (a motivated discussion) and the discourse tries to solve a rhetorical problem (exegince) generally by negotiating between the rhetor and the audience. Thus, I began to understand that as a writer (the rhetor) I suppose to negotiate with my potential reader (the audience). It was a true revelation for me because formerly all my writing was estimated to teach my audience. It wasn’t a discussion. I just gave them my arguments as perfect proofs of verity, I did not give them any chance to respond, and I did not consider their possible questions and counterarguments. However, now I am trying to change myself, I try to have a discussion with my reader; my thoughts and statements are not the verity as before. Of course it will be the long way to learn how to properly negotiate with reader (audience) but I think it is worth it. Because of Grand-Davie’s essay, I have tried to change my writing process; I have begun to ask myself significant questions: Who is my audience? What is discourse about? Why is the discourse needed? What is the discourse try to accomplish? What are the constraints? As a result, I think I have become stronger and more interesting writer as before.
Grant-Davie, Keith. “Rhetorical Situation and Their Constituents.” Rhetorical Review, vol. 15, no. 2, Taylor & Francis, Ltd., 1997, pp. 264-79. www.jstor.org/stable/465644. Accessed 29 June 2016.