ENG102.032 − English Composition II

Prof. Eileen Joy

Spring 2007

ESSAY #1: Rhetorical Analysis

DUE: Thursday, Feb. 8

FORMAT: 3-4 typed, double-spaced pages, MLA-style citation

For this assignment, you are going to analyze how the particular components of a specific argument work together to persuade or move an audience. The above political cartoon, by Tom Tomorrow, published on April 3, 2002, is a type of argument that uses humor to persuade its readers, but what point, or points, exactly are being argued, and who is the likely, intended audience? [The cartoon is actually very complex and its argumentative points are not easy to summarize.] Your main objective in this essay will be to describe and evaluate an author's success, or lack thereof, at [page numbers refer to Everything's An Argument]:

By way of helping you think about an overall structure for your paper, I suggest you begin with an objective summary of the argument you are analyzing. Next, develop paragraphs around specific claims [assertions] that the author makes, as well as the evidence [facts, reason, etc.] that he or she provides to support those claims, and for each Claim + Supporting Evidence, spend some time judging how well [or not well] the author succeeds in connecting his or her assertions to persuasive pieces of evidence. ["Connection" is really the key here: it is not just a matter of whether or not the evidence provided is "true" or "valid" or not, but whether or not the evidence really fully suppports the assertion that supposedly depends upon it. You might also look for assertions that don't seem to be supported by anything--those are assumptions and you can note those as weaknesses in any argument.] Conclude with an overall assessment of the argument's strengths and weaknesses.

IMPORTANT NOTE: It is NOT your job in this paper to argue for or against the opinion being argued by the article you choose to analyze, and in fact, I explicitly advise you to not do that. Instead, it is your job to evaluate the effectiveness of the author's argument [its persuasive power, or lack thereof], based on your analysis of how compelling [or not] your author's assertions and supporting evidence are. For help with that, please read carefully the pages in Everything's An Argument referenced above. Also, please be sure, throughout your paper, to always FULLY EXPLAIN the reasoning behind your critical points, whether positive or negative or both.

Refer, also, to pp. 45-49 for an example of a student's analysis of an argument by Derek Bok about freedom of expression on college campuses. Tips on MLA-style citation can be found in Chapter 22, "Documenting Sources."

Choose one of the following opinion essays as the basis for your analysis:

Christopher Hitchens, "Why Women Aren't Funny" [What makes the female so much deadlier than the male? With assists from Fran Lebowitz, Nora Ephron, and a recent Stanford-medical-school study, the author investigates the reasons for the humor gap.]

Daniel Dennett, "Thank Goodness!" [Surely it does the world no harm if those who can honestly do so pray for me! No, I'm not at all sure about that.]

Gary Kamiya, "Black versus black" [Barack Obama is black -- he just isn't "black." And if his candidacy helps take the quotation marks off race in America, it's a good thing.]

Debra J. Dickerson, "Colorblind" [Barack Obama would be the great black hope in the next presidential race -- if he were actually black.]

Gary Kamiya, "Where's the Outrage?" [A real antiwar movement would end our Iraq disaster. But the middle class doesn't care enough to protest, so the kids who go to community college will keep dying.]

Anant Raut, "Why I Defend Terrorists" [An open letter to Cully Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, from a lawyer representing five men at Guantánamo.]

Bill Maher, "The Real Menace to American Kids" [We demonize Mark Foley but ignore the industries medicating children and making them fat, and even open our schools to people trying to kill them -- military recruiters.]

Thaddeus Russell, "Beyonce Knowles, Freedom Fighter" [Why "booty popping" will do to Islamic fundamentalism what rock 'n' roll did to Stalinism.]

Ann Jones, "Women Come Last in Afghanistan" [The war against the Taliban was supposed to have liberated Afghan women, but the reality is that little has changed.]