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THE RHETORICAL SITUATION (BITZER) Introduction - The rhetorical situation: the context in which speakers or writers create rhetorical discourse - Rhetorical discourse indicates the presence of a rhetorical situation - However situations aren’t always accompanied by discourse - Shouldn’t assume that a rhetorical address give existence to the situation – it is the situation which calls the discourse into existence - Rhetoricians typically focus on the orator’s methrod or the discourse itself, however one should focus on the situation because the situation is what shapes the orator’s application of method and creation of discourse - Rhetoricians: o Distinguish among and characterize the types of speeches they treat issues o Types of proof o Lines of argument o Strategies of ethical and emotional persuasion o The parts of a discourse and the function of these parts o Qualities of styles o Figures of speech - While they cover aspects of the rhetorical method and discourse they never treat the formal aspects of situation - Purpose of essay: o Attempt to revive the notion of rhetorical situation o To provide at least he outline of an adequate conception of it o Establish it as a controlling and fundamental concern of rhetorical theory I - “Rhetoric is situational” o Statement does not mean that: Understanding a speech hinges upon understanding the context of meaning in which the speech is located – meaning context is a general condition of human communication and is not synonymous with rhetorical situation Rhetoric occurs in a setting that involves interaction of speaker, audience, subject, and communicative purpose Statement does not equate rhetorical situation with persuasive situation because every audience at any moment is capable of being changed in some way by speech A rhetorical discourse must be embedded in historic context in the sense that a living tree must be rooted in soil - Thus, his argument is: o A tree doesn’t obtain its character as a tree from the soil but instead rhetorical discourse does obtain its character as rhetorical form from the situation that generates it - Rhetorical works
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o Belong to the class of things which obtain their chracter from the circumstances of the historic context in which they occur o Is analogous to a moral action rather than to a tree An act is moral because it is an act performed in a situation of a certain kind Thus - Work is rhetorical because it is a response to a situation of a certain kind - Rhetoric as essentially related to situation o Work of rhetoric is pragmatic Comes into existence for the sake of something beyond itself Functions ultimately to produce action or change in the world It performs some task o Rhetoric is a mode of altering reality - not by the direct application of energy to objects - but by the creation of discourse which changes reality through the mediation of thought and action - Too general to say that rhetorical discourse comes into being in order to effect
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This note was uploaded on 03/18/2009 for the course COMM 3300 taught by Professor Vogelaar,a during the Summer '08 term at Colorado.

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