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Unformatted text preview: The Rhetorical Situation: Understanding Audience and Context The Rhetorical Situation: Understanding Audience and Context 63 3 Chapter 3 Y ou are probably beginning to realize by now that argument does not take place in a vacuum. Instead, a situation occurs that raises questions in peo- ples minds and motivates them to discuss and argue in an attempt to resolve the issues and problems that emerge. Professor Lloyd Bitzer calls a situation that motivates argument a rhetorical situation, because it stimulates discussion and encourages change. Rhetorical situations existed for the Declaration of Indepen- dence in 1776 when its authors declared that the North American colonies should be independent from Great Britain, and for Abraham Lincolns Gettys- burg Address that he delivered in 1863 at the site of a famous Civil War battle. The time, place, and existing circumstances of these rhetorical situations pro- vided the motivation for the authors of these documents to write them. 1 Five el- ements, according to Bitzer, are present in every rhetorical situation, and they can be analyzed. In this chapter we focus on the rhetorical situation as it can be employed by readers and writers. Analyzing the rhetorical situation is an important critical reading strategy that can be used as a tool for analysis throughout the reading process, and it is a potent critical thinking strategy that can help the writer plan and write a better argument. Analyze the Rhetorical Situation When You Read an Argument According to Bitzer, a rhetorical situation has five elements. We rearrange the elements in order to form the acronym TRACE, from the initial letters of these five elements, to help you remember them: the Text , the Reader or audience, 1 Lloyd Bitzer, The Rhetorical Situation, Philosophy and Rhetoric 1 (January 1968): 114. WOODMC03_0131729993.qxd 1/3/06 4:06 PM Page 63 64 CHAPTER 3 The Rhetorical Situation: Understanding Audience and Context the Author, the Constraints, and the Exigence or cause. Now look at each of them to see how they can help you read, understand, and evaluate writing that presents an argument. 1. The text is the written argument, which has characteristics you can ana- lyze. These include the type of text (essay, letter, book, etc.), the content of the text, and the format, organization, argumentation strategies, language, and style that are employed by the author. 2. The potential reader or audience for the text ideally must care enough to read and pay attention, might change its perceptions as a result, and per- haps will mediate change or act in a new way. A rhetorical situation invites such audience responses and outcomes. Most authors have a targeted or in- tended reading audience in mind. You may identify with the targeted audi- ence, or you may not, particularly if you belong to a different culture or live in a different time. As you read, compare your reactions to the text with the reactions you imagine the targeted or intended reading audience might...
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- Fall '07