Whether people are aware of it or not, everyone uses rhetoric. In high school speech class I was taught that rhetoric consisted of the concepts of pathos, ethos, and logos. While that’s true, rhetoric is made up of much more than just those three tools.
“Rhetorial Toolbox” by Bowdon and Scott describes how rhetoric dates back to ancient Greece and Rome when the goal of its use was to persuade or deliberate the best course of action through speech. This is why rhetoric is often only associated with political speeches today. However, rhetoric is constantly adapted and interpreted to apply to the society and culture we live in.
Other concepts of rhetoric include exigence, writer(s), purpose, genre, culture, rhetorical appeals (here is where the ethos, pathos, and logos come in!), and canons. Would you send a professor a Facebook message about your weekend plans? Probably not. An appropriate communication with a professor would be an email about your grade or upcoming assignments. The fact that most of us are aware of the appropriateness of these interactions without officially taking a course in rhetoric indicates that we naturally consider rhetorical situations.
This new understanding of rhetoric and rhetorical situations proved very helpful in my first assignment for this course. The assignment required each student to write two pieces of correspondence. For the first piece, we were given the rhetorical situation. It was supposed to be a letter written to our classmates and teacher introducing the topic of our research and writing. However, for the second piece of correspondence, each student had to come up with his or her own rhetorical situation. I decided to write an email to Joel Salatin, who is a pioneer in the field of sustainable farming. The purpose of my email was to inform him of my project and persuade him to do an interview with me as part of my research. In order to persuade him, I expressed my interest in the field, explained my personal experiences with sustainable farming, and detailed why my project is important for spreading his knowledge.
I am looking forward to expanding on my knowledge of the concepts of rhetoric throughout this course and using it in my future writing!