assignment 4-2: Junod’s rhetorical situation

Due: Wednesday 11/2
Format: Leave a comment on this post
Length: two or three paragraphs

For this assignment, describe your sense of what Junod’s purpose, audience, and context (his rhetorical situation) might be. Keep pushing yourself to find and cite specific evidence from the text as you write.  (If you are not that familiar with the events that happened in the US on 9-11-2001, you might first want to do a little research on the Internet to gather information about Junod’s context. See some links below for a starting point.) Your post could address some of the following questions:

  • What in the world around him is motivating Junod to create this piece?
  • What is it about the time he is living in? What historical events or changes are shaping how he sees the world?
  • How does the way he sees the world fit with the ways he sees/imagines his readers? Does he want to draw their attention to some issue or problem they might not be noticing?
  • How does Junod relate to his readers? Is he confrontational, caring, friendly, personal, distant or… ? How do you get a sense of his personality or attitude towards the audience?
  • Why does Junod try to accomplish his purpose in an Esquire Magazine article? And does it matter that his essay was published in 2003 instead of 2001? Why might he have waited two years?
  • How does Junod use the elements of an essay (such as paragraphs, reference to outside sources, description, section breaks, etc…) to accomplish his purpose?
  • What thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviors might Junod wish to change in his audience? How would he like to see his readers respond to the piece?
  • What other kinds of changes might he be seeking?

Some notes about context:

Local context: In September 2003, many readers would have encountered “The Falling Man” in Esquire Magazine since this is the original publication venue. Does the publication date and place change or help your understanding of Junod’s essay? Do you think this is a “typical” Esquire article?

Larger context: “What are the values and concerns of [the author’s] time and place? What has happened recently that might affect how someone responds to a text?” (DK Handbook 7). The larger context for an author’s essay is the response to these questions. You need to know what is shaping Junod’s rhetorical situation. For example, the DK Handbook mentions that after September 11, 2001, “it was a long time before people felt it was appropriate to tell jokes and be humorous about politics or world events” (7). Junod writes in September 2003, so how can we gather information about a rhetorical situation that happened 8 years ago? How can we ever know Junod’s larger context in the moment he sat down to write? We can never truly know, but we can do some research to build a reasonable background of context that might be guiding the author’s choices.

Use the links below to research the larger context of “The Falling Man.” Do not read the sources from start to finish. Instead, skim the sites/articles that interest you, looking for important contextual clues that you might be able to interpret in light of something Junod wrote.

assignment 3-3: reading for purpose, audience, context

Due: Monday, October 17
Format: leave a comment on this post
Length: two or three paragraphs

This assignment asks you to start forming a sense of Josh Neufeld’s purpose, audience, and context in the September 1 chapter of his comic “A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge.”  First, re-read the comic.  For this second reading, try to develop your observant stance into a more advanced, critical stance. You are still composing to learn, but now composing to learn more and learn deeper.

To help you read critically, look at

These objective readings will provide the background information you need to piece together Neufeld’s context and the problem he seems to be responding to. Remember, use these articles not to bolster your own personal opinion about the issues surrounding Hurricane Katrina, but instead try to find things that will help you analyze “A.D New Orleans After the Deluge” rhetorically. After you look at those articles, re-read Neufeld’s comic for a pitch, a moment, and a complaint:

  • A pitch. Neufeld’s comic makes an argument, although at first glance it might seem like a simple story about one awful day. “A.D.” does make some sort of case, even if that argument or case is never stated explicitly.  As you re-read the comic, look for language that reveals the position or positions Neufeld seems interested in having you adopt.
  • A complaint. His comic is also a reaction to some situation, some set of circumstances that he has set out to address.  To help you understand another person’s writing, it can be useful to figure out what caused the person to write the text in the first place. Look for language that reveals the writer’s starting point. If you can find the position or situation he or she is worried about and possibly trying to correct, you will find it much easier to locate the argument (or the position the comic is asking you to accept).
  • A moment. Lastly, Neufeld’s comic is a response to the world conditioned by his particular moment in time. In your attempt to figure out not only what a text says but where it is coming from, history is significant. When was the piece written? (August 2009, but he started writing the comic in 2006.)  Where? (the comic was originally published as a series on the web, and then it was revised into a graphic novel.) What else was going on at the time that might have shaped the writer’s ideas and attitudes?

Now, write two or three paragraphs explaining your sense of what Neufeld’s purpose, audience, and context (his rhetorical situation) might be. Your post could address some of the following questions, which will resonate with the critical reading guidelines above.

  • What in the world around him is motivating Neufeld to create this comic?
  • What is it about the time he is living in? What historical events or changes are shaping how he sees the world?
  • How does the way he sees the world fit with the ways he sees/imagines his readers? Does he want to draw their attention to some issue or problem they might not be noticing?
  • How does Neufeld relate to his readers? Is he confrontational, caring, friendly, or… ? How exactly do you get a sense of his personality or attitude towards the audience?
  • What do you know about Neufeld’s audience? Do they need any special knowledge to understand the comic? Do they come from a certain area or country, share certain values or identity markers, or subscribe to similar beliefs?
  • Why does Neufeld try to accomplish his purpose through a comic, instead of some other medium or genre?
  • Do the visual elements of the text help him accomplish his purpose? How?
  • What thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviors might Neufeld wish to change in his audience? How would he like to see his readers respond to the comic?
  • What other kinds of changes might he be seeking?

Keep pushing yourself to find and cite specific evidence from the text as you write this post. Avoid unsupported claims.

It is always possible that Neufeld did not consciously choose to do some of the things you observe in his comic, but for now assume that he did and consider how this helps you understand “A.D.”

assignment 2-5: pan-track-zoom

Due: Wednesday September 28
Format: Leave a comment on this post
Length: One or two paragraphs

Introduction: “Pan-track-zoom” is a method for focusing an analytical essay on specific evidence. This method will also help you contextualize your evidence so that readers understand how small examples fit in to the larger object you are analyzing.

The pan-track-zoom method assumes that by looking in depth at a specific example or case, you can draw out as much meaning as possible and put yourself in a position to make generalizations. When you begin listing many examples without enough analysis, or when you make many generalizations without enough evidence, you make the work of interpretation harder for yourself and your readers.

Guidelines: For this assignment, practice pan-track-zoom on an example from “Back to the Land” — it would be best to choose an example that you think you may want to use in your essay. The example could be a quote, a paraphrase, a distinction Kalman makes, a key term she uses repeatedly (with or without defining it), a photo or grouping of photos, or something else that might qualify as “evidence from the text.”

Before you start the assignment, read the DK Handbook pages 292-309 and page 344. If you were absent on 9/26, also read this handout. To begin your post, quickly summarize Kalman’s essay as a whole. Then move into the “tracking” phase by contextualizing the example as it relates to the larger essay. Explain why the example you chose matters and how it is situated or how it develops in the scope of the author’s argument. Finally, zoom in by making observations and interpretive leaps about the example. To push yourself towards in-depth analysis, look for patterns of repetition and ask “so what?”, identify distinctions as binaries and try to reformulate them, interrogate anomalies (deliberately attend to things that don’t seem to fit a pattern), try to define or explain key terms that the author might leave unquestioned, or uncover assumptions/implications in the example you chose.

Remember that a single passage, scene, or photograph from “Back to the Land” would give you enough to work with for this assignment, especially because you are working on saying more about less.

assignment 2-3: forming interpretive questions

Due: Friday, September 23
Format: Leave a comment on this post

In class on Wednesday, we worked through some observations about “Back to the Land.” (Check out this document to see a list of these observations.)  Then, we tried to explain some of these observations as choices or strategies that Kalman is using to accomplish a purpose, with an audience in mind and a context at hand. For Assignment 2-3, write two (or more, if you like)  interpretive questions about “Back to the Land.” We will discuss these questions on Friday.

You can use the DK Handbook page 108 and page 120 to help you. Please give your questions a lead-in or a bit of context so that we know where you’re coming from and so that you are not just rephrasing an oberservation from the list as a question. For example, don’t simply ask

Why does Kalman compare agrarian lifestyles with city lifestyles?

This question is too broad, and it gives no context for how you believe Kalman defines “agrarian lifestyle” and “city lifestyle.” The question doesn’t add anything to the discussion because it simply takes a binary from the list and poses it as a “why?” question. Instead, do a bit more work by being specific and adding some interpretation to your interpretive question.  To be more specific, you could cite a passage as an example of what you mean, you could define/analyze a key term in your question, or you could explain a point of uncertainty in your thinking so that we know where the question comes from. For example,

It seems to me that Kalman defines agrarian living in connection with democracy–but not just any democracy. The democracy of a simpler, “happier” past. A democracy defined in contrast to the city lifestyles so many Americans lead today. Is there any truth to this vision of America’s simpler, more wholesome/healthy past, or is it just an ideal or a rhetorical move intended to show us readers how their lives and “way of being” (127) has changed over the centuries?

Finally, here are some links I showed in class to give more context to Kalman’s essay:
NPR article on Tea Party and history
Wikipedia on Food, Inc. (the documentary)
Wikipedia on organic farming history etc.

assignment 2-2: reading for purpose, audience, and context

Due: Wednesday, September 21
Format: leave a comment on this post
Length: two or three paragraphs

This assignment will ask you to start forming a sense of Maira Kalman’s purpose, audience, and context in her visual-verbal essay “Back to the Land.”  First, re-read the essay.  For this second reading, try to develop your observant stance into a more advanced, critical stance. To help you read critically, look for the following in “Back to the Land”:

  • A pitch. Kalman’s essay is an argument; it presents information to make some sort of case, even if that argument or case is never stated explicitly.  As you read, look for language that reveals the position or positions the essay seems interested in having you adopt.
  • A complaint. Her essay is also a reaction to some situation, some set of circumstances that she has set out to address.  To help you understand another person’s writing, it can be useful to figure out what caused the person to write the piece in the first place. Look for language that reveals the writer’s starting point. If you can find the position or situation he or she is worried about and possibly trying to correct, you will find it much easier to locate the argument (or the position the essay is asking you to accept).
  • A moment. Lastly, Kalman’s essay (like all pieces of writing) is a response to the world conditioned by the writer’s particular moment in time. In your attempt to figure out not only what a piece says but where it is coming from, history is significant. When was the piece written? (Nov. 26, 2009)  Where? (The New York Times blog in the “Opinion Pages” section) What else was going on at the time that might have shaped the writer’s ideas and attitudes? You don’t have to do hours of research for every essay you read, but on the other hand you don’t want to ignore the context of a writer’s moment.

Now, write two or three paragraphs explaining your sense of what Kalman’s purpose, audience, and context (her rhetorical situation) might be. Your post could address some of the following questions, which might resonate with the critical reading guidelines above.

  • What in the world around her is motivating Kalman to create this piece?
  • What is it about the time she is living in? What historical events or changes are shaping how she sees the world?
  • How does the way she sees the world fit with the ways she sees/imagines her readers? Does she want to draw their attention to some issue or problem they might not be noticing?
  • How does Kalman relate to her readers? Is she confrontational, caring, friendly, or… ? How do you get a sense of her personality or attitude towards the audience?
  • What do you know about Kalman’s audience? Do they need any special knowledge to understand what she is saying? Do they come from a certain area or country, share certain values, or subscribe to particular beliefs?
  • Why does Kalman try to accomplish her purpose through this combination of handwriting and photography?
  • How do the photographs add to or take away from the effectiveness of Kalman’s text? Do the visual elements of the text help her accomplish her purpose? How?
  • What thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviors might Kalman wish to change in her audience? How would she like to see her readers respond to the piece?
  • What other kinds of changes might she be seeking?

Keep pushing yourself to find and cite specific evidence from the text as you write this post. Avoid unsupported claims.

It is always possible that Kalman did not consciously choose to do some of the things you observe in her essay, but for now assume that she did and consider how this helps you understand her text.

“The Victory Garden movement began in 1917 in response to World War I food shortages. Since food had to be sent abroad to troops, families were encouraged to grow their own fruits, vegetable, and herbs.”  — from Everyday Health