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 1-3: rhetorical analysis of an advertisement

Due: Friday September 15
Format: Please post this assignment on the Ning forum entitled “English 101: Rhetorical Analysis of an Advertisement.” Also please bring a printed (hard) copy so we can work with the assignment in class on Friday. See the bottom of this post for instructions on how to post your assignment to the Ning if you need help.

Introduction: This assignment builds on what you have been reading about rhetorical analysis by asking you to practice this type of analysis in a short essay. Earlier this week, you worked on a rhetorical analysis of a space, asking how the space shaped or influenced how occupants would think, feel, or behave. In this assignment, you will ask similar questions about one magazine advertisement.

Guidelines: Write a short (1.5 – 2 pgs) essay in which you analyze an advertisement rhetorically. To prepare for the assignment, we will do the following in class (see handout):

  • Suspend judgment
  • Create a “notice and focus” list about the advertisement
  • Find any patterns of repetition and contrast
  • Find any anomalies—things that seem unusual, that seem not to fit the pattern

Once we have completed these steps, you will be ready to move from “composing to learn” TO “composing to communicate.” Your purpose in writing is to interpret the ad and inform your readers about the ad’s implications or underlying message. Your essay should include these elements:

  • A summary of the ad for readers who have not seen it
  • The ad’s target audience
  • The purpose of the ad
  • Strategies the ad uses to reach the audience
  • Specific evidence to support your claims
  • A thesis statement

These elements do not have to be in this order, nor do they have to be in separate paragraphs. For example, you may take a single paragraph to develop a sense of the ad’s purpose and target audience, since these are so closely related.

Structure your essay as a response to these questions if you need help getting started:

  • Who is the target audience, and how do you know? What did you notice in the ad that would help you identify the intended audience? (see questions for audience analysis handed out in class)
  • How is this audience being invited to respond? What does the ad hope the audience will think, feel, or do after seeing the ad?
  • What strategies is the ad adding using to achieve this purpose in a specific larger and/or immediate context?
  • Do you think those strategies would be effective, given the ad’s purpose, audience, and context? (the answer to this question may be the kernel of a good thesis statement.)

If you have typed your analysis in a Word document, you should first select the text of your analysis. Click “copy.” Then return to the Ning. In the main page, you will see a list of forums. Our forum is clearly labeled. Click the forum titled, “Rhetorical Analysis of an Advertisement.” Be sure you are replying to the correct topic for our class. Then, a text box appears. Click in the box, under “Reply to This.” Right-click “paste” to paste the contents of your analysis. Then click “add reply” below the text box.

assignment 1-2: practices of looking

Due: Wednesday September 14
Format: Leave a comment on this post

For Wednesday, read an excerpt from Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture by Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright. For this assignment, please do the following after (or while) reading the excerpt:

  1. Find one passage or concept from the Practices of Looking reading that makes a connection or creates a link to the DK Handbook reading on rhetoric/rhetorical analysis (which you completed earlier this week). For example, you could point out that Sturken and Cartwright’s discussion of M*A*S*H (page 30) relates to the DK Handbook‘s discussion of context — how the “values and concerns of a time and place” (7) influence the meanings that audiences create from texts.
  2. Find one passage or concept from the Practices of Looking reading that confuses you and ask a question about it. Show that you did the reading. For example, you would not need to do the reading to say “What is the difference between connotation and denotation?” It seems that you did not read and simply selected something random to transform into a question. Instead, pose a more thoughtful question. For example, “The authors mention the connotation and denotation, and then they talk about signifiers and signifieds. How are these different? Are connotations the same as signifieds?”

Pose your connection and your question as a comment. Scroll to the bottom of this post and click “Leave a Reply.” Remember that you must be registered and logged in to comment.

Below are images from the reading that did not make it very well through the photocopier.  You may find it useful to look at these instead of the blurry photocopied images.

Weegee, Their First Murder, 1945

Pieter Claesz, Still Life, 1642

Robert Frank, Trolley - New Orleans, 1955

reading for monday 9/12

There is no writing assignment due on Monday, so please focus on the reading and give it care. This reading assignment is a critical piece in the foundation of our class. For Monday, please read the DK Handbook, pages 1 – 16 (on “Rhetoric and a Process for Composing”), pages 82 – 93 (“What Is Analysis?”), pages 184 – 189 (on “Visual Organization”), and 260-263 (“Style in Visual Texts”). (If you cannot find a book to buy, please see the Course Documents page  for the PDF files to download.) As you read, think broadly about how you could use this method called “rhetorical analysis.” Notice how the textbook uses the terms “composers” and “communication” instead of “writers” and “writing.” This will help us easily apply these concepts to visual culture. The two sections on visual design will also give us ideas for finding rhetorical strategies in texts with visual elements. After class on Monday, hopefully you see that “everything has rhetoric: classrooms, churches, speeches, supermarkets, department store windows, Starbucks, photographs, magazine covers, your bedroom” (Rosenwasser and Stephen 70).

Since you don’t have to write anything this weekend, you could use this opportunity to get caught up if you are behind already, and it would be smart to even start working ahead since the reading assignment for Wednesday is not small. I will hand it out in class on Friday.

Have a rhetorical weekend!

photo shared by Flickr user felibrilu