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.”