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Rhetorical Perspective: further thoughts and past models

August 29, 2017

Some further thoughts on how we will explore and develop the rhetorical perspective in our Chesapeake Humanities course while reading and writing.  In addition to your response to the readings, you will be practicing this rhetorical perspective with your writing: the journal, blog, stalkings, and culminating with the Final Project.

Most if not all of the essays we have written for schools have some sort of thesis statement. We are familiar with this. However, not all essays beyond this school-based form will have a recognizable thesis. Yet, as I will argue, all essays can and should be thought more broadly as pursuing an argument, making a claim–even if, and perhaps especially if, that argument is hypothetical and experimental.

Rather than think of an argument more narrowly as “thesis-based,” it will help to recognize an argument more broadly as the following: [1]taking up a conventional or general, given view of a topic; [2]raising a question or posing a particular problem with that conventional view; [3]proposing to answer that question or respond to that problem.

The DNA of an argument is thus: Give/Problem/Response. The response to the problem (or answer to the question) can also be called the “Claim.” A claim is developed with reasons and then supported with evidence: Claim/Reasons/Evidence. This is the code that the larger essay then replicates in its paragraphs. Each paragraph follows the Claim (topic sentence), Reason (one main reason for each paragraph), Evidence (supporting that main reason) structure.

Consider the work of previous students in the Chesapeake Semester. You can take a look through the writing that students have posted to their blogs in previous semesters by clicking the Student Blogs category.

In doing so, you can listen in on previous conversations on various elements of the Semester that you are encountering, see what is constant and what has changed. And, you can also focus in on models of rhetorical perspective that work for the blogs and for the Stalkings. In fact, an important element of rhetorical knowledge from the very beginning was to learn from and use models that are already existing.

For two recent examples, I would point you here: this initial blog post Emily Cross-Barnet, and this final Stalking by Emily Castle. There are plenty of others worth looking at, but these give a good sense of one of the most fundamental aspects of a rhetorical perspective that we will continue to explore and develop this semester in your work: the need to think by way of rethinking; in other words, to explore and to address changes in perspectives, alternative views and perceptions, different and deeper understanding–even when those changes involve your own views and positions.

“I used to think about the Chesapeake in this way….

Now I know it is more complicated than that, since I understand that…”

That’s a basic rhetorical perspective that everyone is working towards developing in all the work that we do this semester. You can also go back to Berry’s “Solving for Pattern” and map this rhetorical structure onto his essay. Indeed, one could argue that Berry is, with his conception of a more complicated way of thinking and doing problem-solving, is making a case for understanding ecology from a rhetorical, and not just scientific, perspective. Good rhetoric pays attention to patterns, and tries to be aware of things that it can’t see or doesn’t know.

For further guidance on the rhetorical perspective, you should also use the rubric I will use to assess your Stalkings and Final Project. This should guide your composing and revising.




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