English 301: Rhetorical Criticism was one of the three English classes that I took this semester at Longwood University. I had it expected to be like my other English classes and that we would be doing a lot of reading novels and discussing their importance. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that English 301 would provide a different type of curriculum. This class allowed for the students to dive deeper into the rhetorical criticism of popular culture and explore why it is important to study. English 301 has allowed me to develop an understanding of how we behave and believe things based on entertainment’s underlying messages that are analyzed through several rhetorical perspectives.
At the beginning of the semester, our class was able to learn about the historical and contemporary definitions of rhetoric. Aristotle was a big influence on the development of the art of rhetoric. He was considered to be the “Father of Rhetoric” that helped to define rhetoric in a way that we use it now. He defined it as, “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.” He also introduced his modes for persuasion, ethos, pathos, and logos, which help persuade others to believe a particular point of view. A more contemporary definition of rhetoric that can be found in a dictionary is, “the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.” Although we learned this information in a lecture style, I felt that it was easy to grasp because of how its discussion was open to the class, and students could comment on things based on what they had learned in previous years.
Although all of the rhetorical perspectives helped me to have an increased awareness of how rhetoric functions, the dramatisitc rhetorical perspective was the most beneficial. I felt that our textbook The Rhetorical Power of Popular Culture gave very detailed explanations and examples for this perspective. It also helped to define act, agent, agency, purpose, and motive so that they could be applied towards a type of pop culture to find underlying messages and reach the goal of a dramtistic perspective. The goal is to figure out what motivates people to do things in a certain way and how is it justified. This perspective stood out to me the most because it also broke down step by step how to figure out why we are affected by famous movies like She’s the Man. When I did Blog Post #4 I felt that I dug deep into a movie that I would normally watch without any kind of analyzation. This blog post also influenced me to write Critical Essay #1 and connect all of the rhetorical learnings that had been done so far in the year.
English 301 has opened up my understanding of how rhetoric acts persuade us and shape our identities. This understanding was mostly found through the blog postings that were done throughout the year. Each perspective that was analyzed introduced a new way that rhetoric acts change us. The Neo-Aristotelian analysis that was done for Blog Post #2 represented the usage of the five canons. Learning about the canons was one of the first times that I realized the impact that movies and speeches could change society. When an audience is watching or reading something, they began to take what they are processing, and they add it to their own lives. If you were to compare an audience that watched an uplifting movie about confidence versus a movie that diminishes confidence you would see that the groups tend to believe what they see and will incorporate it into their daily lives. I think knowing about the perspectives has changed how I process things when I read or watch entertainment/news. Analyzing the material, I am digesting now is easier and I have stopped believing that everything I see is “socially correct.”
As a rhetor, I found that this course has helped me to understand the effect of my words in writing and speech. I can create blog postings on movies that my classmates may not have seen but get them to understand what the underlying messages were. I am also able to create persuasive information by following a describe and interpret form of analysis. One major time that I had to use persuasive speech was when giving presentations for class on my blog postings. I felt that I had to be able to deliver the information in a way that fit my audience and be able to express my points in a concise and comprehendible manner. Being a rhetor has helped me to realize that words are food for the soul and brain. If you give out words of wisdom those who listen can consume it and relate it into their lives, but if you give out words of ignorance than those who listen will consume it and have a more negative relation on their lives.
Looking back at my experience in English 301 I have realized that I gained an abundance of knowledge on rhetorical criticism. I can explain its origin, find relations between its functions, understand its persuasion, and explore my effectiveness. Knowing and learning from these experiences I can now move on into my Professional Writing concentration with tools and strategies on analyzing future material. I will be able to persuade an audience more effectively and hopefully give out words of wisdom.