Posted by Laurel Thoreson

Course Journal


Through the course of English 400 I completed journal entries that focus on the chapters in our book  “Rhetoric in Civic Life.” I was able to further my knowledge of the English language and learn more about rhetoric and how to be an active citizen leader from doing the readings and the assigned journal entries. The journal entries meet Course Learning Outcome numbers two and three. The second course outcome states; understand the nature of public discourse/debate as determined by purpose, audience, and context. I believe that the journal entries meet this particular outcome, because they are my original works in which I had to write and think about the purpose of the writing, whom I was writing for or to and I had to provide contextual evidence to back up the statements I made. I also believe that course outcome three is met by these journal entries, because course outcome three states; choose appropriate formats in writing for a variety of purposes. From writing the journals I had to meet certain length and grammar requirements, I had to format my entries a certain way and incorporate embedded links and graphics. I chose these particular four journal entries, because I believe they were my most successful. The first entry I posted focuses on the concept of visual rhetoric. I am personally interested in visual rhetoric in the forms of art, photography and dance. Visual rhetoric shows how what a person see can be just as powerful as what they read or hear. The second journal I have listed here focuses on the concept of argument. The main points I touched on were: argument being a form of interaction. The use of metaphors in argument and the concept of the public sphere. Argument can dictate the direction of a conversation and when a rhetor uses an argument, they may make claims and use context and reasoning to support those claims. The third entry I posted regards rhetorical situations. A rhetorical situation is an event in which there is a rhetor (user of rhetoric), a situation or issue, the works of a rhetor, such as a speech and lastly an audience. The final journal entry I have linked below, concentrated on publics and counterpublics. Publics are important in rhetoric, because without a public there would be no rhetorical situation. From completing these journals I learned a great deal about rhetoric and active citizenship and plan to use some of the elements and concepts I have learned this semester, in the future.


Journal Entry #3

Visual Rhetoric

Chapter three focused on the concept of visual rhetoric. The three main points that I will cover in this journal entry are photographs, presence, and analyzing visual and material rhetoric.

1.The text states that photographs are “not just neutral records of reality” (p.70). Photographs are supposed to evoke emotion, ideas, and thought. From the sharing of photographs, we as people are supposed to gain insight of the live’s of one another. Especially with the introduction of social media, our society has become immersed in the idea of promotion of images. People may share photos in order to inform the public of something or for various other reasons, but they do not do so without thought and the concept that it will promote and share ideas and cause people to learn something about them or what they are representing with their photos. For instance, when I post a photo to Instagram, I do so with a purpose, usually to express my feelings or share a piece of information with my friends/followers.

2.Visual rhetoric has the ability to show immediacy and therefore presence (p. 71). People can gain insight to an experience or event from visuals and they may even feel as though they are present at the event (p.71). Some images, videos, or other forms of visual rhetoric are so captivating to their audiences that they are able to draw them in and have them question what purpose the piece serves and what message it is trying to convey. I recently saw a movie called “Lion.” The story was phenomenal and it was visual artistry to say the least. I felt pulled in and as if I was within the piece and not just viewing it.

3. The process of analyzing visual and material rhetoric is discussed in the text as the questions that the visuals evoke from the audience. When critically analyzing artifacts, one should attempt to figure out the purpose of the artifact, what the artifact/image wants from its viewers,  and what the visual artifact tells the audience “about what it means to be a citizen….” (p.77). In regards to visual and material as a whole, like I mentioned about photography, visual rhetoric has a purpose and has deeper meaning besides just being a photo that is aesthetically pleasing. There are various categories as part of visual rhetoric including: body rhetoric, enactments, photographs, monuments, memorials, museums, and image events (p.86) and each form has the ability to evoke feelings, questions, and provide the audience with the feeling of presence.


Journal Entry #4


1.The first main point that I drew from this week’s reading, was that argument is a form of interaction. Arguments involve people to argue with one another over a topic and that requires interaction between the people and the topic or object being argued about. Arguments occur when people have differing viewpoints that contrast one another (p. 101). The book gives the example of the National Geographic article about the executions of Virunga mountain gorillas.  Arguments arose about the use of the term “murder” to describe the killing of the gorillas (p. 100).  Some believed that it is a term to only be used to define the killing of a person by another person. Arguments happen on  daily basis, and arguments can be just about any topic or between any two or more people. Growing up, I argued with my brother constantly. Most of the time, I would argue with him, because I just wanted a reason to talk to him and we had very little in common. It gave me a reason to interact with him, even though, our interactions were us fighting over something meaningless.

2. The second main point that I drew was the concept of argument as a metaphor. The book mentions the idea of argument-is-war metaphor (p. 105). Arguments are often portrayed as something negative, but they have the potential to produce productive and intentional/ purposeful interactions. Argument- is -war is the belief that the goal of an argument is to win. “Unfortunately, the argument-is-war metaphor works against seeing argument as cooperative” ( p. 105). Arguments are perceived as a war-like situation that is heated between two enemy forces. Sometimes arguments are healthy and are not always vicious in nature. I personally do not like arguments and have grown out of them since childhood, when I used to always argue with my older brother.  This particular video shows how to win an argument and is a good representation of the argument-is-war metaphor because it proves that our society sees an argument as something to be won, similar to a war.

3. The third and final main point is the public sphere of an argument. The authors define the public sphere as “ the argument sphere that exists to handle disagreements transcending personal and technical disputes” (p. 120). Issues in the public sphere effect more than one group of people, but rather a large group of the public, for example an institution. The book gives the example of a college raising its tuition, that is something that impacts more than a few people, but rather all of the people in that public sphere (p.120). The people affected are the staff, faculty, students, parents and everyone else who has a relationship with the institution. The students and parents would most likely be the public that argues against the increase of tuition while the staff members and other faculty of the institution would argue for the tuition increase to help further advance the school, with expansion or technological updates, etc.

Journal Entry #8

Rhetorical Situations

The three main points I plan to focus on are constraints, fitting response, and conformity.

1.The first main point, constraints are defined by the book as “persons, events, objects, and relations in which are parts of the situation, because they have the power to constrain decision and action needed to modify and exigence.” (p. 231, Bitzer). Constraints dictate what a rhetor is able to do or not do because their choices are restrained (p. 231). The book gives the example of people from “marginalized groups” in race, sex, and class face more difficulties and do not have the same opportunities as other people, because of constraints. Constraints can come about from exigence, audience agency, and the rhetor themselves (p. 232, 233). An exigence is a situation that needs to be changed and audience agency is how a rhetor interacts persuasively with their audience (p. 233). Rhetors themselves also come into play with constraints, because rhetors can be perceived as less credible with an audience that they have not been able to establish a strong or positive reputation with (p. 233).

2.The second main point, a fitting response is defined as “a response that meets the expectations of the rhetorical situation” (p. 233). Rhetors use fitting responses to react to a situation in an appropriate manner. The books describe the requirements that an expectation needs to meet as a prescription, and sometimes rhetors do a better job at filling the prescriptions and other times, do not do as well (p. 233).

3.The third and final main point is conformity and it is “when they (rhetors) employ a conventional response to a situation” (p. 253). In our society, conformity can often be perceived as a negative thing. People see conformity as conforming to societal standards or trying to be more “normal.” An article from  external site.focuses on the topic of comfort in conformity. What people do not know, is that conformity is not always trying to look and do the same as the next person in line. Conformity is how people respond to a situation. “Conformity adapts the persuasive message to the norms and expectations of the audience it addresses” (p.253). These sheep in this image are experiencing conformity, through their accessory choice of sunglasses. While conforming in this manner can cause some to feel left out, it is how the sheep decided to meet their needs and expectations, or express themselves.  Article Image


Journal Entry #9

Publics and Counterparts.

1.In the book, a public is defined as “people coming together to discuss common concerns, including concerns about who they are and what they should do, and as a result constructing social reality together,” (p. 266). Publics are the people that are involved in the exigence or the problem that is faced. In any situation there are publics. An example of this is in my public relations class we have to represent a client and find solutions to their exigence. We have to identify the publics and provide examples about how they are affected and how to best please them.

2.The public sphere is defined as “ a domain in our social life in which such a thing as public opinion can be formed,” (p.268). This is the place in which people that make up the public are able to form their opinions on matters. Public spheres are formed by informed opinions made during conversations. The conversations are about general topics, opposed to special topics.

Image result for public sphere


3. The last key point is strong and weak publics. Weak publics are defined as “publics whose deliberative practice consists exclusively in opinion formation and does not also encompass decision making,” (p. 271). Strong public are defined as “publics whose discourse encompasses decision making,” (p. 271). Weak and strong publics are important in rhetoric, because they help people understand how and why people govern and make decisions the way they do. The book claims that strong publics public opinion becomes stronger when whatever is representing it is empowered. Weak publics too, have power and are capable of making a difference in a community.


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