Initially I had no idea what to think about English 301 when I registered to take it back in December. The main thing that caught my eye was the title of the class, more so on how films and pop culture would be involved in the class. I became curious as to what films and pop culture would be analyzed since up until that point, books were the only thing I had analyzed in an English class. On the first day of class I had to ask many questions about the course material and the assignments that would eb given to us. I quickly realized that this English class would be completely different from others that I have taken. I had the freedom to pick what I wanted to use in my assignments, in terms of what I was analyzing, and that was something that I had never experienced before. The artifacts that I could choose from for my assignments could be video games, comics, television shows, movies, even YouTube channels were allowed to be used for analysis. On the downside, I initially had no idea what Rhetorical Criticism was, or its different perspectives of analysis. However, I learned each one of the perspectives of Rhetorical Analysis even if some of them I still cannot fully comprehend. I found myself enjoying analyzing what I wanted to analyze, especially since I did not have to limit myself to only analyzing books.
Before the class would discuss any of the perspectives of Rhetorical Analysis, first we had to learn about its history. We would learn who created the perspective and when it was created. Afterwards, we would learn the steps of applying the perspective to analyzing an artifact. We would learn how to select the appropriate text for the specific perspective that we were learning about. Then we would then focus on describing, interpreting, and evaluating the artifact using the perspective. The history of Rhetoric itself is ancient with it starting Greece around the fifth century B.C.E in the city-states with the main focus being on Athens. Athens made rhetoric “the focal point of advancing democracy and the liberal arts” (Sellnow, 33). As Rhetoric began to progress there began a demand for those who could teach those the art of public speaking. The Sophists met that demand and are credited with being “the primary reason public speaking courses in general education programs today” (Sellnow, 34). Aristotle would later add the main foundation of Rhetoric by describing the artistic proofs of ethos, pathos, and logos which are appeals made by the speaker to the audience. Ethos is the “perceived credibility, competence, and character of the speaker” (Sellnow, 34). Pathos are the “emotions stirred in the audience by the speaker” (Sellnow, 34). Logos are the “logical arguments based on evidence and reasoning” (Sellnow, 34).
The first Rhetorical Analysis perspective that showed me the Rhetoric functions the best would have to be the Dramatistic Perspective which I used in my blog post on short-animated film Hair Love. The Dramatisitc Perspective is grounded in “theories of action rather than theories of knowledge” (Burke, 1968, p.446). The way that this perspective is done is through PENTAD. PENTAD identifies and describes the; agent(s), act, agency, purpose, and motive of an artifact. The main focus of this perspective is to identify the motive behind people’s actions and why they break society’s rules. There are three main ways to absolve the guilt of breaking society’s rules; transcendence, mortification, and victimage. Transcendence is when a person breaks society’s rules because they are following a higher calling. Mortification is when a person admits the guilt of breaking society’s rules, is punished for it, and is then redeemed. Victimage is when a person attempts to absolve themselves by blaming something or someone else for the rule breaking. In the case of Hair Love the Dad is breaking society’s rule of doing the daughter’s hair is a role for the mom, who is not there at the moment. He goes against society’s definition of being a man to style his daughter’s hair because he doesn’t want to cop-out by putting a beanie on top of her hair.
The final Rhetorical perspective that I learned about, the Media-Centered Perspectives showed me just how much popular culture persuades society to act and think. I used this perspective in both my blog post and second Critical Essay on the final episode of Avatar the Last Airbender. The main thing it showed me is how desensitized people can become to violence and senseless tragedies if they are constantly seen. This is mainly shown in how all of the characters, except Aang, who were raised in a war-torn world immediately resort to fighting to solve their problems instead of having a civil conversation. Aang is the only character who did not see the genocide of his people and the atrocities Fire Nation committed towards the rest of the world until after spending 100 years in ice.
While I am still not the best speaker in the world, I have become a better writer than when I began the class back in January. For the first Critical Essay that I wrote on the short-animated film Frat, I required a lot of help from my teacher in order to properly write the paper, since it was the first rhetorical paper I had ever written and did not know how to properly format it. When the time came to write the second Critical Essay that I wrote on the final episode of Avatar the Last Airbender I had a better grasp of how the paper was to be properly written. My second paper was much more organized than the first, and I described the artifact better than I did in the first one. Even when it came to the peer reviews of both critical analyses, I saw the difference in the feedback that I got from my peers. I had much less negative feedback in my second Critical Essay than my first. In terms of my speaking, I had to present an artifact that I put in one of my blogs. I had no idea how I was to present it properly even though it was an informal presentation. I easily became flustered on the sheer number of questions that were being asked on my artifact and the perspective that I used to analyze it. After a couple of minutes though, I managed to answer the questions much easier than when I started. I took the feedback which I got from it to heart when it came to writing my papers.
While English is not my major, I would not mind expanding on what I have learned in English 301. I went from not knowing the definition of Rhetorical Analysis to being able to write a Media-Centered Perspective Analysis of the final episode of Avatar the Last Airbender. To me that is no small feat. I gained an insight in how the parts of popular culture that I watch affects the way I act and the way I think not only about myself, but about those around me. I hope that my schedule will allow me to take another Rhetoric or writing class such as this.