Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Time for Talking...

In our Accelerated Composition class, we are learning to "read rhetorically," or to perform rhetorical analyses on "texts" of all type - written, film, video, visual, aural/oral, etc. Keeping in mind Aristotle's idea that "Rhetoric is the art of discovering the available means of persuasion in a given situation," we look at communication artifacts in terms of their logos (logical argument), pathos (emotional argument), ethos (ethical/relational argument), and their kairos.

Kairos
, the Greek word often translated as "time," represents the time, occasion, context - that is to say - the rhetorical situation of a speech, text or other composition. Is it possible to use our rhetorical evaluation to predict, as well as to analyze, texts? I think it's worth a shot...

Much has been made (and will be made) about the upcoming Inaugural address of President-elect Barak Obama. The New York Times has an interesting video about the occasion. Pearson's DK Handbook (p. 114) has some interesting analytical questions that may be applied to the upcoming speech. For example:
  • Who is included in the target audience? Who is excluded? Why?
  • Toward what will the speaker draw the audience's attention? What might be overlooked as a result of this "directing?"
  • What will be the guiding purpose of the speech? How explicitly will it be stated?
  • What events at the time of the speech's production are likely to shape the audience's expectations? How will these events shape the writing of the speech?
  • Where will this speech be delivered? (Specifically, how will the physical staging be set?)
Can you presciently answer these questions about Obama's inaugural speech? I bet you can. Weigh in with your prognostications, and then check back to follow-up after the speech is delivered.