Critical Reading Portfolio for Rhetoric

A few weeks ago, I posted a critical reading portfolio assignment I use in literature classes. I use a similar format for an assignment in advanced rhetoric classes. Students compose a series of blogs, receive feedback throughout the semester, and by the end of the class, choose the best ones to revise into an academic portfolio.

As students revise, we discuss several rhetorical conventions in the shift from blog writing to academic writing.

  • Emoticons commonly signal emotion and tone in certain web genres. How might a writer use diction to make those elements clear to a reader?
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  • Short paragraphs often make web text more readable, yet academic writing tends to use more developed paragraphs. How might you deepen your points to convince academic readers with thorough evidence and explanations?
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  • Images appear frequently on the web because, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Many times these images go unmentioned in the main text, standing alone as if they speak for themselves. In academic writing, though, you'll want to explain or integrate each element of the text. How might you include the image to develop a more substantial point? 

Assignment

 
During the semester, you will compose 10 blogs on guided topics. By the end of our unit, you will select your strongest 5 to revise into an academic portfolio. Revision will be key as you rework your ideas for a new format, audience, and context.
 
Blogs will be informal and follow the conventions of web writing, which may include unique abbreviations, punctuation, spelling, and emoticons. Making texts readable on the web often means forgoing traditional paragraphs for images, bulleted lists, or short points. 
 
The final Critical Reading portfolio will follow the conventions of academic writing, which include MLA formatting, traditional paragraph structures, and conventional grammar and usage. Support your interpretation through a thesis statement that encapsulates your central argument, cite specific textual quotes, and develop detailed analysis. 


  1. Rhetorical Genres. Identify 3 features/conventions/expectations of a particular genre (in film, print, online media, etc.), and discuss 3 texts to support your claims. (e.g. In teen horror movies, a final girl often remains at the end, as in Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Scream. In “coming home” war novels, flashbacks are a common device to show battle trauma, as in Larry Heinemann’s Paco’s Story and Stephen Wright’s Meditations in Green.)

  2. Metaphor. Analyze how a particular comparison works by citing 3 examples of a similar metaphor in different texts (e.g. people = animals). Work through their similarities and difference to analyze the rhetorical effects of this particular metaphor. 

  3. Diction. Analyze the word choices of 3 texts that address the same issue but from competing positions. How does each text choose terms to promote a certain version of the topic? (e.g. Pro-Choice uses “fetus;” pro-life uses “baby.” Democrats use “the rich;” Republicans use “job-creators.”) Analyze the implications and rhetorical effects of these choices. 

  4. Irony. Analyze the irony in a text of your choosing. What is the main argument of the text? How does irony advance that goal? What are the implications and rhetorical effects of choosing irony over, say, a more straight-forward delivery?

  5. Visual Rhetoric in Political Cartoons. Analyze a political cartoon of your choosing by employing the vocabulary from the Walter Werner article and our class discussion. Consider what the central argument of the cartoon is as well as the visual and textual devices used to create that argument. See politicalcartoons.com for a broad selection. 

  6. Visual Rhetoric in Advertisement. Analyze an advertisement of your choosing by drawing from our class discussion. Consider what argument the text makes and what the advertisement wants you to do. Name specific visual and textual devices used to create that argument.

  7. Numerical Rhetoric. Find an article that uses statistics or numerical graphs to make an argument. Using our discussion of statistics and Joanna Wolfe's "Rhetorical Numbers" analyze the rhetorical choices an author made in how to present these numbers. How does the author employ numbers to make an argument? (e.g. what is the difference in rhetorical effect between saying 1/4 and 25% of people?)

  8. Scientific Rhetoric. Analyze 2 scientific articles on the same topic, one written for a popular audience and one written in a scholarly journal for an audience of specialists. Based on our class discussion of scientific rhetoric, analyze how each author uses conventions of science to make an argument.

  9. Constructions of Identity. Choose a text (an advertisement, a section of a newscast, a speech, etc.). Analyze the assumptions and/or stereotypes in the text that relate to race, gender, class, sexuality, or ability. How is a particular identity category constructed in the text? Consider how the text appeals to certain groups possibly to the exclusion of others. 

  10. Constructions of Identity-Part 2. Choose a text (an advertisement, a section of a newscast, a speech, etc.). Analyze the assumptions and/or stereotypes in the text that relate to race, gender, class, sexuality, or ability. Choose a different identity than last time. How is a particular identity category constructed in the text? Consider how the text appeals to certain groups possibly to the exclusion of others. 

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