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Analyzing a speech

Your work in the lessons thus far has prepared you to analyze a speech and to give an effective speech that persuades your audience that your analysis is valid and useful. In the Rhetorical Situation speech, your purpose will be to provide your audience with a new perspective. Beyond reporting the content and history of the speech you analyze, you will offer a new critical perspective on the speech. Use the instructions for speech preparation that you have read, so far, in the Zarefsky textbook to help you choose a speech to analyze, develop your purpose, research the historical context and the available critical perspectives, argue for the perspective you use in your critical analysis, and structure your speech to present your claims effectively with appropriate language, rehearsal, and delivery.

This speech should last at least, but no more than, 6-8 minutes. You will be given a 15-second grace period on either end. This time limit is NOT a suggestion. It is a requirement, and points will be deducted if you go over or under the time limit. In this speech, you will provide an analysis of a public speech using Bitzer’s rhetorical situation as a critical lens. You cannot analyze a speech that has been or will be discussed in the lessons for this course, and the speech you choose to focus on should be one given by a prominent public figure (politician, actor, sports figure, etc.) to a specific audience that was capable of rhetorical judgment. The speech you choose might have been intended to celebrate shared values, to motivate action, to convince the audience to adopt policies, or to inform effectively. At any rate, your analysis should focus on the speech as a fitting response to the rhetorical situation, in terms of the exigence, the audience, and the constraints. Additionally, your speech should inform us about the context of the speech by presenting sufficient historical background for the audience in class. Ultimately, you should present a clear and thoughtful argument about the speech. This argument should not be limited to whether the speech was good or bad, but should judge it according to appropriate criteria. How were the purposes of the speech fulfilled? Were the claims made in the speech valid and supported with evidence? What were the consequences or potential impact of the speech? How did the speech accommodate and make use of the constraints and resources afforded by the occasion, audience, speaker, and speech itself? In particular, what perspective do you bring to the analysis of the speech? What is the decisive, unique, or particularly effective appeal in the speech you are studying?

This assignment will also help to establish your ethos as a speaker. Ethos is one of the rhetorical proofs that lead to judgment by the audience. Ethos is based on goodwill, good judgment, and arête—the skill of being good at public life. Your analysis, given in a speech, will demonstrate how you use criticism as a form of civic engagement. What you believe to be a fitting response will demonstrate that you know how to be a critic involved in public life, that you know how to do criticism that is engaged in civic matters, and that this functions in ways that are important for the good of the public.

Provide support for the arguments in your speech by drawing on what others say about the speech or about speeches like it. Include a minimum of six published sources cited orally in the speech, cited in the outline for your speech, and listed in the outline bibliography/Works Cited page. Four of the six sources must be scholarly (edited, peer-reviewed) publications. Journalistic sources, news-aggregators, and general web pages are not scholarly sources, but they can be used to provide factual information, historical background, audience characteristics and responses, or pertinent speaker biographies. The text of the speech you analyze is not a source: it is the object of your analysis. The textbook for this course is not a source: it is your guide for preparing your speech. Your instructor can be an invaluable resource in developing the perspective that you want to develop; ask your instructor for suggested scholarly readings that will help you conduct your analysis. Remember, your purpose is not merely to provide historical and biographical facts in an informative speech, but to use those facts to argue persuasively for the perspective that you are taking.

e.g President Obamas first victory speech in 2008.


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