Summary of the Article
In the first chapter of the book, “Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and Practice,” Sonja Foss introduced rhetoric and its purpose. Foss described rhetoric as the human use of symbols to communicate and broke the definition down to three primary dimensions: humans as the creators, symbols as the medium, and communication as the purpose (4). Although animals such as chimpanzees and gorillas can communicate using signs, humans are the only animals to use them rhetorically as symbols. This makes humans, to our knowledge, the only creators of rhetoric. Signs are directly related to the object they represented, whereas symbols are indirectly related to the convention they represented. Humans invented the symbols and are the only ones who can understand the connection between the symbol and its meaning (Foss 4). Foss claimed communication in rhetoric is used to persuade the audience to change or act in some way (5).
The act of analyzing and explaining the purpose for the symbolic acts and artifacts found in a work of rhetoric is rhetorical criticism, which also includes three primary dimensions: systematic analysis as the act, acts and artifacts as the objects, and understanding rhetorical processes as the purpose (Foss 6). Systematic analysis allows us to analyze the rhetoric work to understand the symbolism the writer used to communicate. The acts and artifacts are materials used for an intended audience that may be accessible to a wider audience through websites, books, etc. To be able to have a deepened appreciation of rhetoric, one must understand the writers’ uses of symbols and artifacts to communicate to their audience and serve useful purposes (Foss 7).
Foss, Sonja. “The Nature of Rhetorical Criticism.” Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and Practice. Waveland Press, 2004, pp. 1-9.