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.
Last updated on 9/27/18
Summary of Devitt's Article
In the article, “Genre performances: John Swales' Genre Analysis and Rhetorical-Linguistic Genre Studies,” Amy J. Devitt reviewed John Swales’ article where he explained genre through the combination of rhetoric and linguistics, and added her understanding of genre performance. Devitt described how Swales demonstrated the “beauty” of genre analysis through the use of three rhetorical moves: establishing a territory through claiming centrality, establishing a niche through indicating a gap, and occupying the niche through outlining purposes (Devitt 45). She then argued that genre studies should involve the unique individual performances of the writers as well as the rhetorical strategies Swales explained. An element of genre competence suggests that the genres writers decide to choose to write may have come from their own experiences and knowledge of the genre. Another element that emphasized genre competence is genre instruction, which teaches writers the similarities and differences within each genre. However, to identify genre patterns, genre analysis should not acknowledge the differences among genres within similar discourse communities. Genre theory is strengthened as non-homogeneous discourse communities are also analyzed to develop a better understanding of the identity, affect, and cognition of genre (Devitt 48). Despite the complexity of genre theory, scholars continue to develop rhetorical-linguistic genre studies that include both competence and performance to enable writers to produce unique works and moves.
Devitt, Amy J. “Genre Performances: John Swales Genre Analysis and Rhetorical-Linguistic Genre Studies.” Journal of English for Academic Purposes, vol. 19, 25 June 2015, pp. 44-51.
Last updated: 9/13/2018