Em’s Cover Letter

image representing writing

Dear Friend,

Thank you for a truly interesting, fun, and educational semester. I entered the class, happy to be around classmates I know and enjoy being around. I still, of course, enjoy being around these people, and I’m sad to see the seniors go. I’ve grown with these people as a critical thinker, reader, and writer. 

Before Rhetoric in Writing, I had some background of the subject. I read “Thank You for Arguing” in one of my high school English classes and we discussed the basics: the rhetoric triangle, logical fallacies, and how to write stylistically for different genres. In my high school Global Perspectives class, part of the exam was researching the credibility of certain documents (websites, papers, etc) which I found similar to part of our Rhetorical Analysis of the News assignment. 

But I’ve built on this knowledge greatly. “In informal conversations, [I am] able to discuss the origins and history of rhetoric, then make connections and distinctions between those origins and modern popular assumptions about its use.” I do this mainly in Plato and Lincoln Use Google and The King’s Speech

During class, we discussed several aspects which make up rhetoric. Many of these aspects, like Plato’s stance on literacy and rhetorical canons, were established long ago but can still be applied today. Plato claimed that literacy and writing will “kill our memories.” In some ways he’s right. I explained in my analysis of the meme assignment that “memory is not necessary with regards to memes as most information is so accessible. However, the ability to research and find this information is an important skill.” So in my meme assignment, the new rhetorical canon becomes “research,” based on our modern technology. I didn’t have to memorize anything, but I did have to know where to look for my meme format and for an example of slurs being used as a “joke” to support my claim.

My meme itself demonstrated a historical understanding of a specific form of rhetoric and its modern implications. I explained that certain words are considered slurs because their rhetorical purpose is to historically “provoke violence and the degradation of others.” So when someone uses those words today, it often has the same effect: “wanting to use insensitive rhetoric to express freedom of speech (if that is truly the intention) does not fulfill this intention but instead often just associates one with bigoted people.” So, even if some claim this specific rhetoric is used lightly or jokingly, hate speech has the same connotations it did years ago. Additionally, my reply to that homework post showed the aforementioned course outcome. I discuss the five canons, how they each have a modern application, and how I personally applied them. For example, the “style” of a modern argument could be “meme format,” or even a specific meme format. In my post, “I wanted to convey something controversial yet truthful, hence “hard to swallow pills,’” a meme format used for that specific purpose.

In “King’s,” I analyzed the differences between the historical and modern reception the Gettysburg Address received. I explain the rhetorical purpose of the speech, to redefine the Civil War as not “just about the Union or the U.S. economy, but about human rights.” Then I explain that, at the time, there were mixed reviews as some didn’t think human rights were relevant to the Civil War (although others did and thought equal human rights were important) and that the constitution didn’t prohibit slavery. I compared that reception to modern reception. The arguments to agree are the same, but disagreeing differs slightly in that some believe we have already reached racial equality. On that note, how does one even begin to argue that we have? Please tell me. Which student actually believes this? I just want to have a talk with them…

I completed the second course outcome as well. Given a variety of texts in print, visual, and aural formats, I am able to define, explain, and identify rhetorical devices and logical fallacies used in those texts. I was specifically able to do this with a rhetorical analysis of a video ad and a reddit post. I believe I improved with each one as well. I re-read my “advertising fallacies” assignment and I think I did a pretty good job of explaining each rhetorical canon and its application. For example, I explain that the arrangement of the ad’s elements makes it more convincing. The dental hygienist in the ad seems to really care about her patients, the “audience sees how empathetic the dental hygienist is, making her a likable character in this ad,” so Crest relies on this narrative to tell you they also like dentists: you now agree with Crest and it’s more likely you’ll buy their product. In that sense, it’s mainly an appeal to emotion, or pathos. In a reddit post, I identify the logical fallacy “reductio ad absurdum,” when the original poster compares gender to leprechauns. At the time, I explained why it was reductio ad absurdum, but I didn’t explain how it works. Essentially, it’s a distraction from the actual argument. Not only does “feeling like a leprechaun” (because they don’t exist) make the argument of feeling like *insert gender here* seem ridiculous, but using that fallacy makes the argument about the difference between leprechauns and gender instead of about the poster’s transphobia. With that said, I believe those assignments show my understanding of rhetorical devices and logical fallacies: I’m able to define, explain, and identify them. But the next course outcome I completed shows that I know how they work toward a piece’s specific rhetorical purpose or goal.

I completed the third outcome later in the semester, so I think my rhetorical analysis was a little more complete. Given a modern text, I am able to employ the Aristotelian triangle and other academic/theoretical tools to produce a rhetorical analysis of the text. In my rhetorical analysis of NPR news, I was to use my understanding of the rhetorical devices learned so far. I treated this assignment a lot like the literary analyses I’ve done in the past: I read the article, asked myself how I felt about the issue it was discussing, and then sought out why I felt that way (word choice? Choice of interviewees?). I identified the use of specific language, logical fallacies, and specific people for a specific purpose: to convince readers re-opening the country was a very bad idea. I explained that calling it the coronavirus “disaster” utilized pathos; people begin reading the article with fear of the coronavirus. NPR also used several appeals to authority including the opinion of governors on the process of re-opening the country. I also identified NPR’s audience, mainly liberal-minded people, and explained that using Trump often was thus an appeal to his negative reputation, his ethos. This analysis also showed that, although NPR is balanced, it is still bias and actively uses rhetorical devices to convince readers of said bias. It honestly showed me just how effective rhetoric can be if its use is not obvious. As a side note, I also took your suggestion to delete the last paragraph- if I don’t take my own analysis seriously, why should anyone else?

I completed the fourth outcome with two major assignments. Given examples of rhetoric (successful or not) in various genres and modalities, I am able to emulate the effective rhetorical elements of that example when creating a similar example of your own. I think this course outcome is best exemplified by “Remix Yourself” and “Two Sides, Same Coin.”

When I “remixed myself,” I took my original analysis of a novel and, given a genre of rhetoric, I was able to re-write my analysis in that form. In my original anaylis, my audience had read the book, so it wasn’t neccessary for me to identify it, but on Tumblr.com, Breath, Eyes, Memory isn’t a well-know piece of literature so I had to explain what book the character I discussed came from. The expectations of these audiences also differ. My professor expects quotes and page citations for proof of my claims, Tumblr couldn’t care less. So while I had examples to back up my claims, whether those examples were accurate (or even existed) doesn’t matter in my remix. A post with excessive academic quality probably wouldn’t due well on Tumblr: it’d be deemed boring and/or difficult to grasp. So essentially, I was able to look at a Tumblr post that used the “In the essay I will…” meme (my genre) and I was able to emulate elements of that genre so it would be more appealing for my new audience. At this point, I think I should address your comment. I believe the word “trope” is understood, especially in the context of “bury your gays.” Most of Tumblr consists of posts that either discuss media or are fan-fiction of that media. Additionally, a lot of LGBTQ+ folks use the app and there’s a bit of an obsession with everything being extremely “woke.” Essentially, “bury your gays” is something they notice and are upset about.

For “Two Sides,” I similarly looked at (two, in this case) sources before rhetorically emulating those sources and then, as the third course outcomes expects, analyzing those sources. In my rhetorical analysis of the Forbes article for the women’s soccer team equal pay debate, I was sure to include phrases like “pushing the liberal agenda” as this phrase frequently appears on Breitbart articles. Liberal-leaning bias is also something Breitbart readers care about. I also emphasized the points that the Breitbart article I analyzed does like Carli Lloyed admitting that “men are ‘faster and stronger’ than women.” For the second article analysis, written for Forbes about Breitbart, I emphasized the economic aspect of the Breitbart article as Forbes is a business news source. For example, I explain that the Breitbart article removes context for financial information (thus committing the logical fallacy “ambiguity”) and that both payment plans offered to the women “left them with less money than the men’s team.” So, again, I identified what my audience (Forbes’ audience) cares about (money and business) and used that to make my point about the rhetorical strategies used by Breitbart. By discussing topics my audience cares about, I build a stronger ethos: my article “belongs” there so I know what I’m talking about.

I took the fourth course outcome a step further to complete the fifth. When working with any writing technology, I am able to find, use, and explain multiple features unique to that particular platform or modality which help your writing have the right effect on a specific audience. I believe my PSAs fit this course outcome. I was able to analyze my audiences for each PSA as well as what effects each platform may have on my audience. I used two different “writing technologies,” a video and a flyer, to convince my audiences to recycle and/or reuse on campus. I need my audience to stop and look at my PSA first, before they read or register any of the information. I think my flyer is attention-grabbing  with the “STOP” and visibly pleasing as it isn’t too busy or chaotic. I include a rhetorical question to get my audience to think about their actions and focus only on the reusable Benedict’s cup, as the flyer would be placed inside Benedict’s. I also incorporate the Saint Leo core value of “responsible stewardship” and the beauty of the campus (what Leo is often complimented on) so that my audience (people associated with Saint Leo) feel obligated to fulfill what my flyer asks of them, assuming they want to uphold the university’s standards. I used my video to expand on these values: a video on social media has a broader reach so the content is not just Benedict’s-related. It still needed to be short as I am competing with other social media posts. Within my video, I used the word “you” in order to emphasize personal responsibility as I think my audience doesn’t analyze the weight of their individual actions and thus feels little motivation to reuse or recycle. In this way, I recognized my audience’s expectations and desires as well as the expectations of the platforms I used in order to create an effective message.

I completed the sixth and last course outcome through creating blog posts with the use of creative commons photos. When creating material, I am able to locate, incorporate, and give credit for media you are legally able to re-use or remix. I believe this applies to the use of photos in our blog posts and “re-using” or “re-mixing” means using certain photos not for their original intended purpose. I think I did this in pretty much all blog posts. So, for example, I used this photo of a girl with “equality” written over her fingers. I used it to represent racial equality, whereas the poster’s intention was for her LGBT friends. In the photo’s caption, I credited the poster with their username on flickr.

So, with all that said, thank you again for a great semester. I’ve definitely enriched my understanding of rhetoric and I have every desire to keep learning. Have a great summer and stay healthy (maybe Ms. Rona will leave if you convince her with your rhetorical finesse?)

Sincerely,

Em Miller

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