Up A Quiz for Chapter 6 Rhetoric Checksheet


Chapter 6:  Conducting Textual Analysis

Chapter Outline



I.  Analysis of Message Qualities

nomothetic research:  studies designed
to find general laws that apply to many instances

idiographic research:  studies designed
to develop a full understanding of a particular event or individual

     A.  What Are the Data in Textual Analysis?

text:  the actual messages or words of
a communicator

     B.  When Do We Complete Textual Criticism?

            --problem questions inviting qualitative/critical methods:

               characteristics of the message that contributed to its level of
               effectiveness;  reasons for the impact of the message; whether
               the message measures up to standards of excellence; testing
               the usefulness of explanation from rhetorical theory; examining
               meanings as revealed through rhetorical visions held by groups

            --problem questions inviting discourse or conversational
               analysis: questions about t
he “description and explication of
               the competencies that ordinary speakers use and rely on in
               participating in intelligible, socially organized interaction;
               examinations of influences of technology and external forces on
               communication; comparisons of strategic uses of conversational
               elements to achieve certain effects; comparisons of
               conversations in specific settings to general communication
               encounters; examinations of new interventions on the discourse
               activities of groups of people.


II.  Critical Studies of Texts

rhetorical criticism:  the use of standards of excellence to interpret and evaluate communication

--rhetoric:  according to Aristotle, “the
  faculty of discovering in the particular
  case what are the available means of

extrinsic criticism in rhetorical criticism, evaluation of aspects beyond the text of a message, focusing predominately on assessing textual authenticity, authorship, settings, and message effects.

  1. Textual Authenticity

--Analysis is pointless without the actual texts and any critical comments may be seriously flawed. Otherwise, critics may. 
accuse speakers of saying things and taking positions that—examination of the texts themselves—are not accurately
reported. This condition is an example of the logical fallacy


known as attacking a “straw man.”

straw man fallacy attacking of a
person for a position that was not
actually taken by the person.

1.  Sources of textual corruption:

a.   Speakers, especially presidents and significant public speakers, may deviate from advance copies that are distributed before a message is delivered.

b.   People who are supposed to record the messages may let their biases or expectations interfere with reporting
accurately what was said by

c.   Memorial editions of messages may revise works to improve on the original


d.   Efforts to improve readability may cause editors and reporters to “improve” on the original text.

e.   Permitting sources to revise their remarks often introduces errors.

2.  Methods to determine textual


a.   Comparing the available text to the original, if the original is available

b.   Comparisons may be made of the available version against recordings, if a recording is available.


c.   Conjectural emendation based on comparisons of all texts may be used.        

conjectural emendation: when attempting to assess textual authenticity, a method in which researchers with different available versions of texts make arguments to explain which of the competing textual alternatives is most reasonable and, thus, should be accepted.

  1. Authorship

--Importance of determining authorship:

The issue is fundamental: if you want to evaluate whether the communicator chose wisely from the methods available, you need to identify the author who is
responsible so that you can know what universe of methods was available.

--General pathways to find clues to authorship of message:
1.   External reports.
2.   Comparisons with other  communication.


C.  Criticism

--steps of criticism: (1) standards of excellence are presented; (2) data are described and applied against standards; (3) the degree to which the data meet or fall short of the standards is described

criticism: message evaluation in which standards of are announced and the degree of conformity of the message to the standards determined the evaluation made

impressionistic criticism: statements of opinion (or personal impression) made by reviewers

1.   Neo-Aristotelian Criticism      neo-Aristotelian criticism:  criticism

                  --applications of the canons of rhetoric using Aristotle’s
                     standards of excellence


neo-Aristotelian criticism:  criticism making a new use of Aristotelian standards


invention:  the types and sources of ideas


ethos: sometimes called “ethical appeal,” an element of the canon of invention (artistic proofs) referring to the speaker’s credibility.


pathos:  sometimes called “pathetic appeals,” an element of the canon of invention (artistic proofs) referring to the use of emotional or motivational appeals.


logos:  the artistic proofs in the canon of invention dealing with the use of
rational appeals.

·  Arrangement

arrangementthe canon of rhetoric concerning the organization of ideas

·  Style

style:  the canon of rhetoric concerning the use of language

·  Delivery

delivery: the canon of rhetoric concerning the use of voice and gesture.

--limitation:  the method may be difficult to apply to messages relying chiefly on extralogical strategies


  D.  Burke's Dramatistic Criticism 

--By creating a sense of identification, communication creates a sense of “oneness” between speakers and audiences. If you identify with another person, you accept that person’s words because they almost seem to be your own thoughts. Thus, Burke explained,
“Wherever there is persuasion, there is rhetoric. And wherever there is ‘meaning’ there is ‘persuasion’” (1950/1969, p. 172).

--dramatistic pentad

identification:  the uniting of people by use of shared ideas, images, and attitudes

·  Act

act:  the symbolic action (the speech, for instance) that actually is exchanged

·  Scene

scene:  the setting in which the act takes place

·  Agent

agent:  the communicator who performs the act

·  Agency

agency:  the symbolic and linguistic strategies used to secure identification

·  Purpose

purpose:  the intention of the communicator

--limitations:  messages are judged largely

   based on their effects;  may be difficult to replicate


E.  Fisher’s Narrative Paradigm

--Fisher defines narrative very broadly. Sometimes the stories are about one’s own life, and sometimes they are about others’ lives.

   --Not all experiences and stories are as compelling as others.
  Hence, Fisher suggested some standards by which critics can
  evaluate the stories people use:

narrative paradigm: an approach to criticism that analyzes messages by looking at them as stories.

1.   probability

probability:  stories that appear to be likely

2.   narrative fidelity

narrative fidelity:  the consistency of new accounts with other stories people  have heard

--limitations: the definition of narrative is so broad that it includes virtually anything people say (Rowland, 1987); though the narrative paradigm applies to most examples of communication, the narrative paradigm may not apply to all communication, especially messages that do not attempt to share stories and examples.

F.  Fantasy Theme Analysis


--Rather than evaluating whether a piece of communication is good or bad, sound or unsound, or worthy or unworthy, fantasy theme analysis attempts to find out how groups of people must view the world, given the sorts of things that they say and find persuasive

1.   Steps:

a.   collect samples of messages

b.   sift messages to find recurring phrases, themes, or strategies

c.   label fantasy themes that indicate the “rhetorical visions” held by the collective mind of the group of who use them

fantasy theme analysis:  a method of analyzing collections of communication to determine underlying world view that people hold, judging by the messages that they use and find persuasive

fantasy: “a story about people, real or fictitious, in a dramatic situation or setting other than the here-and-now communication of the group” (Bormann, 1993, p. 365)

rhetorical vision: “a representation of the

the collective consciousness of the participants in the interaction and is a product of the community’s fantasies” (Alemán, 2005, p. 9).

2.   Advantages:

a    the method is particularly useful for the analysis of groups and social movements.

b.   the method “gives the critic the ability to look at a message from within the group and see it from their perspective aside from any other existing views.”

3.   Disadvantages:

a    fantasy theme analysis does not really draw conclusions about the quality of communication in particular messages.

b.   the method cannot be applied to small numbers of cases or to single messages.

c.   most fantasy theme analysts attempt to abstract fantasy themes, but they do not search for negative cases that would cause them to reject the conclusions they wish to draw.

G.  The Never Ending Development of Methods


--mythic perspective

mythic perspective:  criticism by examination of the underlying stories to which speakers appeal (myth: “a story about a particular incident which is put forward as containing or suggesting some general truth” [Sykes, 1970, p. 17])

--comparisons with religious models

--creative analogies (such as: comparisons with other forms of performance; forms of theatre)

--combination of rhetorical analysis with other methods (such as: combinations with case studies; focus groups)

--creative methods may develop theory

III. Applications of Textual Analysis


A.  Conversational Analysis  

--original work attempted to identify rules of conversation from transcripts of message exchanges.

--conversational analysts find it valuable to look for unwritten rules that make communication flow without anyone’s noticing.

--For conversational analysts, there are normative rules that are expected to be observed. If these rules are not followed, the
conversation may suffer interactional  difficulties (such as when the communicator is unintelligible), or implicational difficulties (such as when the speaker’s words imply something not contained in the words alone).

1.   Assumptions of conversational analysis

(Gubrium & Holstein, 2000, p. 492):

a.   Interaction is sequentially organized, and talk can be analyzed in terms of the process of social interaction rather than in terms of motives or societal status.

b.   Talk, as a process of social interaction, is contextually oriented—it is both shaped by interaction and creates the social context of that interaction.

c.   These processes are involved in all social interactions, so no interactive details are irrelevant to understanding it.

2.   Conversational analysis elements:

conversational analysis: textual analysis that attempts to identify “turns” taken by people during exchanges.

a.  Conversational analysis identifies “turns” taken by people during the exchange. The utterance is the chief message unit of analysis.

utterance: in conversational analysis, what a person actually says in conversation

b.   The adjacency pair is a conversation unit that conversational analysts examine to explore turn-taking behavior.


adjacency pair: in conversational analysis, a pair of utterances in which the latter element is supposed to be related to the previous element.
dispreferred response: in conversational analysis, a response not consistent with the first part of a common adjacency pair.

c.   examination of sequences

sequence: in conversational analysis, “a unit of conversation that consists of two or more adjacent and functionally related turns” (LinguaLinks Library, 2004, ¶ 1).

3.   Steps in conversational analysis:

a.   obtain materials for analysis;

b.   prepare the transcription;

c.   complete the analysis;

d.   interpret turn taking.


B.  Discourse Analysis

discourse analysis: considerations of naturally occurring messages to
examine “sequential and hierarchical
organization, system and structure”

using methods that are fairly “standard in phonology and linguistics” (Stubbs, 1981, p. 107).

1.   Steps in discourse analysis: (Potter, 2003, pp. 84–85):

a.   search for a pattern;

b.   consider next turns;

c.   focus on distant cases;

d.   focus on other kind of material.

            2.   Focus

--Ultimately, the accumulation of research from different discourse analyses lets researchers make a case for the coherence of results (Potter, 2003, p. 86)

            3.   Limitations of conversational and discourse analyses:

a.   conversational and discourse analyses draw conclusions from examples, though the examples may not be typical and may not show what occurs in communication generally.

b.   Methods for interpreting the conversation/discourse may be so
personal that it may be difficult to replicate many such analyses.

      c.   Much research from this tradition has produced such
         microscopic information about communication that conclusions
        often seem to be simple relabeling rather than explanations.