Rhetorical analysis is one mode of assessing all sorts of texts from speeches to advertisements to films and novels.
When we do rhetorical analysis, we are specifically assessing how language is used to achieve a goal. That goal can be persuasive, as in the case of an advertisement. Or the goal can be more artistically oriented, as in a poem.
As a study of strategic uses of language, rhetoric overlaps considerably with semiotics studies and cultural critical theory.
In all of these areas, we are looking at…
…how texts communicate (strategically, intentionally, overtly and subliminally)
…how meaning is developed
…how argument (persuasion and influence) can function on various levels
|the strategic use of language and/or the study of the strategic use of language|
In short then, rhetorical analysis takes a diagnostic approach to analyzing texts, identifying and assessing the specific strategies used within a text to achieve a certain goal.
Applications of Rhetorical Analysis
Applying a rhetorical lens in an academic setting, we will often look at the persuasive strategies embedded in the language and signification choices of advertisements.
Analyzing Political Speech
Another common application for rhetorical analysis in the classroom is political speech.
This is actually an area where rhetorical analysis is applied outside of the classroom too. Pundits and regular people alike will analyze and comment on the tactics used by politicians to win a debate and win a vote.