Rhetorical Analysis

 The purpose of this essay is to analyze and evaluate a written argument for its rhetorical effectiveness. For this essay, you will analyze one of the following readings: Seneca’s “Liberal and Vocational Studies,” “Learning to Read” by Frederick Douglass, Martha Nussbaum’s “Not for Profit” or David Foster Wallace’s “Kenyan Commencement Speech” (not Moore’s “Idiot Nation”).


Analyze the rhetorical effectiveness of the writer’s argument using the critical reading strategies and rhetorical terminology we’ve used in class. For example, your essay could examine the writer’s attempt to build credibility with the audience, the ways in which the writer appeals to the audience’s emotions or reason, the structure of the argument, or the evidence used. What aspects of the text are successful? What aspects of the text are less successful? Why? Your analysis of the text should be clear, pointed, and organized.


  • Have a clear purpose.
  • Clearly state the issue.
  • Present a clear, specific, arguable thesis.
  • Support your thesis with well-paragraphed evidence and rhetorical analysis.
  • Use effective, relevant quotes as evidence to support your thesis.
  • Demonstrate awareness of audience through appropriate academic tone.
  • Present focused, well-developed body paragraphs relevant to the thesis.
  • Quote, summarize, and paraphrase the argument as necessary.
  • Use MLA format/in-text citations.
  • Articulate your ideas with clarity at the sentence and paragraph levels.
  • Write an essay free of errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics.

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