Columnist Rhetorical Précis/Response
Note on digital resources: You will need a working device for typing for most of this project. Due dates are set. Plan accordingly.
As a means of keeping informed of issues of public discourse, you will follow a national columnist in a newspaper or online. You must collect five current, preferably consecutive columns by your author. See below for links to columnists and journalistic websites where you will find the name of a specific columnist and a link to her/his work. Archives can be searched on some of the columnists’ sites, but many publications require payment for articles older than one or two weeks. Therefore, check your columnist’s web site weekly. You must have your columnist approved by me. Please submit your request via THIS FORM.
Here are links to several websites that will allow you to find a columnist suited to your interests.
Here you will find columnists categorized according to their political predisposition. Look under "conservative opinion" or "liberal opinion." Remember: you will benefit more if you engage with a columnist you are inclined to challenge.
Real Clear Politics
Links to columnists and all things political
The Drudge Report
Scroll down the home page for links to newspapers and columnists
Blue Eagle Commentary
Links to over 700 columnists
ASSIGNMENT 1: Annotate and create a one page precis/response. (You'll do this 5 times.)
Annotate each article by your columnist for the following:
- Speaker's tone and possible tone shifts
- Rhetorical strategies
- Organization and arrangement
- Aristotelian appeals (ethos, logos, pathos)
Some questions to ask yourself as you read:
- How does s/he open the column?
- How does s/he close the column?
- How soon does s/he announce the thesis?
- How does s/he organize? What are the parts or sections of the column?
- How much is based on observation? Personal experience? Interviews? Fact?
- What sort of diction characterizes the columnist?
- What sort of syntax characterizes the columnist?
- What audience does s/he assume? How do you know?
- What unstated assumptions (warrants – enthymemes) does the columnist make?
- What are the potential ramifications of the issues addressed in the column?
After annotating, type a one-page précis/response for each column.
(Don't panic; there's a template to follow below and this entire thing shouldn't be longer than one page, MLA format for each column you select.)
A rhetorical précis is a highly structured four sentence paragraph that records the essential rhetorical elements in any spoken or written discourse. The précis includes the name of the author, the context or situation in which the text is delivered, the major assertion, the mode of development the main idea, the stated and/or apparent purpose of the text, and the relationship between the author and the audience. You must objectively summarize the column accurately in your own words in the précis, but the paragraph(s) following the précis should include any questions, objections, enlightenment, and potential ramifications generated by the column and should be subjective.
FIRST PARAGRAPH: THE PRÉCIS
- The first sentence identifies the essay's author and title, provides the article's date in parentheses, uses some form of the verb "says" (claims, asserts, suggests, argues - think power verbs) followed by "that," and the essay's thesis (paraphrased or quoted directly).
EX. In "In Defense of Prejudice" (1995), Jonathan Rauch argues that prejudice in society should not be eliminated.
- The second sentence describes the author's support for the thesis, usually in chronological order.
EX. Rauch supports his position by providing historical and anecdotal evidence, culled from segments of society and his own experience, that illustrates the futility and harm associated with attempts to eliminate prejudice and noxious speech.
- The third sentence analyzes the author's purpose using an "in order to" statement.
EX. Rauch hopes to shift the paradigm away from absolutism, the idea of punitive action against racism and prejudice, in order to move society toward rejection, the idea of societal pressure when grappling with racist and prejudice attitudes and speech.
- The fourth sentence describes the essay's intended audience and the relationship the author establishes with the audience.
EX. The author uses an erudite, yet defensive tone indicating that he primarily addresses an intellectually liberal audience, and audience most likely to support her speech codes. (Use the back wall of tone words for specific descriptions and shades of tone.)
This is a subjective response expressing your reaction to the column. This can include style, substance, and ramifications. Is the columnist successful in presenting the argument? Is s/he making assumptions? Why do you agree or disagree with the columnist's position? Depending on the nature of the column, speculate on what could happen if the columnist's argument is or is not embraced by society or the specific group addressed in the column, or judge the value of the column - is the topic important or frivolous? Why?
*Remember, this is not to exceed one page in MLA format! Column annotations and your one page MLA formatted paper are to be turned in as hard copies. After you have completed all 5 responses, you will select your favorite one and upload it to your blog.
ASSIGNMENT 2: Write your own argumentative column, annotate it, and write a précis about your own writing.
After you have finished working with the five columns you selected, purposefully compose an argumentative essay of your own while synthesizing material from those columns. Based on the columns, consider:
- the issues the columnist has addressed in his/her columns
- a tangential issue you might expect your columnist to address;
- how the columnist might address your issue;
- your expectations of the columnist’s position on the issue;
- how you would respond effectively to the columnist’s position on the issue.
In addition, remember this is to be an argumentative essay, and you should therefore intentionally build tone through diction and syntax, intentionally appeal to logos and pathos, to the best of your ability establish ethos, and intentionally utilize rhetorical strategies that best convey your message to your audience based on all of the above; therefore, in addition to writing your argumentative essay, you will also be annotating and writing a précis about your own essay just as you did with your columnist's pieces. Remember, it's not enough to simply use a rhetorical device; you must use it purposefully and be able to explain its rhetorical function.
*****PLEASE REMEMBER TO COLOR CODE YOUR WRITING*****
Adapted from Mr. Gunner's The Columnist Rhetorical Précis/Response Project (Conifer High School - Conifer, CO) and copied and pasted from Dawn Weathersbee (Chapin High School -two doors down the hall)