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Understanding Rhetorical Situations

October 27, 2015

In our reading for this week, Keith Grant-Davie defines a rhetorical situation as any set of circumstances that is motivated by the need to communicate. The resulting communication might be aimed at “changing reality” or affecting the perception of others about a certain issue—or it might simply involve persuading an audience about a particular point.

Grant-Davie identifies four components that make up any rhetorical situation:

  • Exigence, or the motivating factors that create the need for communication.
  • Rhetor(s), or the agents who are responsible for creating and delivering the communication
  • Audience, or the people who receive the communication, and
  • Constraints, or the conditions that limit or shape the communication.

To explore these concepts, I’d like us to consider a particular rhetorical situation that has been in the news over the past year. Bruce Jenner, a past Olympic athlete and current popular culture figure, announced that he now identifies as a transgender bruce-jenner-caitlyn-jenner.pngwoman. Caitlyn Jenner debuted her new identity in a highly publicized interview and photo shoot for Vanity Fair magazine over the past summer.

For class on Tuesday, we’ll think about how we might understand Jenner’s announcement as a distinct rhetorical situation. As a prompt for our thinking, you might consider visiting the following web sites:

The Vanity Fair interview and photo shoot:

Caitlyn Jenner’s web site:

How might we understand Jenner’s act of communication in terms of the exigence, rhetor(s), audience, and constraints of the situation?

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