A very long time ago, the Ancient Greeks realized that being able to persuade others is a key to organized society. Leaders must rally others to their cause, and lawmakers much reach consensus. As one of the first democracies, this was especially paramount in ancient Greece where politicians needed to win over the hearts and minds of their constituents to be elected. The ancient Greeks realized the vast power of rhetoric in civic life. They recognized that rhetoric had the power to bring people together and the power to drive them apart. They realized that rhetoric could appeal to noble human feelings like empathy and logic, but also to base human feelings like anger and prejudice. In so, some ancient Greeks decried the teachers of rhetoric as immoral magicians who cast spells over their audiences. Other Greek thinkers, however, refrained from moral judgement of the persuasive arts and sought only to better describe how people are persuaded. Aristotle was one of those thinkers. The basic categories that Aristotle used to break down the elements of persuasion still apply today. They are as discussed by modern rhetors as they were in Ancient Greece. You will write a short (2-3 page double-spaced) Aristotelian rhetorical analysis of a political ad of your choice. Below is a link with good archives (or you may find the ad anywhere on the internet as long as you can provide a link): http://pcl.stanford.edu/campaigns/
Introduction: Context of the Ad Before we break down an ad, we need to know its rhetorical situation. This may be a discussion of what was going on at the time the ad was made, who the target audience is, and anything else that isn’t in the ad itself that might be important to know. Your thesis will likely be at the end of your introduction. Your thesis is your main claim about what rhetorical strategies the ad uses and why. The basic pattern of the thesis will be something like: The (name of your ad) advertisement uses (these rhetorical strategies) to achieve (this desired goal). For example, with the ad, “Fine?”, my thesis might be: “The political advertisement “Fine?” paints President Obama as callous and out of touch by setting up a sound bite where he says, “the private sector is doing fine” and then using stylized testimonials to disprove the idea with a series of tales of personal woe from average people.”
Body Paragraphs Because this is an analysis paper, your body paragraphs will focus on the two basic elements of analysis—breaking down, and putting back together. You may cover all three terms (Ethos, Pathos, or Logos) or you can focus on only one or two if that is where the rhetorical strategies of the advertisement are the most apparent. Each body paragraph should prove a point with observations, inferences, and explanation. The length and number of body paragraphs is up to your discretion. Because we have three terms and the standard five paragraph essay has three body paragraphs, some students choose to have a body paragraph for each of the appeals (ethos, pathos, logos), but you do not have to organize your paper in that way. Conclusion Summarize the main analysis of the paper. The conclusion is a place where you may also need to do more of the “putting it back together” part of your analysis. Your paper should stay focused on impartial analysis through most of the paper, but in the conclusion there is room for some judgement on the ethical implications of the argument or its overall rhetorical effectiveness.