Since middle school, students have learned to further analyze text using different methods. One of the most popular means of doing this at my middle school and even into high school was a method called “Talking to the Text” where students would would write notes in the margins about what they thought the underlying meaning of the writing was or what the author was trying to convey. Today, in college, a new method of analyzing text has been introduced to me through an article by Jack Selzer, “Rhetorical Analysis: Understanding How Text Persuades Readers.”
Right at the start of the article, Selzer says that there is no generally accepted definition of what rhetorical analysis is. So how are we supposed to understand it then? Selzer further goes on to explain how the term “rhetoric” has several different meanings whether it is defined by the general public or defined in terms of reading and writing. A good quote I found from the University of Arizona that provides a good explanation of rhetorical analysis in a common sense says that it is “identifying the particular strategies an author uses to appeal to or persuade a given audience.”
After this, Selzer goes on to explain that there are different methods of rhetorical analysis: textual analysis and contextual analysis. Textual analysis emphasizes the text of the piece rather than the context of the writing, whereas contextual analysis emphasizes context of the writing over the text it is written in. Then, to get the reader to further understand the difference between these two methods, Selzer goes in to two examples where he uses the textual analysis approach to analyze “Education” a short essay by E.B. White using the textual method, and “An Open Letter to Bill Bennett” by Milton Friedman using the contextual method. Overall, Selzer is able to show that rhetorical analysis is a blend of both of these methods and both of these techniques can be used together or apart to gain further insight into the thoughts of the author and what their thinking was behind their writing.