Epideictic rhetoric

Description This essay will be the first major writing assignment of the semester. You will compose a piece of epideictic rhetoric, praising or blaming a person. That person can be anyone—family member or friend, living or dead, famous or relatively unknown. You will probably find it easier to write an essay that praises your subject rather than blames him/her, but you are free to write a paper that does either. Just bear in mind that rhetoric that blames a person can make the speaker’s/writer’s ethos (“credibility”) more difficult to establish. For this first essay, adopt a non-academic style that you would expect to hear from a speaker delivering a speech. Speeches generally are not read verbatim, so your essay should “read” with the kind of ease that one expects in spoken discourse. The style of your rhetoric is, of course, going to be more inclined toward pathos than logos, stirring your audience to a new degree of feeling for/against your subject. Seek to inspire deep feeling in your audience, but bear in mind that too much pathos, or unwarranted appeals to pathos, can have the opposite effect. Audiences know when the emotion is cheap. When drafting this essay, keep in mind that praiseworthy or blameworthy deeds are those for which one is responsible. In other words, you cannot praise or blame someone for circumstances or experiences beyond their control. Was this person a victim? Victimization can free one from guilt, but a victim’s suffering is not necessarily praiseworthy. Was this person endowed with an exceptional nature (physical endowment, uncanny talent) at birth? Giftedness is not deserving of praise; neither is its absence deserving of blame. Did this person have advantages we might associate with time or place (born into wealth, lived at opportune moment)? Good or bad fortune, by definition, are not within one’s control. Your paper should focus on those things that we would consider to be the result of one’s free choice, for only free people can exhibit virtue or vice. Finally, highlight the deeds or acts of the person being praised/blamed. Try not to speak directly of the person’s character if it can be spoken of indirectly; instead, speak of the acts and deeds that embody the person’s character. Occasionally you will have to name or to make explicit a virtue/vice, but try to do that as little as possible. The rough draft of your essay is due on Wednesday, February 13th. This should be a full length paper and uploaded to MyCampus by 5 pm. On Friday, February 15th please bring a printed copy of your rough draft to class for an in class peer editing workshop. The rough draft needs to be a full-length paper that elucidates the virtues/vices of your chosen subject. At least one secondary source—that is, a source other than yourself—must be cited on that initial draft. The source does not need to be scholarly or critical; a newspaper obituary, a phone “interview” with a family member, or any other source will suffice. Citation of the source is required, but any clear identification of that source will be acceptable for this rough draft. Simply describe, at the bottom of your essay’s final page, the source that you consulted (e.g. a book, article, obituary, interview,or yourself).

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