Assignment 1: Rhetorical Analysis of a Film/Documentary
Proposal: July 6
Rough Draft: July 9
Final Draft: July 10
Purpose: A rhetorical analysis examines and explains how an author attempts to influence an audience. That is, rhetorical analyses use specific evidence from the text to establish a generalization (thesis) about the text’s rhetoric (in short, how it persuades its audience by employing the rhetorical appeals, using good reasons, constituting a fitting response, and using the available means to reach an audience). As you plan and draft your analysis, think of a specific publication that your analysis could be featured in—but in any event, have in mind a particular way of reaching your audience as you write.
Directions: Find a documentary/film that you deem to be interesting and that features issues related to the economy, poverty, gender and income distribution, class, or any other issue that you believe relates to American or global economic issues and policies in an important way. By “interesting,” I mean that the film in question should have some sophistication about it: it should be tantalizing and potentially effective at reaching its audience. (There is no point in analyzing the obvious; pick something that makes an interesting argument that viewers might be resistant to.) No two students can choose the same film. Your analysis should not simply paraphrase or summarize the film. Assume you are writing for an audience that has already seen the film. Your purpose is to provide a way of understanding how the film persuades its audience. There are a number of ways to approach writing this essay, however I recommend that you watch the whole film and then choose a scene (or a few) that you feel captures the most important aspects of the film. Remember, due to the length restrictions of the paper, you don’t have time to discuss everything so must be strategically selective about which parts you choose to write about. No matter what you choose, you will have to have your choice approved along with your proposal for this essay. So….
Step 1. Choose a film. I have a list provided below but you may choose something else if you want. You will submit your top four choices (ranked) in a proposal where you will briefly describe your working thesis and how you might approach analyzing the film. I will then either approve your proposal or provide you with recommendations to improve it.
Step 2. Introduce the film and identify its basic claim/thesis.
Step 3. Then write an analysis that will help your readers understand how the film works to persuade its audience. Consider what type of argument it presents and how it goes about creating that argument (Rhetorical theory!!) How does the film utilize music, set design, camera angles, etc. as tools to further develop a claim/thesis.
Step 4. Arrange the body of your paper so that the readers move through it in an orderly way.
Step 5. Throughout the body of your paper, use specific examples from your chosen film to support your claims.
Step 6. Conclude by making a judgment about the film’s rhetorical effectiveness.
Invention: These questions may help you as you plan and draft your analysis: See Everythings an Argument Ch. 6, “Composing a Rhetorical Analysis” pp. 92-93). These questions are not meant to provide an outline for the paper; rather, they simply help you to think about the rhetorical aspects of the film.
Length: A well-developed rhetorical analysis will be between five and six, doubled-spaced pages.
Here is a list of possible options:
I recommend choosing something from the first 28 selections. There are many documentaries on Penn State’s Streaming Service that are free to view. Here is a list of possible selections: http://pennstate.kanopystreaming.com/node/81422\.
- Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood- 2008
- The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Do Not Need- 2004
- In Debt We Trust: America Before the Bubble Bursts- 2006
- Consumerism & the Limits to Imagination- 2014
- Money for Nothing: Behind the Business of Pop Music- 2001
- The New Economics 101- 2013
- Default – The Student Loan Documentary- 2012
- The Diamond Empire- 2004
- Open Sesame: The Story of Seeds- 2014
- Cola Conquest 2: How Coca-Cola Took Over the World- 2008
- The War Around Us- 2013
- Unnatural Causes- 2008
- Blood and Oil: The Dangers & Consequences of America’s Growing Dependence on Foreign Petroleum- 2008
- Blind Spot: Peak Oil & The Coming Global Crisis- 2009
- The Next American Revolution- 2013
- Occupation 101: Voices of the Silenced Majority- 2013
- Protection: Masculinity & Condom Use in Sub-Saharan Africa- 2013
- No Logo: Brands Globalization Resistance- 2003
- Advertising and The End of The World- 1997
- The Billionaires’ Tea Party: How Corporate America is Faking a Grassroots Revolution- 2011
- Big Bucks, Big Pharma: Marketing Disease and Pushing Drugs- 2006
- Behind the Screens: Hollywood Goes Hypercommercial- 2000
- Shop ‘Til You Drop – The Crisis of Consumerism- 2010
- #ReGENERATION- 2012
- Plunder – The Crime of our Time- 2010
- Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of the American Empire- 2006
- People Like Us – Social Class in America- 1999
- Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney, Childhood & Corporate Power- 2001
- The Grapes of Wrath- 1940
- Killer of Sheep- 1977
- Coal Miner’s Daughter- 1980
- Trading Places- 1983
- Good Will Hunting- 1997
- Titanic- 1997
- The Pursuit of Happiness- 2006
- Slumdog Millionaire- 2008
- Precious- 2009
- Wall Street- 1987
- Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps- 2010
- Wolf of Wall Street- 2013
- Working Girl- 1988
- Capitalism: A Love Story- 2009
- Scarface- 1983
- New Jack City- 1991
- Do the Right Thing- 1989
- Bamboozled- 2000
- Dead Presidents- 1995
- The Women of Brewster Place- 1989
- Beasts of the Southern Wild- 2012
- Imitation of Life- 1959
- American Gangster- 2007
- 12 Years a Slave- 2013
- Set It Off- 1996
- A Raisin in the Sun- 1959
- Coming to America- 1988
- Erin Brockovich- 2000
These links include lists of both documentaries and fictional films