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Rhetorical Situations and Their Constituents?

September 29, 2011

I will be honest, i am not very sure what this guy is talking about.  However, i did pick up on the first page that he said “My purpose in this essay is to review the original definitions of the term and its constituents, and to offer a more thoroughly developed scheme for analyzing rhetorical situations. (264)”  This is his thesis i guess one could say, at least it seems to be.

I was interested by Bitzer’s 3 constituents, the “exigence, audience, and constraints.”(265)

All of the bullets refer to the sentence above.

  • Exigence – “the rhetor’s sense that a situation both calls for discourse and might be resolved by discourse.”(266)

“Rhetors are as much constituents of their rhetorical situations as are their audiences.”

  • Audience – “Audience as a rhetorical concept has transcended the idea of a homogenous body of people who have stable characteristics and are assembled in the rhetor’s presence.”(270)
  • The audience has to be real people, I thought that was humorous, although I do not think it was meant to be. (271)

Rhetorical situations are not limited to writing, there are “writing situations”, and “reading situations”, are not normally taught.  These “reading situations” might “have their own exigences, roles, and constraints” as well. (272)

  • Constraints – “persons, events, objects, and relations which are parts of the situation because they have the power to constrain decisions and action needed to modify the exigence.”(272)
The rhetor has to harness them “so as to constrain the audience” (272)
^harness the constraints, that is.
Constraints are all the factors except for the rhetor and the audience.  The constraints can make the audience feel “more or less sympathetic to the discourse.” (273)
Constraints could be a person’s religious beliefs, if the person is in hard financial times, etc.  This effects how he/she will take in information, and react.
I found the exigence and constraints issue/debate regarding the sign to be very interesting.  What is more powerful, the law, the protest, the private property owner’s rights, the owner’s income?  This was described as a “compound situation”.  In the end the sign was simply lowered ten feet. (276-277)
Finally, he concludes saying, “Teaching student writers and readers to ask the same questions, and to understand why they are asking them, will help them realize their options, choose rhetorical strategies and stances for good reasons, and begin to understand each other’s roles.”(277)

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