Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Rhetorical Situation

It seems that the definition of the rhetorical situation is as fluid and contested as the definition of rhetoric (which makes sense). The problem for me, then, is that of the three definitions that we read for tonight all of them make sense in one way or another. They also have their faults, but there are bits an pieces of each definition that I feel have some merit. For instance, Vatz brings up Bitzer's example of the assassination of President Kennedy to argue against the idea "that the situation 'controlled' the response" (160). When it comes to this particular example I can agree with Vatz on the idea that the media, administration, and anyone else that discussed the event made a choice to do so. He is correct in his notion that the rotunda speeches given were needed to calm the public because the perception of the threat of an instable government had been a creation of rhetoric and not an actual actual threat (unfortunately, our government is all too ready to deal with people killing our leaders). Even his suggestion that the use of the term assassination had implications in creating the fear. However, I too agree with Bitzer that the situation also had some part in the need for public information. The reactions may have been predictable and rhetoric of fear may have created a larger the need for these reactions, but the reason for the reactions was in response to a situation. You can't simply look at the situation or the rhetor on their own. Did these people have a choice to report on the assassination or give a speech about the former president? Technically, yes. However, to them there would seem to be no choice. How would Vatz's definition of rhetorical situation change if the rhetor could not see any other options? I guess what I'm saying is that, so far nobody's definition seems to be completely solid.

1 comment:

  1. After class, I thought more about these three definitions that we looked at, and to some degree I still had a similar feeling that you are expressing here. I think it is, because it is difficult to let go of the idea of causal relationship that Bitzer and Vatz both use, which Biesecker critiques. Even after reading Biesecker and discussing her article in class, it took me a while to really grasp why decentering the "event" really allows you to see the rhetorical action at work.

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