Page Chapter   Other comment or Link MENU
  Chapter One: The Nature of Rhetorical Criticism    
  Foss draws the distinction between a symbol and a sign. A symbol receives its definition by being assigned a value by humans. A sign is not assigned but universally understood. A growling dog is a sign of danger, smoke is a sign of fire, etc.

Therefore, symbols become a vehicle for rhetoric. Signs are not rhetoric, only symbols are. However, human actions, even without words, can be rhetorical. For example, if one man shakes his fist at another he is saying, for example, "I am so mad at you I could hit you." The shaking fist is a symbol.
Foss contact info:  
  I don't understand Foss' bias against animals being to create rhetoric. A rattlesnake rattling its tail is just as symbolic as his example of the US sending battleships to the coast of North Korea. Both are a conscious use of symbols to communicate. A whale's complex song certainly is meant to create a variety of communication. Bees use a complex dance to explain to the hive the location of food. Foss, p.4-5    
  Rhetoric is what we use to explain the symbolic acts that surround us.    
  Toward the investigation and analysis of symbolic acts, Foss includes three primary dimensions: 1. Systematic analysis as the act of criticism. 2. acts and artifacts as the objects of analysis in criticism; and 3. understanding rhetorical processes as the purpose of criticism.

I don't understand how analysis is supposed to be an act of criticism. It seems to show bias in the analysis  performing examining the artifacts of steps two. - Okay, after reading further, he simply means an instant judgment call - I like it or I don't. I agree or I don't.
  When a quote gets placed on a website, this becomes a rhetorical artifact to be critiqued.  This is dimension #2    
  # 3 - As the purpose of criticism. Foss says critics engage in rhetorical criticism to make a contribution to rhetorical theory. In other words, we try to explain questions around which we are surrounded. He gives the example of a friend who does not return phone calls (p.8), and we develop a theory that the friend does not like us. However, to me, that's more of a hypothesis. A theory comes from testing a potentially falsifiable item. I would think that at this level of discussion the "theory" in Rhetorical Theory should be more than a hunch.

Update, at the end of chapter 2, he points out that because our criteria for examining artifacts includes interpretation versus empirical science, rhetorical theory is an art, not a science. p.22.
  Chapter Two: Doing Rhetorical Criticism    
  The process of rhetorical criticism includes four steps: 1. selecting an artifact (like an article on a website) 2. analyzing the artifact 3. formulating a research question; and 4. writing the essay.    
  In selecting the artifact, it must contain elements that can be analyzed. Foss calls these "units of analysis". You cannot analyze all elements of the artifact, so it must have some elements that are of interest. Examples of units that can be analyze are strategies, types of evidence, values, word choice or metaphors (p12).    
  SELECTING: The method you use to analyze must match the type of unit. A story being analyzed would use the "narrative method." A song being analyzed might use the "cluster method" of analyzing key term in the artifact and the terms  that cluster around the key terms.    
  In selecting the artifact, it should be something you are passionate about - or like or dislike with more than an average degree.    
  ANALYZING: Each method of analysis had coding methods. If you are applying a metaphor analysis, you "code your artifact for metaphors". You then group or categorize the elements (the units) that will be critiqued. Foss gives the idea of cutting up a writing article into strips and grouping ideas together by category.    
  FORMULATING A RESEARCH QUESTION:  Foss says that formulating your question should be like the questions in the game show Jeopardy - Start it with What is such and such. He suggests that you should always keep this question forefront in your mind as your write and analyze.    
  Foss says that your question usually is about one or more of the following four things: 1. Rhetor (the relationship between the person writing and the thing about which is being written). 2. Audience - what is the relationship between the artifact and the audience? 3. Situation - What is the relationship between the artifact and the situation within which the artifact is embedded? What is the impact of a situation upon the artifact? 4. Message - This is the most common. It asks, What elements of the artifact allow it to do what it does?  For example, what are the features of an effective workout? How does action script benefit online commerce?"    
  A common mistake in creating the research question is to make it too broad. E.g.., "How do religious opinions affect the music industry?"     
  Another error is that the question is defined too narrowly- such that there is little left to discuss. Like a yes or no question. Or questions with answers that seem obvious. Like "Do dogs enjoy rides in cars?"    
  Better questions as How, In what way, Which strategies, what processes    
  The question should be bigger than your artifact. P.15    
  WRITING THE ESSAY: Foss says that the essay should contain 5 major elements. 1. An introduction which discusses your research question. 2. A description of your artifact. 3. A description of your method of analysis. 4. A report of the findings of the analysis.  5. A discussion of how my analysis makes a contribution to the rhetorical theory.    
  1. In the introduction, you will identify what problem or question your analysis will answer such as "I will argue…" Explain why the analysis is important. Show that the reader will learn something useful.     
  2. Describing the artifact. - Like summarizing the plot to a story you are critiquing. Also describe why the artifact is adequate for purpose of answering the research question. You might use historical context to show why the artifact is of particular interest.    
  3. Description of Method. I don't have a clear understand of the scope of method yet, but Foss says we should describe the type of method we will use to analyze the artifact. P.18    
  4. Report the findings of the analysis. This is the bulk of the essay.    
  Foss, p.18, speaks of the pentadic analysis as a method of research. The five items are 1. terms of act, 2. purpose, 3. agent, 4. agency and 5. the scene for the artifact. Elsewhere, I've seen it defined as 1. agent, 2. act 3. agency 4. scene 5. purpose Link  
  Foss once again encourages people to use strips of paper to organize the order in which ideas will be discussed.    
  5. Contribution to Rhetorical Theory - You contribution is the answer to the question you raise about your artifact. You essay ends with a discussion of this contribution. Foss says to suggest to the reader how my analysis provides an answer to a larger issue about the artifact.    
  Standards of Evaluation for Critical Essays: Assumptions - 1. Objective reality does not exist. In other words, the reality is subjective because we are writing about it. It's our description. 2. Related to the first- We can only know the artifact by interpreting it. Foss claims that it is impossible to be completely objective because we bring our previous understandings to interpret the artifact. The best we can do is to interpret it from our previous understandings. This is why two people can come up with different interpretations from the same data. Foss' description is textbook Relativism.    
  Foss says that the primary standard used to judge an essay is "justification" - or, the argument made by the critic. Also, "reasonable inference", or the ability to show how your interpretations of the artifact's data support your point- even if the reader does not agree with your interpretation. Foss, p.21-22.    
  A Third criterion is "coherence". In other words, your interpretations are consistent and not contradictory.    
  You labels need to be similar - fast, efficient, works only at night or fast, efficient and nocturnal, Foss p.22 Foss calls these "parallel constructs" or "parallel labels".    
  Chapter Three: Neo-Aristotelian Criticism    
  The difference between literary criticism and rhetorical criticism is that rhetorical is concerned with effect versus beauty.    
  The Neo-Aristotelian method of rhetorical criticism exams the effect of the communication on its audience. The measure of effect is part of the criticism. Foss mentions that Wichelns (see 1925 CE) suggested that the communicator should deal with things like the speaker's personality, character, the audience's perception of the speaker, the audience, the speaker's motives, the speaker's proofs, the speaker's mode of expression, manner of delivery and the immediate and long-term effect of the communication. Early on, Neo-Aristotelianism was only used to critique speeches versus written material, as it sought to discover the immediate effects that occur upon delivery. Foss, p.26.    
  Criticisms of Neo-Aristotelianism include the fact that it does not always ask the appropriate question, that it was based on ancient ideas that do not reflect modern scholarship, that it is biased to rationalism (denigrating emotional effects in favor of rational response), or that it placed criticisms in pre-arranged categories that limited the scope of critique.    
  Chapter Four: Cluster Criticism    
71 In cluster criticism, the meanings that key symbols have for a rhetor are discovered by charting the symbols that cluster around those key symbols in a artifact.    
  Chapter Five : Fantasy-Theme Criticism    
109 Fantasy-themed criticism is designed to provide insights into the shared worldview of groups.     
  Groups fantasize about where their ideas might take them    
  Developed into symbolic convergence theory based on two assumptions: One that communication creates reality. Two - Symbols no only create reality for individuals but that individuals' means for symbols can converge to create a shared reality or community consciousness.    
  Chapter Six : Feminist Criticism    
151 The struggle to end sexual oppression. For some, a struggle to eradicate the ideology of domination that permeates Western culture on various levels.    
  Chapter Seven : Generic Criticism    
193 Assumes that certain situations usually result in the same types of rhetoric being used. The purpose of generic criticism is to understand rhetorical practices in different time periods and in different places by discerning the similarities in rhetorical situations and the rhetoric constructed in response to them. - To discover how people create individual instances of meaning and value within structured discursive fields.    
  Speaks of rhetorical genres - a constellation, fusion or clusters of three different kinds of elements so that a unique kind of artifact is created.    
  Chapter Eight : Ideological Criticism    
239 When rhetorical critics are interested in rhetoric primarily for what it suggests about beliefs and values, their focus is on ideology. The primary components of an ideology are evaluative beliefs - beliefs about which there are possible alternative judgments.    
  Chapter Nine : Metaphor Criticism    
299 My roommate is a pig. A metaphor joins two terms normally regarded as belonging to different classes or experience.    
  The metaphor that time is money illustrates how the use of metaphor can influence our perception of reality.    
  This is an example of rhetoric affecting perceptions of reality.    
  Chapter Ten : Narrative Criticism    
333 Story telling. Organizes our experiences.Plays role in decision making.    
  A primary defining feature of narrative discourse is that it is comprised of events that may be either active (expression action) or stative (expressing a state or condition).    
  Events are organized by time order.    
  It must include some kind of causal or contributing relationship among events in the story.    
  Chapter Eleven : Pentadic Criticism    
383 Kenneth Burke's pentad    
   The symbolic world created by the rhetorician is framed using the elements of Burke's  Pentad [Borchers, p.153]:
1. Act - What happens or takes place
2. Scene - Context or background of the act
3. Agent - Person or persons who perform the act
4. Agency - Means through which actions takes place
5. Purpose - Reason an action took place