Kieran Reichert FINAL 1121 Unit 1

Unit #1: Rhetoric, Genre, Discourse

In this second unit, you will draw on what you have learned about the concept of discourse communities, apply it to your life experience, and define one community you belong to according to Swales’ six criteria. You will also choose an issue facing a discourse community you belong too and take a position on that issue.

Related readings:

  • John Swales: “The Concept of Discourse Community”
  • Laura Bolin Carroll: “Backpacks vs. Briefcases: Steps Towards Rhetorical Analysis”
  • Anthony Bourdain, “Don’t Eat Before Reading This”
  • Excerpt, Ta-Nehisi Coates, “My President Was Black”
  • Colton Wooten, “The Florida Shuffle”

Rhetorical Situation, or Your Jumping Off Point for Writing: 

How do discourse communities make claims that situate them in relation to society, and to what extent are those claims effective? How does a special interest group or a cultural minority, professional association, or demographic group sway political leaders or influence elections, policies, or laws? (Some examples could include labor unions, LGBT groups, cultural minorities, etc.) This analytical project involves a deep analysis of the rhetorical components of a text or artifact, helping you define links between rhetorical situations, discourse communities, and genre. In particular, you’ll analyze how authors respond to rhetorical situations using research, appeals, and rhetorical moves to effectively appeal to their audiences. You’ll also have the opportunity to perform your own primary source fieldwork to develop your own definition of your discourse community and how it functions in the world, with specific attention to prevalent genres and modes of communication.

Your Task:

 In this assignment, you’ll 1) identify a discourse community that you want to explore and write about your relation to it, 2) plan and conduct an interview with an elder/expert/member of the DC that will aid in your descriptive analysis of your DC, and 3) analyze a single text or cultural artifact of that discourse community and the genre as a whole. You will ultimately produce a thoughtfully written report of 1,200 – 2,000 words with an accompanying reflection (1-2 pages) on how your analytical approach helped you make specific conscious choices about your writing process based on genre, rhetorical situation, research, audience, and relationship with the discourse community in question.

I think it is useful to break the assignment into its chief components (N.B. the fourth is the final essay assignment):

  1. A descriptive look at your understanding of how the group functions as a discourse community, i.e. what are its “common public goals” and “mechanisms of intercommunication”? (If you break down the DC into its component parts, and think about your relationship to it, this should be fairly.)
  2. Plan, prepare for, and conduct an interview with a member/elder/expert from your community and write a report of the key takeaways and insights from the interview.
  3. An analysis of a single text or artifact of that discourse community, like an article or painting or film. (The key here is to think about how the DC uses its specific lexicon and “mechanisms of intercommunication” to meet its “common public goals” regarding a particular topic.)
  4. Ultimately, you will put steps 1-3 together into a descriptive report of your discourse community and one prominent genre within it. This should be 1,200-2,000 words and be accompanied by a 1-2-page reflection.



Wed 10/16                                         Description of DC Draft (1-3 pages)

  • Pick a discourse community: either a cultural group, religious group, political group, advocacy group, nonprofit organization, creative community, or other group linked by commonalities, interests, language, and literacy. Explain who and what this discourse community is as you understand it – in a paragraph or two – and your relation to it. Why is it interesting to you?
  • Then, choose a text or cultural artifact to analyze. You should use the analytical criteria we define in class. What is their audience, how are they establishing credibility, using what types of rhetorical moves, ethos/pathos/logos, or other appeals, language, and/or visual rhetoric?

Mon 10/23                                         Report of Field Research Notes

  • Do an ethnography, field research visit, and/or interview with a member of the community. First, brainstorm a list of questions and then go into this community, and conduct a 30-60 minute interview, exploration, or visit into this group.
  • Record, transcribe, or take detailed notes during your interview and then type up a 2-3 page report of the research notes you captured in this community. Introduce your notes with a one-page letter to me. What happened? What were your impressions? How will you use this firsthand research in your article?

Mon 10/28                                         Working Draft of Report (2 printed)

  • Write a Working Draft of your report. Define your discourse community and a prominent genre within it, using an integrated combination of firsthand research and secondary sources. Use your analysis of the mentor text to help you draft your argument – what moves does it use, and how are those specific to your discourse community?

Wed 10/30                                         Peer Review letter (>2 pages printed, 2 copies)

  • Peer Review letter to partner due, using a technique called descriptive outlining.

Mon 11/11                                         Final Draft Due (1 via BB + 1 Hard Copy)

  • Including a 2-page Reflection Cover Letter explaining why and how you made the choices that you made for your target audience, using your mentor text, and for the publication of your choice.


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