Rhetorical Analysis: Politics – What is the relationship between the citizen and the State?

From ‘The Language of Composition:Reading, Writing, Rhetoric”: 

“Politics, the process by which groups make decisions, play part in all human interactions. When we study history, the social science, religion or business, we learn about politics; whenever we read the newspaper or watch the news on television [or online], we see politics in action; and when we discuss issues with our classmates and friends or involve ourselves in our community, we engage in politics […] Thus one could argue that politics is the cause of all social change.

Democratic governments, such as the one under which we live, exercise power through the will of the people. With that power comes the responsibility, even the responsibility to dissent if necessary. So what is the nature of patriotism in democracy? Is it loyalty to the government of loyalty to the ideals of the nation? How is American patriotism colored by the fact that our country was born out of a revolution? […]

Educated citizen – the root word of the word politics is the Greek word for citizen – must know about the politics of the world as well as the politics of their own country. “


As we begin our first unit over Rhetorical Analysis, we will be examining a series of speeches, letters, articles by, and about, politicians and the political systems that surround us and our relationship with them.

Each Tuesday you will be analyzing and writing on a previous AP Language and Composition Free Response question that relates to this topic. Each Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we will be conducting Socratic Seminar, projects and class discussion over extended readings that address the same topics.

democracy2Please see the list below for the texts you will need to analyze and engage with over the course of this unit, while we ponder and examine the question “What is the relationship between citizens and The State?”. These texts provide us a selection of “interrelationships amount citizens, their states, and the world” and well as “voices delivering sardonic criticism and lofty idealism; you will encounter the immediacy of personal reflections on the nature and experience of war” and you will read contemporary pieces by our current national leaders.

  1. Jamaica Kincaid, On Seeing England for the First Time
  2. Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience
  3. Virginia Woolf, Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid
  4. Chris Hedges, The Destruction of Culture
  5. Laura Blumenfield, The Apology: Letters from a Terrorist
  6. Sarah Vowell, The Partly Cloudy Patriot
  7. Marjane Satrapi, The Veil
  8. Barack Obama, Final Address to the Nation January 10th, 2017
  9. Donald Trump, Inaugural Address to the Nation, January 22, 2017



AP Language and Composition Spring 2017

Conducting A Visual Analysis of Rhetoric

In the article we read from Ann Hodgeman, she takes a satirical look at the use of advertising used to persuade people to purchase particular brands of dog food. Read the post below, or/and view the powerpoint for an explanation on how to analyze visual rhetoric.  Then follow the bolded instructions at the bottom for your assignment.

Click here for the powerpoint over the Visual Analysis of Rhetoric


We come across many images on a daily basis, but we rarely stop to think about what those images mean or about how they persuade us. Yet, images have power, which is why we need to understand how to analyze them. When you’re analyzing an image to understand the message it portrays, this is called visual rhetoric. Visual rhetoric is a means of communication that uses images to create meaning or to make an argument.

The first thing to consider when breaking down, or analyzing, an image is the rhetorical situation: the audience, context, andpurpose. Each of these elements is essential in order to understand the message an image portrays. It is important to remember that you can analyze all different types of images, including advertisements, Public Service Announcements (PSAs), websites, paintings, photographs, and more. Here, we will look at an advertisement:


The audience consists of who is being targeted by the author, designer, or creator. In the above image, it appears that the audience is men. How do we know this? Not only is the person running in the background a man, but the color of the watch and the size of the watch face indicate that the watch is likely a man’s watch. Of course, women could indirectly be an audience, too, since they might want to buy this watch for someone or wear it themselves. In addition, the audience might be male athletes or outdoor enthusiasts. If you pay close attention to the watch features, it includes North, South, East, and West orientations; it is digital with various modes that likely include a stopwatch, and it has a light for when it is dark. All of these features are likely to appeal to outdoors types, athletes, or both.


The context includes any background information that will help you understand and analyze an image. In the above image, the most important context is that the watch is a Pro Trek watch. If you did some research, you would find out that Pro Trek watches are part of Casio, an electronics manufacturing company. Knowing that Casio is an electronics company, we might assume that they value functionality over aesthetics; therefore, this might be the reason why the above watch is not very decorative or complex, but is still the focal point of the image. This is because Casio wants to feature the watch’s functionality.


Purpose refers to the overall goal for creating an image. With advertisements, that goal is fairly easy to understand. Advertisements are almost always made to sell items. In our example image, the purpose is to sell the Pro Trek watch.

There are many other strategies to consider when breaking down an image. It’s always important to consider the rhetorical situation first, since that will help you interpret the purpose of the other strategies the designer uses. Then, you can begin to interpret the other persuasive techniques that influence the overall message of the image, including the tone, arrangement, text, typography, and color.


In literature, tone refers to the author’s attitude toward the subject. So, with regard to images, tone can also refer to the photographer/artist’s/designer’s perspective on the issue. In our image above, the tone is a bit hard to interpret. However, the fact that the watch is focused and up close while the background image of a person is blurred gives us a clue: it seems that the designer is portraying that the wearer of the watch is not that important. The watch is what’s significant. Perhaps the message is that anyone can wear these watches. Whether or not this is an effective approach to selling the watch is up for debate!


Arrangement refers to the placement of images, graphics, and text in an image. There are two key elements of arrangement—location and scale. Location refers to where a text or image is placed, whereas scale refers to the relative size of the visual components.


Typically, our eyes scan an image, text, and/or webpage from left to right and from top to bottom. The designer of this advertisement has placed the Pro Trek logo and the image of the watch to the right side of the page—top and bottom, respectively. If the designer wanted our eyes to go to the logo first, he or she probably should have placed the logo at the top left corner so our eyes would catch that logo first. However, because the size of the watch is so large, it is obvious that the focus is the watch. This brings us to the term scale.


As discussed, image of the watch is both large and focused (compared to the blurred image of the man). Thus, the scale of the watch (its size in relation to everything else on the page), along with the sharp focus, indicates that the designer wants to viewer to focus on the watch, ensuring that viewers can see all the neat features this watch has to offer, while not getting distracted by other text or images.



Text is another important element to analyze, assuming an image includes text. If it does, the text is obviously there for a purpose. Now, the only text on this advertisement is the company logo. This is obviously there for the purpose of showing viewers what type of watch it is so they can find it online or in a store. However, it is possible that this image could have been more effective if it included a catch phrase like those we often see in print ads or in commercials (think of Skittles’ “Taste the Rainbow” or Subway’s “Eat Fresh” slogans). If you see an image with text, consider the connotations of the words, the possible underlying assumptions of the phrase, and the effect the words are meant to have on the audience.


Typography refers to the font size and font type choices that are made in a visual composition.

Font Size

Notice that the font size of Pro Trek is actually smaller than the time indicated on the watch! This seems to actually reduce the importance of the company as compared to the importance of the watch itself. Do you think this is an effective visual strategy to persuade the audience to buy a Pro Trek watch?

Font Type

The font type we see with the words Pro Trek is strong, bolded, and in ALL CAPS. Since this advertisement is for a men’s athletic watch, the STRONG, SERIOUS FONT TYPE is probably more effective than a silly or playful font type.


Color choices can really affect your audience, too. Colors can have different meanings (connotations) that implicitly portray a message. Colors can also enhance or detract from an image’s readability depending on the level of contrast used.



Notice that this advertisement has red hues in the background and orange/yellow hues in the background and on the watch. The orange/yellow hues from the background tie in nicely with this same color in the watch, creating a sense of coherence that makes the design feel professional and therefore convincing. The red hues could connote warmth, raising the heart beat, getting the blood pumping, which all symbolize that the watch is effective for athletes.


You also should think about practical concerns with color, such as whether or not the text color is contrasted well enough with the background so that it is readable.


Ultimately, the image we have just broken down has both effective and ineffective rhetorical effects (persuasive effects). For instance, the absence of a catchy phrase might detract from its persuasiveness, or the blurred image of the man might indirectly signal that the company cares more about the watch than who its users are. On the other hand, though, the absence of text might send the message that the watch is so amazing it speaks for itself. The blurred image might simply reflect the movement of a man running, further emphasizing that this man is using the watch for athletic purposes. These decisions about the effectiveness of each strategy really depend on your individual analysis of the image. This is how you will make an argument about its effectiveness. While the above terminology will be helpful for analysis, regardless of the terminology, the most important thing to remember is this: visuals portray meaning, just as language does. If you take the time to understand the strategies used in images to create meaning, then you will become a stronger critical thinker, understanding how images are persuading you on a daily basis.


I would like you to analyze the visual rhetoric being used in the ads provided to you in class (color versions are posted below). Post a detailed analysis of the rhetorical devices being used in the advertisement and whether or not you think it uses these to effectively or ineffectively achieve its purpose in the comments below. You analysis should cover all the elements discuss in this post for visual rhetoric, and should be at minimum of one 6 sentences – though a well done analysis may be longer.

You must also comment on two classmates’ posts, engaging them in discussion of the analysis they conducted.


AP Language and Composition Spring 2017

SOAPSTone Plus – A Review

We’re jumping right into rhetorical analysis this semester, and therefore you will need to briefly review the arch methods analysis using SOAPSTone Plus that we covered last semester. Below you will find a review and an example from Mary Rowlandson’s Captivity Narrative that we read together last semester.

Arch Method

Arch Method Rowlandson




You can also click here to review an in-depth powerpoint over the SOAPSTone Plus analysis method.

Please let me know if you have any questions or issues over this review!



AP Language and Composition Spring 2017

Welcome Back AP Kids! Syllabus and 1st Day Paperwork

Students and parents – please click the links below for both the syllabus for this class (which details what materials you will need and the grading policy) as well as the Media Release form. Both of these will be due on Monday, January 11th, 2015.

Please use the next few days to familiarize yourself with the website, and to register for my Remind 101 text alerts on class assignments, tests and quizzes. You can find the registration information in your syllabus or at the bottom of the webpage! I’m excited to have a great year with you all! Please

AP Language and Composition Syllabus

Media and Social Media Release

If you have trouble navigating the website, please see the ‘About’ section at the top of the page for more information!


AP Language and Composition Spring 2017