We like to think that a rhetorical object - a wikipage, an essay - is a direct expression of a producer. But the rhetorical situation is more complex when we're dealing with a printed, or digitized text, whether made up of just words, or words, images, layout. In this case, we focus on how the object mediates - stands between - actual rhetor and actual reader.
The model below, adapted from Longaker and Walker, is how we're looking at the rhetorical situation. The text itself - a speech, an essay, a webpage - creates or projects an implied rhetor and an implied audience.
The textualized situation can be represented as shown in Figure 2.2. Once again, this basic description deserves elaboration:
- Here we have a text—a written (or other kind of) document—that contains a representation of something said by someone to someone. In Plato's dialogues, for example, we usually find Socrates speaking with one or more characters. In King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail," we find King addressing a group of clergymen who have criticized his actions.
- Associated with the text isthe image of its implied rhetor, the unseen person behind the text that the reader creates.... The implied rhetor behind the text and the speaker in the text may sometimes be regarded as the same person. That is, the speaker may seem to represent himself or herself, as in King's "Letter." But the speaker may also be a character created by the rhetor, as in Plato's Socrates. The reader typically notices that the text depends on values and beliefs (presup- positions), and the reader also attributes these values and beliefs to the implied rhetor. The text (through the implied rhetor) appears to ask the reader to have certain beliefs, values, and knowledge.
- Outside the text—and outside the bracket in [the figure above]—is the actual rhetor (or the actual writer), the flesh-and-blood person who created the text. What the reader knows about the actual rhetor will be used to interpret the implied rhetor's intentions. To put this another way, knowledge about the actual rhetor becomes part of the reader's imaginative construction of the implied rhetor.
However, it also works the other way: We tend to ascribe to the actual rhetor the values of the implied rhetor. Rhetorical analysis cannot actually reach this actual rhetor directly but only by way of mediation, through the rhetorical artifacts they create.
- In some cases the speaker, the implied rhetor, and the actual rhetor appear as more or less the same person.... But in other cases these are different roles. For example, in [a] Volkswagen ad ... the implied rhetor is Volkswagen, while the actual rhetor is the advertising agency that created the ad.
- Just as text projects an image of its implied rhetor, it project an image of its iintended audience—or what is also called the implied audience, the implied reader, or the ideal reader or audience of the text. This intended audience may or may not be the same as the addressee within the text....
- Likewise, just as the implied rhetor and actual rhetor of the text may differ, so too may the intended audience projected by the text differ from the actual reader who stands outside of it—and who, in our diagram, is placed outside the right-hand bracket. Since a writer cannot predict what every actual reader of his or her text will be like, the intended audience and the actual reader almost always differ to some degree.
- Just as we develop a sense of the implied rhetor by noticing the kinds of presuppositions the text appears to depend on, so too do we develop a sense of the text's intended audience from those same presuppositions. The text addresses its intended audience as a person who shares certain kinds of values, beließ, and knowledge. On the basis of these values, beliefs, and knowledge—or presuppositions—the rhetor and the audience can make certain kinds of judgments. If, for example, a text asks its 'audience to make some judgment on the basis of a love for democracy or justice, it apparently addresses its intended audience as the sort of person who holds democracy or justice dear. If a text asks its audience to make judgments on the basis of careful thought, it addresses its audience as an intelligent, intellectually responsible person.
- If the reader is willing to be, or become, the sort of person the text addresses— if the reader responds in the way the rhetor has intended—then s/he will likely be persuaded. You can think of a text's intended audience as a role that the actual reader is invited to step into....But if the reader refuses the role of intended audience, s/he is likely to resist the rhetor's persuasive efforts.
- Just as shared presuppositions and a shared sense of the occasion bring speaker and listener together in an oral-aural situation, they also bring author and audience together in a textualized situation. Here, however, the matter is more complex. Since the original, specific, historical occasion may be long-vanished, the reader must recognize a more generalized version of that occasion—and a generalized version of its exigence—or the reader must be able to step imaginatively into some reconstructed version of the original occasion. ...
Diagram and text adapted from Longaker and Walker, Rhetorical Analysis, pp 16-18.
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