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Defining the Humanities

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Authors & Contributors

Establishing Rhetorical Context - Becker

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I think it's fair to say that few texts are written in isolation. Sure, an author may be a hermit or a prisoner, writing with charcoal on tree bark or paper towels, but even in physical isolation, an author joins some sort of intellectual conversation, even if he or she is conversing solely with written texts or remembered ideas. When, as a reader, you try to reconstruct the rhetorical context within which an author wrote an argument, you can often get a bigger picture that allows you to more effectively determine what the author intended to do and how well he or she accomplished his or her purpose.

During class today, we will be analyzing William F. May's, "Rising to the Occasion of Our Death." In preparation for this analysis, please establish as detailed a rhetorical context as you can for this essay.

  1. When was the argument written? (You can begin typing in the space below this question and type till you're through. The word processor will "wrap" your sentences so they fit inside the screen. Then go on to the next question.)
  2. What prompted the writing of this argument?
  3. Who is William F. May? What do you know about his occupation and personal background? What can you infer about his political leanings?
  4. Where did the article appear? Does this tell you anything about May or the audience he was trying to reach?
  5. For whom do you think May is writing? How did you infer this audience?
  6. What purpose was May trying to achieve? What did he hope to accomplish through the act of making this argument?