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.