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Unit 2, Day 14:  Thursday, October 4


What you’ll do today in class:


·        Connect terms of analysis to rhetorical situation as a focus for students’ writing in Essay 3

·        Discuss these terms in Bennett, Gaines and Willis

·        Generate possible exigencies for analyzing a TV show

·        Assign practice advertisement analysis


Connection to course goals:  In keeping with teaching writing as a response to context, much of the emphasis for today’s activities is on showing the relationship between the analytical terms from Unit 2 and the rhetorical situation.  By seeing how Bennett, Gaines and Willis focus their analyses of talk TV shows on different cultural contexts, students can begin to picture how they will have to go through a similar process to find a focus for their own papers.  Finally, we finish with in-class writing activities to begin generating ideas for some possible exigencies writers may have in writing such analyses for public audiences.




1.      Mini-lecture connecting cultural analysis to rhetorical situation (10 minutes):  What we want to illustrate here is the relationship between the cultural analysis we’ve been discussing and the rhetorical situation to highlight the reading/writing connection in this unit. In conducting a cultural analysis, students read for how a television show responds to its rhetorical context.  In defining that relationship, students determine an exigence (a cultural need, a reason) for writing an analysis of that show to a particular audience.  In this way, the students’ understanding of their exigence for writing will determine both their focus and their audience.


Talking points to use with students:

·         TV shows are “cultural texts.”  As “texts” TV shows are created to respond to a variety of rhetorical contexts.  As such, television shows must respond to particular cultural interests in the hopes of reaching diverse audiences to whom such a show might appeal.

·         In this way, TV shows are functioning much like the writing you were asked to do in Unit 1.  The rhetorical triangle for Unit 1 can be represented with a triangle with writer, focus, reader as the 3 “points.” 










·        In Unit 1, you were asked to focus only on the audience and topic; however, in this unit, we are complicating the rhetorical situation to demonstrate how all texts emerge from a cultural context.  In Unit I, this context was higher education, and specifically a class at CSU.  In focusing your response on the needs of the audience, you responded to an exigence created by the context:  the need for teachers to assign texts of interest to their students. 

·        The best way to think about rhetorical situation in Unit 2, then, could be with a similar triangle but one that is placed within a circle.  The circle surrounding the triangle represents cultural context, and particularly the shared cultural belief a show addresses. 














·        With this rhetorical triangle in mind, Unit 2 asks you to consider this key question:  What’s the relationship between the text (the triangle) and the shared cultural belief (the circle)?  This is the central relationship you will focus on when “reading” your show:  how the TV show (as text) is communicating a cultural message which responds to (i.e. reproduces or challenges a cultural belief ) the show’s cultural context (i.e. a particular American cultural belief). 

·        The way you “answer” this analytical question about the relationship between the text and its cultural context will help you define the rhetorical situation for your essay.  What message you focus on will determine the context of your own paper.  Your sense of why a particular reader might need to consider the relationship between a given show and its cultural message (the exigence—i.e. “the why bother writing about this topic” question) will imply both an audience for your paper (who needs to know about this) and a purpose (why they need to know).  Graphically, your own writing task could be pictured this way:


·        Write your own example for the students to illustrate how this might work with a sample topic and “text.”


2.      Illustrate the process by which such essays are usually written (50 minutes):  This next sequence of activities attempts to apply the analytical terms just discussed to both students’ reading for the day and the writing of their own texts by walking them through a process useful for focusing their topic and defining their purpose and audience.  The process presumes that analyses begin with specifying the relationship between a text and its cultural context to define a specific cultural message.  From this definition, writers typically try to decide if such a topic is worthy of writing to others about—i.e. they try to define their exigence.  From their sense of why such a topic needs to be written about, writers go on to specify who will most likely need this information (i.e. their audience) and the reasons why they need such information (i.e. their purpose). 


A.     Discuss how analytical terms relate to the analyses by Bennett, Gaines and Willis (5-7 minutes):


·        What is the shared cultural belief (in terms of our rhetorical triangle, the “circle”) that Bennett focuses on in his article?  What is it for Gaines?  What is it for Willis?

·        What are these writers saying about how the text (daytime talk TV) responds to its cultural context (in terms of reproducing or challenging cultural beliefs)?


Transition:  Write a transition which connects the abstract explanation above to students’ own experience.  (e.g. “What Bennett, Gaines and Willis write about in regard to TV is really not that odd.  In fact, we all do this to some extent; we often pick up on aspects of shows that somehow seem important, whether they appeal to us or disturb us.  But we don’t often move beyond the initial recognition stage to really think about what’s going on, and how it’s significant.  So the next activity is designed to give us some practice in working with a particular show/text and becoming a more critical reader.”)


B.     Prewriting Activity (7-10 minutes):  Have students make a 2-column grid on a clean sheet of paper and respond to these prompts in order (i.e. have them fill in the left column before moving onto the right column):


·        (Left column):  Think of a recent TV show episode (or film) you’ve seen and brainstorm a list of aspects of the show that disturbed you, made you angry, or that you enjoyed the most.  If possible, try to provide a response for both (something that bothers you and something you like).

·        (Right column):  Thinking of what you wrote in the left column, respond to these  questions in the other column: 

1)      Is there some shared cultural belief that the show’s picking at that bothers you?  What might that particular belief be?

2)      Is there some shared cultural belief the show appeals to that you particularly like or enjoy?  What is that belief?


Transition:  Explain the move from defining a message to deciding whether there is a need to explain this message to others (other than the obvious reason that the paper was assigned).


C.     Connection to the writing process and a writer’s exigence in Bennett, Gaines, and Willis (15 minutes): 


-                              Discuss Bennett, Gaines and Willis in terms of their exigence (using synthesis grid below): 


·        Why are these writers trying to convince their readers of the point they want to get across about the cultural significance of these daytime talk TV shows?  Why do they assume this message is important enough to interpret for others? What is their exigence (i.e. the social need they feel their essay tries to address)?

·        Who are the writers trying to convince?  Why does this audience seem an appropriate group to care about the effect of this cultural message?

·        What, specifically, does each writer want to say about the effect of a given cultural message? How does this purpose/claim emerge from their exigence (why they think it needs to be said) and their audience (why the assume this group needs this information)?


-                              As you discuss these questions, record students’ responses on the board with a synthesis grid that juxtaposes the audience, exigence, and claim for each of the 3 writers.









Reason for Writing/























D.    Connection to writing process and student’s exigence, purpose, and audience (5-7 minutes):  Go back to the 2-column lists students wrote for the earlier prewriting activity.  At the bottom of the same sheet have them identify an AUDIENCE and EXIGENCE for writing based on what they came up with (their reaction to something in a show that relates to a shared cultural belief).


·        Now that you’ve identified a shared cultural belief that the show responds to, consider the implications of what the show does with the message.  Is there any reason other Americans should be concerned and/or interested in how this show interacts with its cultural context?  Why?

·        If there is a reason others might want to know about this, who might need to read about what you see the show “doing” with this cultural belief the most?  Who could benefit from this information? Why?


E.     Discuss responses on possible exigencies for writing based on the prewriting (7-10 minutes):


-                           Have 3 or 4 students share what they wrote with the class.  Make sure that they have an actual shared cultural belief, a social exigence, and an audience who might benefit from an analysis. 

-                           Have the other students respond:  Is this an actual shared cultural belief that there is evidence for in other cultural texts?  Do the potential audience and exigence this person has identified make sense?  Why or why not?  What other possible exigencies might work for this topic?  What other audiences?


Transition:  Emphasize again that this type of prewriting is exactly the process students will need to go through as they set up the context and focus for their papers.


3.      Introduce Practice Ad Analysis (5 minutes): Talk through the practice analysis assignment sheet in the appendix.  Tell students this practice analysis will give them another opportunity to go through the process of reading a cultural text critically to identify a shared cultural belief and offer an analysis of what the ad is doing with that belief.  Students will need to use one of the ads they brought to class for Day 13, or a new one.  Let them know they’ll be discussing and briefly workshopping these practice analyses next class so they should bring a typed copy on Tuesday.





Assignment for Day 15:

·        Read “Perspectives:  Ally McBeal,” including Durbin’s “Razor Thin, But Larger Than Life” and Zeisler’s “What’s the Deal, McBeal” in RC (340-45) for discussion Tuesday. 

·        Write your practice analysis using an advertisement you choose.  Type your responses to Parts 1 and 2 in the following assignment and bring them to class Tuesday.

Be sure to bring a copy of the print ad you used for your practice analysis to class Tuesday.