Johno Oberly Lesson Plans Welcome to college!!!

You’re about to do more writing than you’d ever thought possible. You will be analyzing everything from paintings to policy briefs, from sculptures to scripts, from articles to artifacts. Now, before you go announce that you’d like to cancel your enrollment in the University of Denver, let me give you a bit of good news. Unlike in High School where analysis meant formulaic paragraphs and dull transitional words and phrases, in college your writing is your business. So long as the idea is presented in a clear and understandable manner, your work is at your discretion. In what follows you will be instructed on how to construct an argument by looking at a rhetorical artifact, an exercise you may not be too unfamiliar with. Next, however, you will learn how to take that argument and present it to an audience in a way you might never have thought possible before.


What is a Rhetorical Artifact? Before we tackle this concept in its totality, let’s break it into its constituent parts. An artifact is anything that endeavors to communicate to an audience. Put from your mind images of dusty tomes and old ruins, and begin to think of an artifact as anything that causes a thought to cross your mind. The catch is that this artifact, be it a painting, a speech, a shout, this artifact must have been man-made, created by human ideas. Now, let’s add in the next part of the definition. Rhetoric is the use of language or ideas in a persuasive manner. In order for language to be rhetorical it must attempt to convince an audience of something. If we add these two parts together, we are faced with an interesting situation. A rhetorical artifact is a manmade object that targets a specific audience in order to convince them of something. This means that whoever created the artifact must see something out of place, or out of order in the world around them. This ‘wrongness’ to be found in the world around us provides the exigence for the creation of this particular artifact. The creator sees something wrong or out of place in the world around them, and then creates an artifact for the specific purpose of convincing an audience that the problem exists, and more importantly that they audience has the ability to do something to rectify the problem. This last part forms the basis for the creation of the artifact. Your job will be to be able to look at this artifact, no matter what it is, and identify the exigence as the creator sees it, and how specifically he or she expects her audience to fix it. In order to develop a specific model for this process, we will use the example of a painting. It is not something traditionally associated with rhetorical analysis, but we will endeavor to break it down into its most basic

parts, and look at how they interact to form the artist’s exigence and rhetorical strategy. How to Analyze your Artifact For this exercise, we will be looking at a painting, something that you probably have never thought of as being persuasive. First we will cover the general steps in analyzing a painting and then you will work through an exercise to help you find the exigence in a painting of your own. There are a number of methods for whittling out an exigence from a piece of painted art, not all of them will work for every person. The first of these methods is a visualization technique meant to put you in the mindset that the painter was in while creating their work of art. This method is very abstract and well suited for those who are already well versed and comfortable looking at and contemplating art. First, imagine that you are staring over the painter’s soldier as they create their work. Think about the strokes they had to use to paint it, the specific motions their body would have gone through while it was coming to fruition. Since we are regarding this painting as a representation of an exigence, we must assume that the creator had his or her exigence in mind during the painting process, this would have manifested itself in motion of some sort, resulting in marks on the canvas. Next search the painting for symbols, anything that could be regarded in some other way than mere shading or line. These symbols give us a better idea about the exigence that the artist wishes to convey to the viewer. Finally, look at the space in which the art is displayed. Just because an artist painted with one exigence in mind doesn’t mean that the space in which it is portrayed can’t use it to depict another entirely, it is important to take everything into account when creating your analysis. By putting all of these aspects together, what can you say about the artist? The work itself? The answers to these questions will lead you to the start of your analysis. For those of you who dislike that abstract mumbo jumbo I have a simpler, but albeit shallower method to use. Try merely looking for something out of the ordinary, something that looks out of place. Your analysis will come from these places that cause you a second’s pause and a head scratch. Wherever it was that the painter looked as if he or she could possibly made a mistake, that’s where you should start thinking about your analysis. I understand that both of these processes seem difficult to grasp, perhaps an example will help flesh things out a little bit. Example: Analyzing a Piece of Art

Above you’ll see the piece of art that this I decided to use for my analysis project. In giving you an example of the analysis process in action, I hope to provide a little more conceptual solidification for the thoughts I’ve outlined above. For this piece I decided to go with the second option for beginning my analysis. After looking at the artwork (and its description) I found myself looking at a string of highways from an aerial view. They intersected and diverged, twisted and curled just like most highways do. The thing that struck me as odd however was the jumbled mess depicted above. Why was this here? I’d never seen a highway like that before, the roads were all muddled together, and toward the center it was hard to tell all of them apart. I felt a little anxious, and couldn’t help but wonder what it would feel like to be standing on that road. That was my first clue, it seemed that by removing the viewer so far from the subject of the art, she was almost begging you to consider yourself a part of the world that the roads ran through. Perhaps she wanted me to confront the anxiety that the tangle made me feel, maybe she wanted me to look closer at that stress and find its origins in my own heart. That was where my analysis began. After looking at it for an even longer time I was able to develop the exigence that I thought the artist was attempting to communicate. Because it was displayed in a public art museum, I assumed that the audience was middle to upper class individuals who had the time, money, and understanding to come and appreciate this art. Next I assumed that the anxiety that I felt was natural, and part of the problem that the artist was trying to resolve. The thesis statement I came up with for the piece itself was something along these lines: The modern individual is too concerned with choices and allows anxiety to cloud their judgment, in order to lead fulfilling lives they must embrace those choices and let them flow like the highways depicted here. Assignment

For your assignment you will find a piece of art to analyze, it can be any piece of art, from any medium located anywhere where you can actually, physically visit it. For this assignment you will write four sentences. The first three sentences will concern people encountering this piece of artwork, people who you will create, and the last is the thesis that you come up with that will guide and inform the rest of your analysis. The characters that you create will be ‘encountering’ this art, so to speak. They wil interact with it on a slightly different level than you, they will encounter it on a plane of existence that is dominated completely by that piece of art. It will be as if that entire world is corrupted by the exigence that the artist has identified and the only way to rectify the situation is for your character to work their way through the world and resolve the problem in the way suggested by the artwork. You will create profiles for each of your three characters. They are to be from three completely different walks of life and are completely unrelated to one another. You want this ‘team’ to be diverse, if they are too homogeneous then the exercise won’t be as effective. After you have created these profiles, you will write one sentence of internal monologue to take place within the minds of each of your characters the first time they are presented with the artwork in this foreign land. Based on these characters’ reactions to the artwork/exigence you will be able to formulate a thesis having to do with what the artist is citing as an inherent problem and how it should be fixed. LESSON 2 Creativity Now, the analysis that you’re used to is formulaic and dull. It has topic sentences and conclusions, transitions and body paragraphs. This sort of analysis was fine in high school, but it is important that you understand how to present arguments more creatively. In the real world sometimes it is not enough to put your knowledge on a page and hope that someone else has the patience and inclination to read it in its totality. In these sorts of situations you must be able to create an effective means by which to communicate an argument that is not necessarily spelled out in words and phrases. For this exercise we will use the painting that you analyzed in the first lesson and creatively present the thesis that you identified as being the artist’s primary argument. Original Work For my project I decided that a narrative would be the best method by which to convey the exigence in question. Since this is a concept that has to be explored in order to be understood, step by step directions are impractical, instead I’m going to explain my process and attempt to generalize about some of the steps involved.

Assignment For this assignment you will take what we worked on above and craft a narrative. This narrative will center on one, two, or all three of the characters you profiled in the first lesson. These characters will come into direct contact with the piece of art that you’ve chosen to analyze. They will interact with it in some way, this interaction will spark both inner and outer monologue and dialogue respectively. They will confront the exigence that you’ve identified; each in their own way. Subsequently, by interacting with the piece of art they will overcome said exigence and, in the manner prescribed, help to alleviate the problem from their lives, and possibly from the lives around them. Be sure to consider point of view while crafting your narrative, it will most certainly affect how your work is perceived.

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