Speech Techniques

This semester, we have studied speeches using several different techniques:

Rhetoric as strategic
The “rhetorical situation”
Proofs of persuasion (logos, ethos, pathos, Toulmin model, rhetorical fallacies)
Alignment and opposition
Tropes (metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, irony)

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For this assignment, you will write a 4-5 page paper in which you will choose two of these seven techniques and analyze a speech that a member of Congress delivered on January 13, 2021 on the resolution to impeach then-President Donald Trump (link to impeachment bill here).

First, choose a member of Congress and watch/read their speech. A link to the C-SPAN video is here, with transcripts and timestamps. Below is a list of Congress people who spoke during the floor debate (this list is not exhaustive, but everyone listed below did speak on the bill, in roughly this order).


Next, choose two of the seven close reading techniques listed above, and evaluate the speech through those lenses. In your introductory paragraph, include an attention-getter, some brief context about the importance of conducting a close reading on a speech like this, a single declarative sentence that expresses the main point of the paper (this is your thesis statement), and a preview statement that indicates what you will be discussing in the body of the paper. Your thesis statement should contain action verbs: “The speech/speaker does, accomplishes, responded fittingly, is effective, exemplifies, emblematizes, expresses,” etc. It should also include a rationale “…because, due to its use of, thanks to its,” and so on. Any good close reading is plausible, defensible, and provides evidence, so feel free to be creative.

In each major body section, correctly identify and define the key features of your chosen technique using course readings. Next, accurately quote (with a timestamp) the pertinent parts of the speech which exemplify the technique you have chosen, then put into your own words how the text demonstrates the concept. (For instance, if a speaker employs an ethos appeal, define and quote the pertinent component of ethos, quote a sentence or section from the speech, indicate whether this is an effective or ineffective demonstration of ethos, and explain why.)

In your conclusion, return to and restate your thesis. Make an informed assessment about the speech: This can be an assessment of its effectiveness, its aesthetic qualities, whether it was appropriate to the situation, and so on.

You will be evaluated not simply on your demonstration of familiarity with the course concepts, but largely on the quality and depth of your analysis. Make judgments, look for both effective and ineffective expressions of the course concepts, make arguments and provide evidence for them. Papers that only identify concepts and link them to textual evidence cannot earn an A—papers that provide an interpretation, a thesis-driven reading, a rationale, will earn top marks. The grading rubric is below:

5 points: Thesis, organization, signposts, transitions (the “nuts-and-bolts” of a good paper)
5 points: Accurately quoted and cited speech material (with timestamps)
5 points: Clear familiarity with course concepts, accurate quotations and definitions
15 points: Quality and depth of analysis

Things to keep in mind:

Not all members of Congress spoke for the same length of time, so please choose a speech that contains enough material to interpret using two course concepts. If you have difficulty choosing a speech, send me a note, or chat with me during office hours.
Make sure there is a good “fit” between your speech and your chosen techniques—some speeches attempt to make persuasive arguments using logos; others have more tropes, narratives, or binary oppositions. Interpret what is in the speech, not what is missing from it.
Some of the close reading techniques contain multiple components—do not feel obligated to discuss every single facet of them, but only those that help you in your reading. For instance, do not feel obligated to discuss all four of the master tropes (metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, irony) in one body section—choose one or two and go into detail.
Many of the speakers make factual claims in their floor speeches. It is not required that you do any outside research for this speech for yourself, but if you are evaluating the speech as strategic, as a response to a “rhetorical situation,” or employing a logos appeal, any factual claims made by the speaker must be evaluated for their credibility, so include citations of evidence from credible sources that supports/does not support their claims. A KU libraries guide to evaluating the credibility of sources can be found here.
A well-structured essay is easier for us to read, and will put us in a better mood while we grade—provide a strong, declarative thesis statement, a preview statement that identifies the concepts you will discuss, transitions between paragraphs, accurate quotations, etc. For more information on Speech Techniques visit this: https://www.encyclopedia.com/literature-and-arts/language-linguistics-and-literary-terms/language-and-linguistics/speech

Speech Techniques

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