Essay 3: A Rhetorical Critique

Write a three-page essay (700-900 words / 6 paragraphs) that summarizes and critiques ONE of the following texts:

“Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King Jr.
“Where I Lived and What I Lived For” by Henry David Thoreau
“A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift
“In Search of a Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf

Your essay should include a 100-150 word summary of the text and a rhetorical critique that analyzes the text’s rhetorical strategies and evaluates how effectively the text achieves its intended goals.

To help focus your critique, consider the following questions:

Rhetorical Critique Questions
Audience & Purpose
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What is the writer’s purpose?
  • How well does the essay suit its particular audience and purpose?
Author’s Style
  • How do the author’s vocabulary, sentence structure, voice, and tone contribute to the impact of the essay?
  • How well has the author created a reasonable, logically structured argument?
  • How well does the author use evidence to support the argument?
  • How well does the author persuade readers that he or she is knowledgeable, reliable, credible, and trustworthy?
  • How well does the author appeal to the readers’ emotions, sympathies, and values?

Give your essay a thesis and a clear, logical organization. Your first paragraph should start with a strong lead, establish your topic, and end with a clear thesis statement. Then, in paragraph two, briefly summarize the primary text. Paragraph three will include your critique of the text’s audience and purpose. The next two paragraphs should critique two other aspects of the text. You may choose to critique any two of the following: style, logos, ethos, or pathos. In your final paragraph, summarize your critique. Each paragraph must start with a clear topic sentence.

The essay must include at least THREE sources documented in proper MLA format, with in-text, parenthetical references and a list of Works Cited. You will have one primary source (the text of the essay itself) and two secondary sources. Make sure your secondary sources are directly relevant to your rhetorical critique. The secondary sources can provide information on the author’s biography, or on the historical and cultural context in which the essay first appeared, or on the reception and reaction the essay has received. (Please note: encyclopedias—including on-line encyclopedias like Wikipedia—do not count as sources for this assignment.)

Throughout your essay, remember to distinguish your own points about the text from the ideas and language of the author and of your sources with attributive tags, quotation marks for any quoted passages, and MLA documentation.

Write your essay in a classic prose style: clear and concise, specific and engaging.

Make every word count.

Due: April 12
(Bring THREE copies of your essay to class for Peer Critiques.)

Page Last Updated: 19 August 2011