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Running head: Rhetorical Theoretical lens


Rhetorical theoretical lens

Method and theory

Jerome Vargas

Intro to Rhetorical Criticism

MAY 01 2022

The theoretical lens that I will be using in this analysis is Bitzer’s rhetorical situation. Rhetorical situation was developed or originated from Lloyd F. Bitzer. In 1968, Lloyd Bitzer used “The rhetorical situation” term to refer to all the features of exigence, audience and purpose, which serve to build a moment best or suitable for a rhetorical response. According to research, Bitzer began “The rhetorical situation” debate in his article, arguing that experts has not theorized the rhetorical situation properly and his aim was to lay some theoretical groundwork for the rhetoric as significantly related to a particular situation (rhetoric-as-essentially-related-to-situation). However, Biter defined rhetorical situation as complex of relations, events, persons and object, which present potential or an actual exigence that can be partially or rather completely removed of the discourse, which is introduced in the situation can constrain individual’s actions or decisions to bring out important exigence modification.

Rhetorical situation determines the rhetorical devices to use, the complexity of discourse as well as the type of diction, which is appropriate. Therefore, when an individual wants to know what the rhetorical situation of certain artifact, they need to understand the nature of those context in which the artist develops rhetorical discourse, since rhetorical discourse presence indicates that rhetorical situation is presence. Before, composing any artifact, the author should first understand their rhetorical situation. This is because once an artist identifies and analyzes rhetorical situations elements, they will be better able to develop an artifact, which meets the needs of the audience, fit certain setting and conveys the intended information or purpose. As such, generally, the primary elements of rhetorical situations include the author or artists (The communication user), the text (communication piece or the actual instance), the purpose(s) (the varied reasons), the audience (Communication recipients) and the setting (the place, time and surrounding environment in the communication moment) (Kitterman, J., 2020).

Bitzer’s rhetorical situation constitutes of rhetorical exigence, rhetorical audience and constraints (Kitterman, J., 2020), which can be used in analyzing an artifact. Rhetorical exigence is the problem to solve or something, which need to be done and can be changed or fixed to some extend with others cooperation. For example, when Steve Cutts developed Happiness, (Cutts, S., (2017), it meant he had an audience, who needed this information. The information in the short video clip answers the issue but it also needed to be provide in such a way that the targeted audience is persuasive to believe that message as credible. In other words, exigence is the situation, issue or the problem, which prompts or causes an author or artist to write or develop an informative artifact. For example, Cutts created Happiness to address people’s perception on happiness and fulfillment. Therefore, the issue is ‘happiness’ perception.

Rhetorical audience is not just any audience that the artifact or the message can reach but the audience that are open to being persuaded as well as are able to make the required change. Well, rhetoric discourse produces change through influencing individual’s action and decision, who acts as the mediator of change thus, a rhetoric always need an audience. For instance, the specific audience that are cable of being persuaded by Happiness include the optimists, environmentalists and the cynicists. These are the type of audience that can make changes and can be influenced easily. According to Bitzer, persuadable audience are important in rhetoric, since the main aim of a rhetoric is to persuade. In other words, rhetoric audience involves specific audience that are capable of being influenced or persuaded by discourse as well as are cable of being change mediators. Therefore, before developing any artifact, the artist ask questions such as cam the targeted audience make the required change and if the audience are open to being persuaded.

Finally, constraints, which beside exigence and audience, always exist in rhetorical situation. They can be described as any element, which limit what the speaker or author can say effectively. Constrains consist of the events, objects relations and the persons that are part of any situation since they have the power to constrain actions as well as decision required in modifying exigence. Constrains include the images, rhetorical appeals such as pathos, beliefs, motives, documents, facts as well as traditions. It is divided into two classes, which include the artistic proofs and the inartistic proofs. For example, in Happiness, the music and the rat and other images used are examples of constrain.

There are various existing rhetorical analysis that have used Bitzer’s theoretical lens and this has played a major role in assist me to understand rhetorical situation. For instance, am able to understand how to identify a rhetorical situation in a text. To understand, one has to first identify a certain even or occasion, which is prompted to the development of the text at a specific time that it was created, persuasive methods then the specified audience (Chidume, S. N., & Agbo, I. I. (2022).

Well, this theoretical framework is the best for my artifact because by using the key element of Bitzer’s rhetorical situation, they can be able to describe the situations or circumstances as well as the context of this artifact. Bitzer’s theoretical framework is broad as well as effective enough to study multiple situation but also but I sufficiently well-organized and defined to allow for useful rhetoric analysis. Therefore, it is best in analyzing the “Happiness” artifacts, which involves all these elements of rhetoric situation. From specific audience, exigence to various elements of constrains such as pathos, intention and objects.


Chidume, S. N., & Agbo, I. I. (2022). Discourse-Rhetorical Strategies of Pauline Epistles: Rhetorical Situation Theory Approach to the Book of First Thessalonians. SAGE Open12(1), 21582440221085589.

Cutts, S., (2017). “Happiness”. YouTube.

Kitterman, J., Grant, T. D., & Adams, Z. (2020). Rhetorical Situations. Writing@ Saint Leo.

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