The most important thing to concentrate on when building an analysis post is separating summary and personal response from an analysis of the author’s rhetoric — the methods that she uses to argue. Rhetorical analysis goes beyond, and often avoids, agreeing or disagreeing an author’s argument. It chooses one element of the author’s argument and digs into describing and assessing how that element works within the argument. Often, it’s difficult to identify what we want to analyze in a reading until we’ve completed some Phase One writing on the piece.
Once we’ve done that, we should identify the best angle of analysis that we can and clarify, right from the beginning, what we are going to pay attention. The first sentence of an analysis post should be clear and immediately to the point, and it should include the author’s name, the title of the text, and a clear articulation of the thesis of OUR argument on the text.
See Nicole’s post “Yin and Yang,” an analysis of Anderson’s article. In the first paragraph she’s using Joey’s reflection on Anderson as her jumping off point. By the end of the first paragraph, she’s asking: “if white rage was/is truly powerful enough to cause such a purpose of oppression towards the success of a community.” There’s a lot to unpack in her question, but it deserves some boiling down. It’s too large to answer in 300 words, and it can’t be answered only using Anderson’s text. So we have to find a way to take her direction and reframe it as a way to analyze Anderson.
Certainly Anderson has an answer to Nicole’s question, and that’s a good place to start. She could reframe her question as “Why does Anderson believe that white rage is powerful enough to cause oppression towards the success of a community?” But even this is too large, and it’s not going to work more toward summary then analysis because answering that question will only involve marching out the same arguments that Anderson uses. So we have to refine it more.
We must become skilled at perceiving and identifying the “element/s” that we want to analyze in an author’s argument. One way to do this in following Nicole’s work, is to pay attention is to pose this question: “How does Anderson use what she sees as overt acts of racist legislation decades ago to prove more recent examples of less discussed events and connect to them to a larger strategy of racism. If she thinks there’s enough in Anderson to make that case, then she should frame the answer to the question that she’s posed in this way: “Anderson connects legislative acts from decades ago in American history with more recent and less understood legislative acts in making her case for the existence of institutional racism, which she defines as ‘white rage’.” In doing so, she will be setting up a structure for herself that will be purely analytical, lifting out examples of Anderson pairing past acts and recent acts and explaining what that pairing reveals. Nicole will be concentrating on a small portion of Anderson’s argument and how it relates to the whole than with trying to capture all of Anderson’s argument.
In doing so, she’ll have to cut a bunch: the personal reflection that indicates her own ethnic and gender identity, the stylistically interesting (but maybe now, less valuable) yin/yang comparison, and the reflections on the world that we all live in outside the text (where “complete balance isn’t enough). She will focus, from the beginning on revealing and analyzing one strategy that Anderson uses.
Consider Jill’s post “Who takes the blame”. At one point in Jill’s post she writes that “Anderson argues that white Americans often play the victim in order to make black Americans appear to be the issue in the conflict.” At this point, Jill is focusing on the text, but in a way that still is bordering on summary. She could push this into a more analytical framework a bit more by reframing the sentence in this way: “Anderson employs a strategy of identifying the difference between noble and ignoble motivations in her definition of ‘white rage’.” In that move, she will have to shift away from Carrington’s observations about the media, but she will probably still be able to use some of Jack’s article. Ultimately, she’ll be slicing and dicing Anderson’s text more, rather than reflecting on the world outside the text.
One final note: analysts should concentrate on citing from brainstormers and researchers, but when they cite researchers, analysts should be citing from the researcher’s article, not from the researcher’s annotation. It will seem wordy, but when introducing the work of a researcher, the analysis will need to cite the researcher, the author of the article, and the title of the article. This is good practice in focusing on clarity in citations.
After today’s class, I’ll be looking for highly focused analyst posts. When you write one, do some Phase One writing on your ideas and then decide on as clear and focused of an analytical idea as you can on the text — one that concentrates on one way that the author argues, rather than the main point, and providing examples of that method. Doing that will be the best preparation for the kind of work you’ll be doing in the larger assignments.