Last week, I’m sure many of us happened upon Vladimir Putin’s op-ed for the New York Times, in which he argues against U.S. intervention in Syria. Personally, I couldn’t imagine a better article for exploring contemporary rhetoric with a class. This Thursday, as part of our current unit on rhetorical analysis, I plan to have my students negotiate a common thesis for a rhetorical analysis essay on this article and then produce either 1) a short collaborative rough draft (with each group producing a paragraph) or 2) a collaborative outline as an in-class exercise.
This article is a particularly good example for class because: 1) Putin begins by clearly referencing the kairos of his argument, 2) he builds a history early on to establish himself as trustworthy, 3) he utilizes language throughout that is designed to connect to readers’ emotional responses to recent U.S. wars, 4) he anticipates readers’ counterarguments and addresses them systematically, 5) his rhetoric is occasionally imperfect (read: “I would rather disagree with a case [Obama] made on American exceptionalism”).
I also provided my students with another very nice article: an annotated and fact-checked version of Putin’s op-ed that was published by the Washington Post. Honestly, I love this second article because it already does a lot of the rhetorical analysis for the students. (It repeatedly references how Putin is positioning himself in relation to his audience and how his statements relate to the overall purpose of the article.) Since my goal here isn’t necessarily to work on students’ critical reading of this text (though it could be a good use of it, we have other exercises for that), I felt that this assistance with identifying the rhetoric would only assist in the construction of fast and accurate drafts (which will help us practice structure in this genre).
Luke Thominet is a graduate student in the English Department.