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Rhetorical analysis strategies are strategies for analyzing and explaining the elements that enter into an act of communication. They include the metalinguistic resources of rhetorical analysis—knowledge of such things as figures of speech, irony, point of view, and the like—and the ability to represent to others one's understanding of the decisions an author has made in producing a text. Possessing terminology and strategies that support explicit analysis of what is going on in a text supports more effective writing (by making it possible for the writer to specify goals more precisely) and also makes it possible for readers and writers to communicate not only about textual content, but also about the practices in which they are engaged as readers and writers. The hypothesized development of these skills is presented in Development Table 7.

This family of strategies and skills corresponds in part to the skills needed to support Writing Standard 9.

Literature Note - The Role of Metacognition and Metadiscourse

Development Table 7. Hypotheses about the Development of Rhetorical Analysis Skills
Is capable of precisely ascertaining the literal, explicit meaning of a text.
Can apply clarifying strategies based upon close examination of the meanings of words, the precise meaning created by syntactic choices, and the arrangement of sentences.
Can produce notes or commentary on a text that elucidates its literal meaning and content and elaborates on or summarizes its explicit content.
(fundamental literacies)
Is capable of interpreting figurative language effectively and thereby ascertaining its literal import and applications.
Can apply analytic strategies based upon identifying and elucidating figures of speech.
Can produce a commentary (or essay explicating the content of a text) that includes explanations of how figurative language contributes to the overall meaning and impact of the text.
(text-based literacies)
Can separate the author of a text from the voice in which the text is written, and thus distinguish in detail between what the author intends to communicate and what the text purports to communicate in the voice of a narrator or commentator.
Can identify how the author has chosen to address the audience or respond to other participants in the discourse.
Can apply analytic and interpretive strategies that take the author’s purpose and stance into account alongside the general social context, and do not assume that the literal, obvious meaning will always be privileged.
Can write an analysis that addresses nonliteral meaning and the author’s purpose and stance toward the audience and other participants, not just a synopsis of the literal content, and uses evidence from the text to support the interpretation it advances.
(multiple perspectives)
Can attend simultaneously to multiple layers of meaning in a text and build up a complex interpretation that depends on the juxtaposition of details and the building up of implications that depend on the cumulative effect of the writer’s decisions about wording, content, and rhetorical structure.
Can apply analytical and interpretive strategies that depend on considering multiple possible interpretations and evaluating the strength of evidence supporting each one.
Can present an explicit, extended analysis of multiple layers of meaning in a text in essay form, building a detailed interpretive argument in which details from the text and evidence about the social context and purpose of the text are woven together to present a convincing interpretive case.
(discourse communities)
Can interpret a text in the light of a larger discourse (or genre) to which the text belongs, considering such things as the positions taken by other writers, or use of themes and motifs in other works from the same tradition.
Can apply analytic strategies that depend upon analysis of the features and strategies of a particular genre or discourse, and build up a general argument from many different works.
Can present an explicit, extended literary analysis in which the interpretation of the text is driven by its place in a larger discourse, and in which the arguments consider how the text responds to that larger discourse.

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