I would be lying if I said I was any kind of expert on rhetoric. I’m not really an expert on anything save for the Bratz media franchise, which had yet to help me in my academic career. Instead, my background in rhetoric is grounded in general articles and other forms of Rhetoric for Dummies. For some reason rhetoric has yet to “click” with me. In a sense, I can understand the points and remember the rhetorical triangle and lessons of that nature. But rhetoric remains a flat, lifeless expanse of the unknown. I have yet learned how to work with it, as a living, breathing, evolving entity which is constantly being explored and refined.

Governor’s White: My Soulmate, My Friend

Governors-White-Label-2014-copyOne example of a rhetorical situation which did make sense to me was Rickert’s introduction to The Whole of the Moon. I have been drinking inexpensive wine for ages, all because I couldn’t afford the “good” stuff. I had read before that wine tasting had little to do with taste and more to do with ambiance and price tag, among other factors, and I never claim that my palate is very refined to being with. My favorite bottle of wine is Governor’s White, which I purchase at Costco for $6.29 per bottle and I couldn’t be happier with it. But as I started reading this section I began to wonder, what does this have to do with rhetoric?

Context and the Beast

I never would have thought the context of wine tasting would have anything to do with rhetoric, but according to my digital copy of Very Short Introductions: Rhetoric, context is one of the major factors which rhetorical situations hinge around. I also realize that context is something which impacts many networks which I’m a part of. When I communicate through my ODU email account, I’m presenting myself in a professional context. On Facebook, it’s a casual context. On OkCupid, the man I’m talking to often takes on a sexual context, which I generally do not appreciate it.

It seems clear that rhetoric is situational. In saying this, I do not mean merely that understanding a speech hinges upon understanding the context of meaning in which the speech is located. Virtually no utterance is fully intelligible unless meaning-context and underrances are understood; it is true of rhetorical and non-rhetorical discourse.

-Rickert, page 3

In the situation of a dating website, the ultimate goal of the users varies. A common goal is to meet someone to form a relationship with. In this case, the users must mutually convince each other that meeting and spending time together would be a worthwhile endeavor. The resulting rhetoric varies as the range of users in dating websites, such as OkCupid, varies from those who can barely converse in their native language, to people who write in a formal tone and include citations for comments and links for further reading. The reception to various approaches depends on the ultimate goals and rhetorical abilities of the receiving users.

No situation can have a nature independent of the perception of its interpreter or independent of the rhetoric with which he chooses to characterize it.

-Vatz, page 154

When men choose to approach the situation of OkCupid by treating women as sexual objects and expecting sexual returns for their investment of a message, the dating situation becomes uncomfortable, at best, and can often turn volatile.

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