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Literature & Language
Article Critique
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Article critique. Read three student essays by Elissa, Will, and Rohan (Article Critique Sample)


For this activity, you should read the three student essays by Elissa, Will, and Rohan and answer the questions attached. You should refer to the "Argument Essay Analysis" text for help in identifying these features. You may download the questions in Word or Pages and answer them directly or else write a brief essay answering the questions.
Digital Lives Project      University Writing 1020 Spring, 2019  Argument Essay Analysis  The purpose of this text is to lay out the various elements that should appear in an argumentative essay.  They are roughly in the logical order of how each one should be considered by the writer, and in an abstract sense, at least, they are roughly in the order the reader will encounter them in the text.  Rhetorical elements, such as purpose, may be manifest throughout your argument and, as such, may not be pin-pointed in any one sentence or another; nevertheless, any time someone reads a text, the questions foremost in his or her mind are Who is this writer? What does she want? and How does it impact me?   Introduction Rhetorical Considerations   Purpose:  Is it clear how the writer meant to change or influence the audience’s mind or behavior?  Audience:   Whose mind or behavior does it seem she wants to change and why?  How is this audience invested in the issue?  Does it seem as though the writer is targeting the right sub-group?  Ethos:   As part of this strategy of approaching a target audience, how does the writer represent her interest in the issue and her motives for arguing as she does?  How does she represent herself (her character) in a way that is appealing to the audience?  Exigence:  How is this issue timely or relevant to your audience?  Elements of the Argument  Establishing Context:  It is often necessary (and sometimes simply wise) to clarify how the issue will be framed within a given context, which is the occasion, or situation, or environment in which the issue will be considered.  While sometimes it is just for the sake of orientation, establishing the context is also a useful way to control how your audience thinks about the issue.  When considering the issue of whether music artists should refrain from using offensive lyrics, it is almost impossible to move forward without clarifying whether you mean lyrics that are misogynistic, graphic, homophobic, or simply crude.  Different audiences are offended in different ways and to different degrees by these various manifestations of “offensive” lyrics.  2 Framing the Issue:    There is both a practical aspect and a rhetorical aspect to framing issues.  Concerning the former, the writer should take great pains to express exactly how she is proposing to look at the question, what she is willing to be held accountable for, and even what the basis for argument or analysis is.  It functions like a contract.  The reader must accept—or reject outright—what the writer is promising to support and must refrain from posing outside considerations to invalidate the argument.   The rhetorical aspect of framing issues is familiar, too.  In politics, it is called adding spin and can be done in countless ways, some subtle and some overt.  (i.e. Should Congress stop the president’s new taxes (i.e. tariffs) on American businesses?”  However, it is important to recognize that making this move is not necessarily evil.  In Chris Richard’s article on the CMA Awards, he frames the issue of whether country music artists should speak up about gun violence as a question of whether country music is a way of escaping reality or getting deeper inside of it.  Logically, the reader should know what the issue is in order to follow the argument, thus it should appear in the introduction; however, like everything in argument, there are variations to most every rule.  Making your Claim:  The claim is simply where the writer stands on the issue.  Again, it logically follows the issue, but it can be withheld until later in the essay if doing so fits her rhetorical purpose. Note: It is a good practice to boil the issue down to a yes/no, either/or question when you are developing your essay, and then pick a side.  Making Assumptions:  All arguments rest on sets of assumptions, just as buildings rest on foundations.  Sometimes they are visible and sometimes not.  It is essential that you are aware of what key assumptions your argument is based on.  For one reason, they must be acceptable to your audience.  Beyond that, assumptions can be a powerful driver for getting your audience to accept your argument, as long as they are in agreement.  Justin Jouvenal could have considered whether the Juggalos, as a group, have criminal tendencies without ever mentioning the involvement of the FBI; however, when he implies that the FBI may be unfairly picking on a disenfranchised group, many readers assume that intervention on the juggalos behalf may be necessary to prevent an injustice.  In fact, this is the second reason you should be aware of your assumptions: if they are shaky or suspect, it is an opening for your opponent.  A third reason is simply a matter of clarity.  If you are not aware of them, you can confuse your reader (and yourself) in ways that are often difficult to explicate.        3 The Essay Body  Narration (Background):  An argument often needs a section designed to get the reader up to speed.  Here the writer must make decisions about what her target audience needs to know in order to consider the issue.  Furthermore, she must often consider the likelihood of having a primary audience, a secondary one, and perhaps even more.  Naturally, the primary audience is the most important, and the writer should tell them as much as they need to know without over-explaining and boring them.  However, this may leave secondary audience(s) under-informed, and the best remedy for this is to be conscious of the situation.  There are innumerable ways of relaying information without stopping the flow of the argument.  Lines of Argument:  In classical argument, the next step was called the Divisio, which was to outline or break down the steps in the argument to come.  In most cases, it is only necessary to do this explicitly when the writer is about to lay out a complex argument so the audience will able to follow her better.  Nevertheless, it may be a useful step to take when developing an argument so that the writer can get things clear in her mind.  In essence, it is making a brief outline of the argument.  Analytical Method:  Analysis is something that we do all the time, usually subconsciously.  Generally speaking, analysis is breaking a subject down into its component parts and examining the relationships between them, (and, based on these findings, the subject’s relationship to the wider world).  Each analytical method involves a different set of questions, assumptions, and tools.  In a sense, analysis is the machinery by which we examine the relationships between our claims and our evidence.  There are many common forms of analysis with which we are very familiar.  For example, if we want to claim that “Voodoo Chile” was a great rock song, we have to evaluate the evidence (the features of the song) in light of an analytical method, which, in this case, would be those criteria by which we determine any rock song to be great.   In many of your courses, you are being required to analyze subjects in a new and often painstakingly careful way, and that is because many analytical methods are based upon one theoretical framework or another.  Musicology is the formal study of music.  However, music, as a subject, can be analyzed through various methods (or lenses) from other disciplines: economic, sociological, psychological, perhaps even paleo-biological.  In fact, this is oversimplified: one does not usually do “psychological” or “economic” analysis but rather one kind of it, following a method based on Freudian, Jungian, or behavioral psychological theory, for example, or Keynesian economic theory.  Chances are that your analytical method will be determined by the question or issue that you are investigating; nevertheless, it is worthwhile to consider what its features will be.     4 Evidence:  Evidence comes from various sources and the kinds are generally familiar.  Facts are generally the most persuasive.  Statistical information, case studies, and textual evidence can also be strong evidence, although they usually must be interpreted, which can always be challenged.  Anecdotes, examples, scenarios are helpful by leading the reader to think about the subject in a particular way, but otherwise, they usually do less to “prove anything” because they are too subjective or representatively selective.  Sound reasoning itself can also function as evidence.  We may know little for certain about whether there is life on other planets, but one can argue (somewhat) convincingly that the proposition of there being none other than us in all the universe is too fantastic to comprehend.    Perhaps more important than considering what kinds of evidence you can gather to support your claim, examining the available evidence should play a crucial role in how you frame the issue and develop your claim.  Essentially, you should not make any claim that you cannot support with solid evidence, and to take this a step further, you cannot really know anything about a subject that the evidence does not show.  Speculation about whether there is life on other planets can only go so far without any evidence.     Textual Features  Conventions:  We learned the general conventions of writing in primary and secondary school, such as how to punctuate sentence boundaries and use quotations correctly.  While this knowledge is essential for writing well, it is also important to recognize that the rules apply to particular genres with some variation.  I find it useful to compare these variations with those governing how we dress, behave, or speak in different social situations.  In some we are more informal, and we may add features of speech, such as colorful language or schoolyard humor, to our text or conversation.  In others, we are buttoned up and serious, using “one” instead of “I” and only the most tasteful forms of humor, if any.  Generally speaking, we learn how to write for any given genre the same way that we learn how to behave in a new environment, by observing what others seem to be doing correctly and imitating it.     In academic disciplines, there are usually additional conventions that serve the discourse shaped by the subject matter or methodology.  In philosophy, one tends to make reference to features of logical argument (making propositions, announcing conclusions with “ergo” and such) because the method figures so prominently in what can be said about the subject.  In physics, the language of mathematics tends to take over because much of the subject cannot be understood in any other language.  One set of these conventions that we will examine during the research paper are various ways of formatting research essays. 


Article Critique
Author Name
Institution Affiliation
Questions about Elissa
1) Is it clear what issue Elissa is arguing? Where does she frame the issue, in the intro, the end of paragraph three, elsewhere? Is it clear what the two sides are? Is the underlying rationale for each position clear?
In her essay titled The Fervor of Feminism in Music, Elissa argues that gender inequality is one of the biggest problems faced by women nowadays. In order to prove her viewpoint and to frame the issue, Elissa gives the example of women belonging to the music industry such as Madonna and Beyoncé. The one side of the story is that women should be given as much respect and value as is given to men, and the second side of the story is that it may take us a lot more years to change the mindsets of people in this male-dominating society. The underlying position for each rationale is quite clear and understandable.
2) What kind of ethos does Elissa project? Is she knowledgeable, credible, fair-minded, honest? Does she have any sort of attitude?
Elissa sheds light on the personal and professional lives of Madonna and Beyoncé, who have devoted themselves to raising voices for women’s rights. The examples Elissa gives in this text make us feel that she is knowledgeable, honest and fair-mind, and does not use any kind of attitude.

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