Rhetorical criticism began as rhetorical studies of single speeches or speakers. It is the description, analysis, interpretation and evaluation of persuasive uses of communication. The communication critic usually seeks to create a statement that interprets or evaluates the message that comes forth when an individual or the society is exposed from their immediate environment. All criticism bears some similarities. These similarities are; the description of the object being judged. Secondly is a full explanation of an argument to enable critical observations to be employed effectively. And thirdly, is the availability of judgment that can be made regarding the given standard. Rhetoric is viewed as an attempt to influence others through symbols and these has lead to development of various studies that are taken on various artifacts that are not public speeches (Benoit and Dean, par.1).
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It is an approach to criticism that was developed many centuries ago by a Greek philosopher, mathematician, and a writer of philosophical dialogues called Plato. He was also a founder of an institution in Athens that was the first institution of higher learning in the whole world. This person was a student of Socrates and he was highly driven by his ambition to overcome the execution that he faced noting that it was not fair. Plato, during his studies analyzed the speech made by Lysias to come up with the results showing whether this statement was meaningful. He emerged to be the best writer and his writings as been used in teaching various subjects like mathematics, philosophy, logic and rhetoric even up to date.
The goal of rhetorical criticism is to advance the knowledge about human communication that is supposed to reach out to the audience with a clear message. The rhetorical critics are required to explain and defend the following three things. First is the necessity of a given research, its analysis and criticism. Secondly is the means or method involved in the given analysis and lastly is in telling the accuracy of a given discovery in the analysis that was carried out. Rhetorical criticism is usually used to analyze the symbolic artifact that includes words, phrases, images, gestures, performances, texts, films, and any serious discussion made on a subject (Kuypers, par. 1). This is usually done in order to know how they work and to what extent.
It also analyses this symbolic artifacts to discover their mode of instructing, informing, entertaining, movement, performance and the way it can arouse the audience and convince them. This is normally done so that the performer knows the ways they can use to persuade their audience on how they can improve the perception of their audience in their work. In general, rhetoric criticism usually seeks to understand how symbols are used to act on people. Through criticism, there is development of understanding whereby the knowledge of human communication is build and it helps people to build up a better relationship with others.
A wide range of ideas that are connected to words and phrases have been developed to assist in the process of rhetorical criticism that explores everything considering the effects of the choice of words that an individual uses in their writings. These have helped in directing the given ideas that are meant to shape a pattern of a cultural expression. The major approaches that are being used include the narrative, metaphoric, genre, pentad, cluster and ideological criticism.
Uses of Rhetorical Criticism
As rhetorical theory widened its limits, so too did the rhetorical criticism widened its area of specialization and adopted a more liberal view of the nature of rhetoric (Kuypers, par. 2). Studies that have been carried out to develop innovations on rhetorical criticism have helped in providing insights that could have been difficult to obtain with traditional approaches. The aim of criticism is to provide insights into the work which will deepen the readers understanding and appreciation. In understanding the processes of rhetorical criticism, that involves the systematic investigation and explanation of symbolic acts and artifacts, one is able to create an exciting opportunity for an effective communication. If one is able to realize that there are various options that they can use in constructing a sentence and knows to use these options well, they will be able to question critically the message on artifacts rather than responding to it uncritically (Sonja, par1).
The complex rhetorical concepts and processes can be synthesized well into a clear statement that can be well explained. Many people think that rhetorical criticism is only confined to rhetorical or media criticism courses (Kuypers, par. 1). But in real sense, it involves our everyday activities and it should be used to understand the responses to symbols of every kind and helps us to create our own symbols in order to obtain the responses we desire. Rhetoric has helped in the use of imaginative language to communicate in an effective way while passing out a persuasive idea. This usually leads to creation of arguments among the audience and is a guide in training the public speakers and writers.
It used to play a major role in western education during the nineteenth century. Many scholars have been in the process of trying to discover the importance of rhetoric since the ancient times. It was first limited to its use in political environment since public participation in political subjects was highly valued, but recent scholars have rejected the opinion and concluded that it generally includes every aspect of a culture. It is known that any successful rhetorician can speak very well on any topic regardless the experience they have in the field. Rhetoric's is usually used in the courts to persuade ignorant person. According to Kuypers (par.4), he wrote a statement that was made by Pluto that "rhetorical is merely a form of flattery and functions similarly to cookery, which makes the undesirability of unhealthy food by making it taste good".
People studying rhetoric over the past century have emphasized the use of rhetoric to resolve conflicts by identifying shared characteristics and interests in symbols. Scientists also would use rhetoric to persuade their audience to accept their findings by sufficiently convincing that their study or experiment was conducted with reliability and the results obtained are true to support their conclusion. Rhetoric has played a major role in civic part of life in every society and is considered to be necessary in the foundation of all aspects of the society. It was concluded that rhetoric can shape the character of any person. In the other hand, criticism has helped in clarification and definition of the theoretical statements that are meant to be used in addressing the public. It also helps in setting up a standard of excellence in interpreting the functions of verbal communication in the society. Criticism has been used as an indicator of the limits of the modern knowledge during the public address.