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Rhetorical Analysis Essay

This assignment asks you to produce a thesis-driven analysis, complemented by secondary sources, of an aspect of rhetoric in an assigned text.


  • Develop clear cogent analyses and convincing arguments about rhetorical choices
  • Identify and articulate genre expectations, situating the text at hand within a larger conversation in a particular rhetorical situation, with a particular audience
  • Select credible and pertinent material from readings and outside texts to support a point or argument as well as illustrates awareness of viewpoints and competing arguments
  • Situate, integrate, and contextualize different types of evidence effectively while distinguishing the writer’s voice from those of sources.
  • Demonstrate effective organization and style – for a particular purpose, within a particular genre, to a particular audience
  • Develop understanding of and mastery of rhetorical choices within genre conventions, and develop awareness of how writers must make careful decisions based on purpose, audience and argument to execute project/writing professionally across writing situations
  • Rewrite and edit language, style, tone, and sentence structure according to genre and audience expectations
  • Practice applying citation conventions systematically in your own work
  • Plan and execute a revision process that does not rely only on direction from the instructor, developing ownership of both process and product to revise purposefully


Consider this assignment an opportunity to further explore and expand a line of analysis that you began with your Critical Reading exercises and then develop that analysis into a more complete and complex argument. You will now write a more expansive rhetorical analysis of your primary text. Your rhetorical analysis can delve into message, audience, rhetor, historical and/or social context or even a combination of these aspects.

Include secondary sources to strengthen your argument as part of the academic discourse community. Show that you can situate and integrate credible sources into your argument so that it exists as part of an ongoing dialogue among multiple parties involving the text being analyzed. Your task is not to only restate what these sources have said, but to engage and provide insightful responses as a member of this academic discourse community.

Basic requirements

  • Length: 1500-1800 words, typed, double-spaced, and presented in MLA format.
  • A minimum of three (3) secondary sources, not including the primary text being analyzed, must be used to develop the essay. A works cited page with source annotations will be required as part of the final draft.
  • All process work and drafts must be submitted to your instructor in order for the final draft to be graded.

Rhetoric of Fairy Tales

Option 1: Choose one of your completed Critical Reading Exercises to develop into a longer, more complex argument. Feel free to tinker with the questions and/or your response.

Option 2: Apply one of the assigned Critical Reading questions to a different fairy tale than the one(s) you originally wrote about (including tales we have not yet read in class).

Option 3: Develop your own question about fairy tale genre and rhetorical situation, based on your individual interests and in consultation with me.

Additional Guidelines:

  • Rhetorical analysis is different from the more familiar literary analysis you are used to performing. Your essay should not just focus on what your chosen fairy tale means, but HOW the text communicates this meaning to a particular audience, for a specific purpose.
  • Your RA thesis should make an arguable claim (one that another well-informed person could reasonably disagree with). Refer to the WR39B chapter in the AGWR for additional information on the types of arguments you might make, how to develop your main thesis, and how to organize and contextualize your ideas.
  • Keep in mind that you will not be able to discuss every single aspect of your chosen tale’s rhetorical situation in only 1500-1800 words. You will need to choose specific rhetorical strategies and/or genre conventions to connect to specific aspects of the tale’s rhetorical situation–particularly audience and/or context.
  • I strongly encourage you to choose ONE tale to focus your attention on. If you really, really want to compare two tales, come talk to me in office hours for approval.
  • You should use the critical essays included in our Norton edition and our Fairy Tale Bibliography for your three required secondary sources. You may choose additional sources if they are directly relevant to your specific arguments, in consultation with me. Refer to Chapter 4 “Citing and Integrating Sources” in the AGWR on how to cite sources properly in your RA.
  • Include annotations with your sources in your Works Cited page. Each annotation should contain the following information, written in your own words:
    • Brief description and analysis of the author’s ethos, credentials and background (Google this info; 1-2 sentences);
    • Summary of the author’s main argument and key supporting evidence OR description of the relevant rhetorical effects;
    • Explanation of reasons why you’re inspired to use this particular source;
    • Explanation of how you will use this source in/for your RA essay.

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