It’s Just a Little Bit of Bitzer and a Dash of Vatz


For the mindmap, I chose to focus on Bitzer’s “The Rhetorical Situation” and Vatz’s “The Myth of the Rhetorical Situation” (leaving Biesecker for a day when I can better muddle through her claims and try to make better connections between her and Bitzer and Vatz). One of the things I dealt with specifically as I began mindmapping, was to break down the components of Bitzer’s rhetorical situation: constraint, audience, and exigence. It seemed easier to understand how each one played out in the context of his argument (though the exact meaning of exigence still escapes me) as I could link the sub-sections of each word. I thought the idea of the audience interesting because he demands that the audience be capable of being influenced by the rhetorical discourse, but also be capable of mediating change. But how is one ever sure if the audience fulfills either role, especially both? Aren’t we all capable of mediating change and being influenced by the rhetorical discourse?  Or are most of us considered the mere hearers and readers?

I also included quotes from the two men’s articles that caused me to stop and think about not just what they were saying, but how such comments could be applicable to practical situations. I laughed aloud when I first read Bitzer’s comment about Winston Churchill searching for the “finest hours” and finding them because it seems like the best “rhetorical situations” always end with people regretting what they didn’t remember to say. I thought Vatz’s comment–“If one accept’s Bitzer’s position that ‘the presence of rhetorical discourse obviously indicates the presence of a rhetoical situation,’ then we ascribe little responsibility to rhetor with respect to what he has chosen to give salience” (158)–was curious, especially in play with Bitzer’s comment about Churchill. It seems that to search for the “finest hours” is the way Churchill was choosing what topics and moments he was going to give salience. It seems our present leaders also choose which moments they will consider the “finest hours” in which to evoke the passion of citizens and influence how that public will react to certain policies and other official acts. I am still torn as to how I feel about Bitzer’s argument and Vatz’s retorts and decoupling of the earlier writer’s points. I agree with points made by Vatz against Bitzer, such as the linguistic depictions that influence how the audience sees a situation, but Bitzer’s argument still intrigues me, even if he seems too one-sided in how he describes a rhetorical situation. Maybe further mapping out the links and discontinuities between the arguments of the two men will give me greater clarity.

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1 Response to It’s Just a Little Bit of Bitzer and a Dash of Vatz

  1. I like your idea of focusing on what makes sense; however, also consider this a way to force yourself to try to make sense of what isn’t immediately clicking. You may want to be a bit more concise since you’ll be adding 14 more weeks of reading. I look forward to seeing what/how/where your mindmap leads.

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