Rhetorical Meme Analysis

4th November 2015

memem 2

Any analysis, especially rhetorical analysis, is difficult for students to master. They inevitably struggle with the “How” of analysis: How does the author’s strategy enhance the author’s purpose/argument?

When having my students analyze, I give them what I call the “WWH method. It stands for What is the strategy the author is using?, Where is the strategy located/demonstrated IN THE TEXT?, and How does the strategy enhance the author’s purpose/argument?

Most of my Honors Sophomores can easily complete the “What” and the “Where” once they have learned the rhetorical devices and have seen many examples. It is, however, very difficult for them to then analyze exactly why the author chose to use said strategy and how it was effective.

In order to practice this process outside of class, I gave my students a homework assignment to find a meme on the internet that uses one of the rhetorical devices we are studying. They then had to analyze the meme for how that device highlighted what the meme is claiming about society in general.

I adapted this assignment from a project done by the University of Michigan called The Rhetoric of Memes. This proved to be a great resource when providing samples to my students of what I was expecting before I sent them out onto the world-wide-web for homework.

Julius Caesar Rhetorical Analysis

The rhetorical meme assignment is a supplemental homework assignment to help students practice the skills they are working on in our analysis of Cassius’ and Antony’s speeches in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

I have always had my students complete an analysis of Antony’s speech to the Romans in Act 3; however, this year, with the help of Ms. Spero’s AWESOME lesson and strategy, we did a practice analysis of Cassius’ persuasive appeal to Brutus in Act 1:2. The students knocked it out of the park!

The students read Act 1 as a team first for comprehension purposes. Then, I took a class period to first model a few “spokes” of the SMART wheel analysis strategy for Cassius’ plea to Brutus and then let the students finish it with their team.

Below is my quick “key” for the assignment:


***Notice how the students must figure out which strategies create which rhetorical appeal (logos, pathos, or ethos) in addition to the rhetorical situation of speaker, audience, and subject.

With the help of this wheel, the students were better able to complete the “WWH” of analysis in their paragraph and essay writing. They have also told me I have “ruined” memes for them…oops!



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