Kayla Cason – “The Rhetoric Situation” by Lloyd F. Bitzer

In “The Rhetorical Situation,” Lloyd F. Bitzer illustrates the depth of a rhetorical situation and its relation to rhetorical discourse.  A rhetorical situation can be defined as an event that causes an author to respond and seek change. There are three main components of a rhetorical situation.  The first is exigence. According to Bitzer, “Any exigence is an imperfection marked by urgency; it is a defect, an obstacle, something waiting to be done, a thing which is other than it should be” (Bitzer 6).  In simpler terms, exigence is the issue the author is addressing and it must have the ability to develop positive change. The second is the author’s audience. The audience consists only of people who are capable of making change and of people who are influenced by discourse. The final component is the constraints.  The constraints of a rhetorical situation can be categorized into two groups: those that are originated or managed by the rhetor and their method, and those that are operative. They consist of people, events, objects, and relations; all with the power to restrict any decision or action needed to make change. The sources of these constraints include beliefs, attitudes, documents, facts, images, interests, motives, and “the like” (Bitzer 8).

I was most intrigued by the notion of the first general characteristic of a rhetorical situation.  On page 9, Bitzer states “Rhetorical discourse is called into existence by the situation; the situation which the rhetor perceives amounts to an invitation to create and present discourse.”  Through this, he conveys the idea that change cannot come about unless there is an issue present. I found this interesting because not only does this concept apply to rhetorical situations, but to everyday life as well.  If change is necessary, then, at its root is an urgent issue. Whether it be in situations as mere as a broken watch or as pressing as a school shooting, it is necessary for change to come through the words of a “rhetor.” This change can impact the lives of, not only the victims, but of the witnesses as well.  

Comments ( 3 )

  1. Michelle Ortiz
    Great summary! You were very thorough on what a rhetorical situation is and the elements it consists of. I did not really understand when Bitzer states “Rhetorical discourse is called into existence by the situation; the situation which the rhetor perceives amounts to an invitation to create and present discourse” but you analyzed this quote very well. Now I am not confused about this. I understand that in order for change to occur there is an issue present and I agree that this can be applied to everyday life as well. This is a very well written response!
  2. Tyara De Jesus
    I agree with Michelle! This is well written. I also found that fascinating how Bitzer says "In the best of all possible worlds, there would be communication perhaps, but no rhetoric- since exigences would not arise". He conveys how since this world is not perfect and filled with issues, it leaves space for rhetoric and exigences. Since this world has so many issues, and many people lack certain skills to stay peaceful, exigences and rhetoric are inevitable.
  3. Jamirka De León
    I agree with Michelle and Tyara, your response is so well written! I like how you got straight to the point and explained Bitzer's ideas and information in simpler terms. I was personally confused by the constraint and you explanation has cleared it up. I agree with your analyzes of how the exigence is brought into existence by the situation and how important in everyday life. It reminded of Michelle's response and how she mentioned that our world is not perfect and needs rhetorical situations. Overall, it was a great response, very well written!!

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