Essay 2: Rhetorical Analysis of Yourself


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You will write a rhetorical analysis of yourself, drawing upon family and personal history, an interview with an elder relative, genetic traits and markers, cultural identity, ethnography, biology, aesthetics, personal skills/challenges/talents (with specific examples!). Your task is to persuade the reader that you understand yourself in relation to your familial, cultural, social/spiritual, and personal contexts. Connect your beliefs/philosophies to the people and places from which you come; the formative influence on your psyche, your personality. In addition to your genetic ancestry, consider your ideological, artistic, spiritual forerunners–those thinkers/artists/religious leaders/public figures/celebrities from whom you have drawn inspiration or upon whom you have modeled aspects of your life, attitude, style, ambitions!

The task is to analyze how the people, places, traditions from which you come have shaped who you are, who you are striving to become. What people and things have influences your tastes, desires, and beliefs? How might this have informed your ambitions and ideals, your plans? Why might you want the things you want? What motivates your beliefs and desires in life?


I might consider what formative influences (parents/television/peers) influences/fueled my lifelong interest in superheroes (superpowers, really) and use that a metaphor for my personal philosophy–a belief in compassion and justice, and a badass super-powered brawl.

My favorite superhero through adolescent was Rogue of the X-Men, a young woman with the mutant power to sap the life force/powers of anyone she touches, forcing her to live without flesh to flesh contact with another human. Why was I drawn to Rogue (and her fraught romance with the handsome incorrigible Gambit) rather than Wolverine, Storm, or Nightcrawler et al.?

When I apply this factoid about my geeky devotion to Rogue to the narrative of my life growing up in rural Utah as a closeted Gay kid, I recognize a kind of unconscious affinity I felt with her as a closeted thirteen-year-old boy. Rogue is a tragic figure who suffered needlessly, it seemed to me, but she isn’t just some victim. She is a brassy, flirty, intrepid, sensuous, and deeply principled hero.

Of course I love her!

I could write an entire analyses focusing purely on myself through the lens of X-Men history, using mutants and Rogue in particular as metaphors for the outsider groups to which I have and do belong. In the Marvel Universe, the X-Men are”

What draws and holds *your* interests in life? Why do you gravitate to these things? Have your interests changed, waned or intensified over time? Why might that be? What life experiences and formative influences have primed driven, sustained, and/or shifted your tastes and ambitions, your values?

In Hamlet: Act 4, Scene 5, Ophelia muses, “Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be,” and I would suggest to you that if we understand “what we are” (how we have come to be people we have become), then we have a greater control over who we may become (Shakespeare).

Demonstrate to the reader that you understand who you are in relation to the world, the past, and the future. You establish ethos here by interrogating all those pieces of yourself you examine. This is not a deconstruction but rather a reconstruction of your life, experience, and the lives and experiences of those with whom you share the world and/or DNA.

As a rhetorical analysis, your task is to “examine and explain how an author [in this case you] attempts to influence an audience.” Interrogate yourself on the page. What things are you doing to project the person you wish to project vs. the person you are? How might you better navigate the world, society, toward the realization of those goals you imagined in paper 1 by understanding your beliefs and aspirations in a historical-familiar-cultural context?

Your analysis should not simply paraphrase or summarize what have said, but should provide a way of understanding how the text—you—persuades the audience. You want to record interviews with family members about your life, their lives. Use direct quotes. How does the past filter into your life? This analysis will draw your people and life experiences. Examine and explain your decisions, your history, and your predispositions.

Think of yourself as a puzzle, an assemblage, a person constructed of pieces of other people who have shaped you. Who comes to mind?


The following questions will point you toward an intuitive template for organizing the essay:

Where and who *ALL* do I come from?
Who have I been? Who came before me? How have the stories of my people shaped my ideas/beliefs/desires/experience?
Who do I want to become? Who are my models, my mentors, my examples—good & bad? How have my experiences in the world motivated my desires, the ideals, my ambitions, and my personal philosophy?

After you answer these questions for yourself, you will begin to make connections, draw lines from your past, your lineages (familiar & ideological); to the person who you want to be become, noting how the past has influenced your personal trajectory.


How have the choices/sacrifices/environments from which I come affected me?
What are the formative experiences of my life heretofore?
How has the past influenced my future? Don’t simple think about desire, but also privilege (think: access to resource; family, class, race, gender, sexuality, skillset)?

“Whereof what’s past is prologue; what to come, In yours and my discharge”

(Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act 2, Scene I).

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