This is the official blog of Northern Arizona slam poet Christopher Fox Graham. Begun in 2002, and transferred to blogspot in 2006, FoxTheBlog has recorded more than 670,000 hits since 2009. This blog cover's Graham's poetry, the Arizona poetry slam community and offers tips for slam poets from sources around the Internet. Read CFG's full biography here. Looking for just that one poem? You know the one ... click here to find it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Slam Tutorial: Using Rhetorical Strategies

Rhetorical Strategies/Devices

Elements creators of text use to put forth their arguments

Themes: Linking devices that hold a text together structurally, e.g. the battle between good and evil: the general idea or insight about life a writer wishes to express. All of the elements of literary terms contribute to theme. A simple theme can often be stated in a single sentence.

Repetition of certain words: Why, with all the words at his or her disposal, does a writer choose to repeat particular words?

Counterpoints: Contrasting ideas such as black/white, darkness/light, good/bad.

Imagery: language that evokes one or all of the five senses: seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching.

Metaphor and symbolism: Non-literal, imaginative substitutions in which, for instance, a tree becomes a metaphor for family, or springtime symbolizes rebirth.

Characterization: The method used by a writer to develop a character. The method includes (1) showing the character's appearance, (2) displaying the character's actions, (3) revealing the character's thoughts, (4) letting the character speak, and (5) getting the reactions of others.

Plot development: Linear or fragmented, chronological or driven by a theme or some other unifying device.

Introduction and conclusion: Framing strategies.

Narrator: Usually first or third person. Is the narrator the same as the author?

Style, tone, voice: Gut reactions are useful here. Examine your own responses. What is it that makes you respond as you do? Are you the author’s intended audience? If not, who is? The attitude a writer takes towards a subject or character: serious, humorous, sarcastic, ironic, satirical, tongue-in-cheek, solemn, objective.

Analogy: The comparison of two pairs that have the same relationship. The key is to ascertain the relationship between the first so you can choose the correct second pair. Part to whole, opposites, results of are types of relationships you should find.

shells were to ancient culture as dollar bills are to modern culture OR shells: ancient culture :: dollar bills: modern culture

Flashback: Action that interrupts to show an event that happened at an earlier time which is necessary to better understanding.

Foreshadowing: The use of hints or clues to suggest what will happen later in literature.

Hyperbole: Exaggeration or overstatement.

I’ve told you a million times not to exaggerate.

Personification: giving human qualities to animals or objects.

a smiling moon, a jovial sun

Allusion: A reference to something real or fictional, to someone, some event, or something in the Bible, history, literature, or any phase of culture.

Example: The author alludes to Helen of Troy when discussing women who bring about ruin.

Irony: An expression, often humorous or sarcastic, that exposes perversity or absurdity.

For example, the fact that only teams from the U. S. and Canada play in the World Series® is ironic.

Oxymoron: A contradiction in terms, such as faithless devotion, searing cold, deafening silence, virtual reality, act naturally, peacekeeper missile, or larger half.

Paradox: Reveals a kind of truth which at first seems contradictory.

Red wine is paradoxically good and bad for us.

Symbolism: is using an object or action that means something more than its literal meaning.

*The practice of representing things by means of symbols or of attributing symbolic meanings or significance to objects, events, or relationships.
*A system of symbols or representations.
*A symbolic meaning or representation.

the bird of night (owl is a symbol of death)

Parody: A humorous exaggerated imitation, or travesty.

The film, Airplane! is a parody of 1970’s era disaster films. Austin Powers films parody James Bond-type spy films. Kung Fu Hustle - a movie by Steven Chow parodying Chinese wuxia films, as well as gangster films in general. Some examples of parody in classic literature include "MacFlecknoe," by John Dryden ,A Tale of a Tub by Jonathan Swift, The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope, Namby Pamby by Henry Carey, and Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift.

Sarcasm: A cutting, often ironic remark intended to wound.

A form of wit that is marked by the use of sarcastic language and is intended to make its victim the butt of contempt or ridicule.

Satire: literary tone used to ridicule or make fun of human vice or weakness, often with the intent of correcting, or changing, the subject of the satiric attack. One of the most interesting features of satire is that it is almost universally believed to be a persuasive writing form. In actuality, it appears that most written satire actually fools most of its readers, so that, far from being persuasive, it is often not even understood.
Aristotelian Appeals


Appeals to the head using logic, numbers, explanations, and facts. Through Logos, a writer aims at a person's intellect. The idea is that if you are logical, you will understand.


Appeals to the conscience, ethics, morals, standards, values, principles.


Appeals to the heart, emotions, sympathy, passions, sentimentality.

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