A How to Guide
Stasis Theory/Heuristic Questions
You need to first establish the
context for your rhetorical artifact.
To do so consider the following
In what historical moment did
the artifact come into being?
In terms of sociology and
psychology, what’s in play in the
What form does the artifact
take, and what conventions of
the form are obeyed or flouted?
Who is the person(s) behind this
Key Question: Who is the
audience, and why does the
rhetor choose this audience to
convey her or his message?
How are ethos, logos, and pathos
What types of evidence are used
for what reason (kairos)?
Key Question: What seems to be
the larger, overall message of the
What is emphasized and how is it
emphasized in terms of the
structure of the artifact?
Key Question: Is the artifact set up
to be experienced in a certain way
(i.e. through comparison, division,
If there is text, how is the text
written? In a formal, informal, or
some other tone/style?
If the text has visual elements,
what visual elements are there and
how do they contribute to the
Key Question: How might you
describe the overall feel/style of
If there are people in the piece,
how are they moving, acting, using
If the artifact is digital, how is the
piece set up to be received by
Key Question: If you are dealing
with digital media, how is the
audience supposed to interact with
What role, if any, does human
memory play in your artifact?
(Remember that actors memorize
lines, slam poets their poems, and
many online speakers parts of their
Key Question: How memorable is
the piece, and why is it, or isn’t it, a
memorable rhetorical artifact?
How do the canons of rhetoric
(and the attendant questions we
just answered) help you establish
that the rhetorical artifact was/is
effective at helping your rhetor
reach a given audience?
THE POINT IS NOT TO SAY IF
SOMETHING IS “GOOD” OR “BAD”
AESTHETICALLY OR OTHERWISE—
YOU NEED TO SAY HOW AND WHY
THE RHETORIC WORKS OR
Foss, Sonja, K. Rhetorical Criticism.
Long Grove, Il: Waveland Press,