What makes an audience rhetorical ? A rhetorical audience differs from other kinds of audiences (say, an audience at the movie theater) in that a rhetorical audience consists of people who, like the rhetor, can act upon the exigence that prompted the discourse. Perhaps they have the power to advance the rhetor’s purpose; perhaps they have the power to obstruct it; perhaps they can modify it; perhaps they can offer an alternative.
Name: Jennifer Jones: Age: 34 Residence: Lincoln, Nebraska Occupation: Graphic designer Political affiliation: Independent Religion: Methodist (non-practicing) Relationship status: Divorced Education: M.A. (Art history) Income range: $50,000–75,000 Homeowner (Y/N): Y Hobbies: Gardening, reading, cooking Favorite food: Italian Favorite color: Indigo Pet: cat The factual and the fictional audience The rhetorical audience has two “dimensions.” The first is what we’ll call the FACTUAL AUDIENCE. The factual audience is made up of the actual, flesh and blood people involved in the rhetorical situation. They can be described demographically, i.e., by age, residence, occupation, political and religious affiliation, categories of likes and dislikes, of beliefs and values, etc.
Of course, a factual rhetorical audience can include many different segments: i.e., groups of people with different backgrounds, values, beliefs, and experiences; with different relationships to the exigence, to the rhetor, and to one another.
A good way to get a clear sense of who the factual rhetorical audience is (1) to list and rank all the different groups who are affected by the exigence and can affect the outcome of the situation:
Who is the most/least invested segment?
Who has the most/least power to affect the outcome?
And who, given the rhetor’s purpose, will be the most/least difficult to persuade ?
The factual and the fictional audience What we’ll call the FICTIONAL AUDIENCE is the one that the rhetor imagines and projects through his/her discourse — it’s the way the audience “sees” itself portrayed. To say that a rhetorical audience is partly a “fiction” doesn’t mean that the rhetor is lying, deluded, or just making stuff up. It means that, to argue persuasively, then, must project to her factual audience an an image with which they can identify, and one that will advance the rhetor’s purpose.
The factual and the fictional audience Sometimes that “fictional” image is projected via the way the rhetor talks to or about the audience. =
The factual and the fictional audience Sometimes that “fictional” image is projected via the way the rhetor talks about him- or herself.
The factual and the fictional audience And sometimes it occurs via the way the rhetor projects a relationship between him- or herself and the audience.
A good way to determine who the fictional audience, then, is to pay careful attention to the ways that the rhetor: — explicitly describes the audience — addresses him-/herself to them — “models” the audience through his/her own behavior — portrays his/her relationship with them — portrays the audience’s relationship to the exigence — portrays the audience’s relationship to one another AND ALWAYS ASK: WHY? That is, how does encouraging the audience to see themselves in this way advance the speaker’s purpose?