Arhetoric situation refers to all the characteristics of audience,purpose and necessity that serve to present a moment requiring arhetoric response. In other words, they are the features orcharacteristics of the contexts in which presenters or writersestablish a rhetoric discourse. A rhetoric situation will thusencompass a number the type and disposition of the audience, thecircumstances that compel the writer to have the urge to deliver hismessage and the writer’s intent and objective in the writing. Otherfactors considered in establishing a rhetoric situation are theprevious works on the subject under consideration and the generalstate of affairs in the external context.
Bitzerexamined a rhetoric situation by giving the various constituents ofthe situation and further establishing their relevance in bringingout the situation. He defined a rhetoric situation as aninterrelation of complex factors such as persons, occurrences,objects and any characteristics establishing an actual or potentialexigence. Such factors can be removed entirely or partially ifdiscourse introduced in such a situation brings about confusion inthe decision making of the humans or establish a significant changein the exigence (Bitzer 5). He further stated that withoutconsideration of a discourse there are three components of a rhetoricsituation, which are closely related or interlinked. One of thecomponents is exigence while the other two components are features ofthe complex, which include the audience to be confined indecision-making and action and the constraints, which sway the rhetorand can have significance on the audience.
Accordingto Bitzer, any exigence is an imperfection characterized by urgency.Generally, it is a fault, a shortcoming or an unaccomplished task yetto be done. It is something that is everything other than what it issupposed to be. Although there exists several exigencies in almosteveryday situation, those that cannot be modified do not constituteto a rhetoric situation. They are not features of such a situation.Situations or exigencies such as death, summer and natural disasterssuch as hurricanes, which cannot be modified, are not rhetorical.Additionally, other exigencies which can be modified by others waysother than discourse are also not rhetorical. Rhetorical situationsare thus those that can only be modified by way of discourseincluding exigencies such as embarrassment and dangerous situations.If a situation can be reversed through the use of a tool or aperson’s actions then it seizes to be rhetorical. An exigence isthus rhetoric when it is possible to positively modify and notthrough any other method but via a discourse. Craig and Scot were inagreement with Bitzer’s definition of a rhetoric situation (Edbauer6). They however added that a rhetoric situation should entail aplurality of exigencies and complex links between the audience and arhetorician’s objectives. The two enhance Bitzer’s aspect ofexigence by making it more related with the other features of asituation. They used the example of former US president Bush speech‘war and drug’. The main elements prevalent in the speechincluded exigence, audience and constraints. At the time of thespeech, the media had reports that the public had the perception thatdrugs were an issue of concern to the people. The media thus enhancedthe people’s interest to the president’s speech an aspect that hetook advantage of to propel his motives. He established the drugissue as a rhetoric problem that required urgent attention. The twofurther argue that for an exigence to constitute to a rhetoricalsituation, it must show or establish the qualities within thesituation. For instance, a writer may give a remark such as ‘Iam in an embarrassing situation’(Bitzer 1). Though the statement has the word situation, it is farfrom having valid situational characteristics. It does not describethe extent of the embarrassment and does not describe fully thesituation. It does not qualify the situation. For the exigence toconstitute a rhetoric situation, it should give the extent ofembarrassment in such a case.
Bitzerargues that a rhetoric situation is very powerful in controlling andit is as well situational. It is situational in various dimensions.One of them is that a rhetoric discourse is established as a responseto a situation just the same way an answer is created or establishedin response to a question. Another dimension is that a speech gets arhetoric consideration from the situation just as a part of thediscourse in the same way as an answer gets relevant from the factthat there is a question (Edbauer 6). Thus, it is necessary for arhetoric situation to exist just as a necessary condition for arhetoric discourse. Further, just as many questions or problems haveno solutions many rhetorical situation quizzes are never unraveled.Most of them are created, mature up and reach dead ends withoutsolutions. Another issue is that just as an answer conforms to aquestion, a rhetorical situation dictates the mode of response.
Richardon the other criticized Bitzer’s definition of a rhetoric situationarguing that there has to be totality of the specific elementsconstituting a rhetoric situation. He seeks to recontextualize theelements in a wide perspective of real, historical and existingprocesses. This seeks to re-define the elements of a rhetoricsituation against the historical trends in which they exist. Richardconquers with Smith and Scoot that conglomeration of the elements ofa rhetorical situation has some weakness. On the issue of exigenciesin Bush’s speech of war and drugs, the two point out to thesignificance of perception on the side of the audience. In thespeech, there were three issues in interplay during and after thespeech (Edbauer 6). The issues are the speech itself, the mediaportrayal and the constraints of all the participants. It bringsabout the importance of perception in the interpretation of such asituation. It shows that rhetoric communication goes behold theintentions or objectives of the rhetor depending on how the issue isperceived by the participants or amplified by certain factors such asthe media. Exigence is thus like a combination of several factorsranging from the speaker and audience perception and theinstitutional and resource constraints. Though exigencies existeverywhere in almost all situations, there can never be a perfect ofpure exigence because every exigency is usually affected by otherfactors. Exigency thus does not necessarily exist, it is anamalgamation of several processes and encounters emerging fromeveryday activities, concerns, media influence and normalarticulations in days occurrences. Bitzer’s definition of exigencyis thus not an adequate model to define an exigency and thus todevelop a rhetoric situation.
Richardargues that the meaning of rhetoric situation is not intrinsic inelements or publicly observable events. Usually or most of the timewe learn issues and facts from other people’s communication safefor issues or elements that directly critique our own beliefs. Sincethe world is not a plot to establish events then the process toestablish a rhetoric situation is a two-step process. The first stepis the choice of the elements to communicate and the scene ofcommunication.
Allthe authors of the three articles analyzed and used for this essayare in agreement that a rhetoric situation consists of combination ofvarious factors including audience, intent and exigence. According tothe authors, a rhetoric situation refers to all the features of audience, purpose and necessity that serve to present a momentrequiring a rhetoric response. Bitzer defined a rhetoric situation asan interrelation of complex factors such as persons, occurrences,objects and any characteristics forming an actual or impendingexigence (Vatz 157). Such factors can be removed entirely orpartially if discourse introduced in such a situation brings aboutconfusion in the decision making of man or establish a significantchange in the exigence. Just like a question demands for an answer, arhetoric situation requires a rhetoric response and is strictlydetermined by the situation in context. The main issue arising fromthe discussion is that every rhetoric situation must be accompaniedby an exigence. Exigencies exist everywhere in everyday situationthough not all of the exigencies turn amount to a rhetoric situation.It must be such that a rhetoric situation must be addressed by asuitable contingence.
Bitzer,Lloyd "TheRhetorical Situation," Philosophy and Rhetoric.The Pennsylvania State University Park PA, 1988. Print
EdbauerJenny. Unframing Models of Public Distribution: From RhetoricalSituation to Rhetorical Ecologies. RhetoricSociety Quarterly, Vol. 35, No. 4(Fall, 2005), pp. 5-24
VatzE. Richard. TheMyth of the Rhetorical Situation.University Park, Pa. and London:The Pennsylvania State UniversityPress,