Rhetorical Bestiary Entry

Overview. You will compose an “entry” for the class’s online rhetorical bestiary.  A rhetorical bestiary is a collection of “entries” on various nonhuman animals and their habits of communicating and responding to one another. You will select an existing (or extinct) animal species, research it, and then use StoryMaps software to produce an “entry” for the collection.

Specifics: You will use the StoryMaps cascade application to compose one entry for what will become the class’s rhetorical bestiary. This entry will not take the form of a formal argument but will instead look something like a cross between an informal argument, an intensely vivid description, and a multimedia encyclopedia entry. It should contain several images and/or video clips, enough to bring the species before the eyes of your audience; the length of the alphabetical text (the words) should be the rough equivalent of about a 4-5 page double-spaced paper.

Your task will involve:

  1. diligently researching your chosen species, particularly its social relations and habits of communication
  2. presenting this species to us in a way that delights, fascinates, surprises, and informs us about it (both logos and pathos, iow)
  3. and then contemplating with us the implications of your research for rhetorical studies.

Begin by reading and watching everything you can find about this species throughout the semester. Create a folder on your computer to gather and save pertinent information, links, and multimedia files for your entry. (You’ll have to document your sources for everything—text, images, videos—in a Credits section at the end, so be sure to keep good records.)

Compose your entry in an MSWord or other document file (google docs is also fine) first, saving frequently. Work with the document file until you’ve determined your content and organization.

You want your audience to learn from and be moved by your entry, so decisions about organization and text/media content are crucial. Don’t just lob indiscriminate bits of info into your entry, as if it were unedited C-Span. Think it through. You are composing a “text” that has a purpose and an audience. Sift through the information you gather and discern what the audience needs to know, see, and hear to achieve your rhetorical goals; then compose your entry in a way that achieves those goals. What info is most crucial? How must it be presented to move the audience to care, to invest?

At the bare minimum, your entry must include:

  • A selective introduction to your chosen species. What you tell the audience about this species will depend on how familiar they’re already likely to be with it and on what specific information about this species is most interesting/moving/surprising. Questions you might want to respond to here include, for example, where (what geographic region) does it come from? what are the relevant events of its history? is it typically domestic or wild? both? what’s its genus/what other species is it closely related to? is it a predator? is it social or does it live mostly alone? what are its sexual practices? does it mate for life? Etc. Use images and/or video to help familiarize us with this animal’s appearance, evolution, habitat, habits, and so on.
  • A description of this species’ communication practices, including how (visual, aural, gestural, etc.) it communicates, why it communicates, and when it communicates. Highlight anything fascinating or surprising about this communication, and use video and/or audio to give us a sense of it—what does it sound like or look like or feel like? And so on. Be sure to cite several sources, both introducing them in the text and (if possible) linking directly to them, and then listing them in the Credits section at the end. Be very clear about whether you’re citing a credible scientific study or an anecdote of the sort that appears in Kennedy’s “Hoot in the Dark.”
  • A conclusion in which you draw out the implications of this research for rhetorical studies: what does this information from animal studies teach us about the limits or the scope of rhetoric, for example? Think about how Kennedy worked with discoveries about animal communication to rethink some basic tenets of rhetorical theory. What do you think the information you’re presenting means for traditional (humanist) approaches to rhetorical studies? Does it confirm, challenge, or extend an argument made by Kennedy or another rhetor we’ve read?
  • A Credits section at the end. In the credits section, you’ll offer a list of all the sources you’ve cited in the entry. Inside the text itself, you should introduce your sources: “In a 2010 study conducted at the University of Iowa, researchers discovered that…” or “in a youtube video posted in 2015, giraffes are seen jumping rope.” If the source is online, link directly to it inside the text. In the Credits section at the end, you should list every source you’ve cited inside the text, print or online, and offer the appropriate documentation.

Once you’ve got your sources, content, and organizational flow determined, go to StoryMaps, create a new StoryMap using the Cascade theme, and create your entry using the multimedia options available in this application (instructions linked below). The StoryMaps medium is the key to the “delivery” piece of your entry, and you’ll want to use it to offer as compelling and provocative a delivery as possible. However, as you move the materials from your document to StoryMaps, you’ll also no doubt start inventing and arranging again–the rhetorical process is organic that way.

A series of instructions for using the Cascade app to create an entry in StoryMaps are here. Go through them carefully and don’t be afraid to try some things to see if they work (if not, delete and start again—it’s simple since you have all your materials already stored elsewhere).

Grading. Total points is 25. Here’s your rubric:

Criteria Evaluation Points
Introduction: is the introduction effective, does it orient and grab the reader’s attention? Are the images or videos offered appropriate? Do the text and multimedia give you a good sense of who this species is, what it’s like, and where it lives? If so, what is most helpful? If not, what else is required for the introduction to be as effective as possible? 5
Communication: Is the information in the body of the entry well researched? Does it give you a vivid sense of how, when, and why this species communicates? Are images and videos well-chosen and appropriate to bring these communication practices to life for you? If not, what’s missing? If so, what content brings it most vividly alive? Are the sources for all the information and audio/video/image files documented correctly? Is there any bit of information that doesn’t seem to be backed up with a source? What’s the most fascinating or delightful thing this entry taught you about this species’ communication practices? What do you think needs more work? 8
Conclusion: Does the conclusion grapple with what the communication practices of this species implies for rhetorical studies? Does it contemplate what the species teaches us about the scope of rhetoric and/or how it might challenge rhetoric’s basic tenets? What works best in this section? What needs most work? 5
Sources/Credits: Has the author cited the sources for all information and digital files? Are the sources introduced and linked (if possible) inside the text and then documented correctly—MLA or APA style–in the Credits section at the end? If not, offer concrete feedback. 3
Composition: Arrangement: Is the information in the entry arranged coherently and effectively? Delivery: Is the page (text, images, videos) designed effectively? Is all the font easy to read? Has the author made the most of the Cascade application, or do you think s/he could do titles, texts, media, or immersive sections? Style: Does the tone, layout, and content cohere stylistically? What do you think works best about the way this entry is composed? What do you think needs more work? 4


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