Difference between literary and rhetorical?
What’s the difference between a literary analysis essay and a rhetorical analysis essay?
Generally speaking, a literary analysis essay attempts to evaluate the content of a piece of writing and what it means. There are many different perspectives or “lenses” which could be applied using literary analysis to help make arguments about its meaning. For instance, one could apply French philosopher Michel Foucault’s discussion of 18th century utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s “panopticon” to the book “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” to argue that the book shows how power and control are diffused throughout several agents in society who work on each other to modify their own behavior. Usually, a writer doing literary analysis selects a fairly narrow “argument” to make about the text they’re analyzing and in their essay they point to particular passages or quotes from the book to illustrate their interpretation of the main text. The general goal of literary analysis would be to show readers of your essay a point of view or perspective that they may not have consider on their own from just a casual reading of the main work.
A rhetorical analysis essay, on the other hand, would concentrate on factors such as the conditions (time, place, “exigence” or reason why the writer found it necessary to write in the first place, and other factors that would identify the overall context in which the text was produced), and would basically focus on how the author goes about trying to achieve his or her desired effect and whether he or she accomplishes the intended objective. Rather than looking at the main work in isolation without respect to the overall rhetorical factors which created it – which is the goal of literary analysis – rhetorical analysis sees little separation between the author and the text itself and its aim is to dissect the author’s own purpose in writing – i.e., whether its intent is persuasive, explanatory, descriptive, etc.) and basically looks at what rhetorical tools (style, tone, structure) the author uses to reach that end.
To grossly oversimplify, literary analysis looks at the text being studied as being isolated “finished product” with concrete meaning(s) which can be unlocked by the analyzer, whereas rhetorical analysis views the text being studied more as an act (an action by the writer), and studies the act as much as it does the actual text to help us determine and discover how we – as writers and as speakers – use language to help us communicate our own meanings to others.