Bitzer, Lloyd "The Rhetorical Situation"

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In his article, “The Rhetorical Situation” Lloyd Bitzer claims that rhetorical discourse is the response to a rhetorical situation. There are three characteristics of a rhetorical situation.

These three things have to be identified in order for rhetorical discourse crop up.


The rhetorical situation does not call a situation into existence, the situation calls rhetoric into existence. A situation is rhetorical when some specific situational circumstance requires the need for rhetoric. Rhetoric is needed when an audience must be pushed to do something. Bitzer defines a rhetorical with three key terms. Every rhetorical situation has exigence. Exigence is a problem that needs to be addressed and resolved by rhetoric. Rhetoric must find a solution for the problem or the situation is not rhetorical. This potential solution involves the second aspect: audience. A rhetorical situation in focused on reaching those with the power to facilitate change. The audience is the group of persons that can affect exigence. The audience must be able to work for and potentially manage change. The last requirement of a rhetorical situation is a set of constraints. Constraints are all the aspects of a situation that constrain decision and action. They are the obstacles that impede modifying the exigence.

The situation controls rhetoric. The situation controls the rhetorical response to the exigence.

Possible Implications

Glossary Terms



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