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Complete table of contents for The Norton Reader, 11e

Sites about Rhetoric

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Writing Assignments

 You may know the difference between a simile and a metaphor, but what about catachresis and aposiopesis? Choose at least five of the figures of speech defined on the American rhetoric Web site ( and see if you can identify them in Martin Luther King Jr.’s or John F. Kennedy’s speeches. For example, what figure of speech does King use when he says, “we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check”?

Compare King’s “I Have a Dream” speech ( with his “Beyond Vietnam—A Time to Break Silence” speech ( How do these speeches differ in arrangement, tone, style, and delivery? How did the setting (both physical and historical) have an important impact on the way these two speeches were delivered?

Now listen to John F. Kennedy’s Civil Rights Address at Make the same comparisons between King’s “Dream” speech and Kennedy’s Civil Rights Address, but this time focus on audience. How did the audience of these two speeches differ, and how was the delivery shaped to reach that audience?

Malcolm X’s “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech ( was delivered on Easter Sunday in 1964 at the Audubon Ballroom. Comparing Malcolm X’s speech with King’s “Dream” speech is an interesting study in content and form (see “Content/Form” at You may know that the content of Malcolm X’s speech differs from the content of King’s, but what about form, or how the content is delivered? See if you can find both similarities and differences. (For more background information on Malcolm X and the speech, see

Listen to Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, and to Franklin Roosevelt’s and Ronald Reagan’s (see links below). Can you identify specific conventions that these speeches follow? What is the structure of each speech? Consider the historical context of each of these speeches, the physical setting, and the audience to which each was addressed (use both and www.pbs.orgfor more information). How did these variables affect the way these speeches were delivered?

John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address:

(The History Channel Web site has this online companion to its series on JFK, which includes rare photos, video footage, and background information about the events taking place during his presidency:

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address:

Ronald Reagan’s First Inaugural address:



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