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Lloyd Bitzer coined the phrase "rhetorical situation" in the lead article of the first issue of Philosophy and Rhetoric. By redefining rhetoric as a response to a rhetorical situation, rather than a genre of speech, he paved the way for generations of expansion of the field of rhetoric into non-traditional persuasive forms.  

  • Rhetorical Situation:  A situation that can be altered by means of speech.
  • A rhetorical situation has three components; they are exigence, audience, and constraints.
  • Exigence:  A rhetorical exigence is a need or lack that can be addressed by means of speech.
  • Audience:  A rhetorical audience is an audience that is capable of altering the situation.
  • Constraints:  Rhetorical constraints are elements of the situation that limit the possibilities of what can or cannot be said.

Sources on Rhetorical SituationEdit

Baxter, Gerald D., and Bart F. Kennedy. "Whitehead's Concept of Concrescence and the Rhetorical Situation." Philosophy and Rhetoric 8 (1975): 159-164.

Benoit, William L. "The Genesis of Rhetorical Action". Southern Communication Journal 59/4 (1994): 342-355.

Beach, Wayne A. "Temporal Density in Courtroom Interaction: Constraints on the Recovery of Past Events in Legal Discourse." Communication Monographs 52 (1985): 1-18.

Biesecker, Barbara A. "Rethinking the Rhetorical Situation from Within the Thematic of Differance." Philosophy and Rhetoric 22 (1989): 110-130.

Bitzer, Lloyd F. "Functional Communication: A Situational Perspective." Ed. Eugene E. White. Rhetoric in Transition: Studies in the Nature and Uses of Rhetoric. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 1980. 21-38.

Bitzer, Lloyd F. "Political Rhetoric." Handbook of Political Communication. Ed. Dan D. Nimmo and Keith R. Sanders. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1981. 225-248.

Bitzer, Lloyd F. "Rhetoric and Public Knowledge." Ed. Don Burks. Rhetoric, Philosophy, and Literature: An Exploration. West Lafayette: Purdue UP, 1978. 67-94.

Bitzer, Lloyd F. "The Rhetorical Situation." Philosophy and Rhetoric 1 (1968): 1-14.

Bormann, Dennis R. "Adam Muller on the Dialogic Nature of Rhetoric." Quarterly Journal of Speech 66 (1980): 169-181.

Branham, Robert. "Speaking Itself: Susan Sontag's Town Hall Address." Quarterly Journal of Speech 75 (1989): 259-276.

Branham, Robert J., and W. Barnett Pearce. "Between Text and Context: Toward a Rhetoric of Contextual Reconstruction." Quarterly Journal of Speech 71 (1985): 19–36.

Brinton, Alan. "Situation in the Theory of Rhetoric." Philosophy and Rhetoric 14/4 (1981): 234–248.

Brummett, Barry. "Symbolic Form, Burkean Scapegoating, and Rhetorical Exigency in Alioto's Response to the 'Zebra' Murders." Western Journal of Speech Communication 44 (1980): 64-73.

Carlson, A. Cheree. "The Rhetoric of the Know-Nothing Party; Nativism As a Response to the Rhetorical Situation." Southern Communication Journal 54 (1988): 364-383.

Consigny, Scott. "Rhetoric and Its Situations." Philosophy and Rhetoric 7/3 (1974): 175-186.

Cox, J. Robert. "Argument and the 'Definition of the Situation'."  Central States Speech Journal 32 (1981): 197-205.

Edbauer, Jenny. "Unframing Models of Public Distribution: From Rhetorical Situation to Rhetorical Ecologies." Rhetoric Society Quarterly 35 (2005): 5-24. 

Engnell, Richard A. "Otherness and the Rhetorical Exigencies of Theistic Religion." Quarterly Journal of Speech 79 (1993): 82-98.

Ervin, Elizabeth. "Rhetorical Situations and the Straits of Inappropriateness: Teaching Feminist Activism." Rhetoric Review 25 (2006): 316-333. 

Garrett, Mary, and Xiaosui Xiao. "'The Rhetorical Situation' Revisited." Rhetoric Society Quarterly 23/2 (1993): 30– 40.

Hoover, Judith D. "Big Boys Don't Cry: The Values Constraint in Apologia." Southern Communication Journal 54 (1988): 235-252.

Hunsaker, David M., and Craig R. Smith. "The Nature of Issues: A Constructive Approach to Situational Rhetoric." Western Journal of Speech Communication 40 (1976): 144–156.

Jamieson, Kathleen M. "Antecedent Genre as Rhetorical Constraint." Quarterly Journal of Speech 61 (1975): 406-415.

Jamieson, Kathleen Hall. "Generic Constraints and the Rhetorical Situation." Philosophy and Rhetoric 6/3 (1973): 162–170.

Johnson, Janet, "Twitter Bites and Romney: Examining the Rhetorical Situation of the 2012 Presidential Election in 140 Characters." Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric 2 (2012): 54-64.

Kaufer, David S. "Point of View in Rhetorical Situations: Classical and Romantic Contrasts and Contemporary Implications." Quarterly Journal of Speech 65 (1979): 171-186.

Kuypers, Jim A. Presidential Crisis Rhetoric and the Press in the Post-Cold War World. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1997.

Kuypers, Jim A., Marilyn J. Young, and Michael K. Launer. "Of Mighty Mice and Meek Men: Contextual Reconstruction of the Iranian Airbus Shootdown." Southern Communication Journal 59/4 (1994): 294–306.

Larson, Richard L. "Lloyd Bitzer's 'Rhetorical Situation' and the Classification of Discourse: Problems and Implications." Philosophy and Rhetoric 3 (1970): 165–168.

McConnell, Kathleen F. "In Appreciation of the Kind of Rhetoric We Learn in School: An Institutional Perspective on the Rhetorical Situation and on Education." Quarterly Journal of Speech 96 (2010): 278-299. 

Miller, Arthur B. "Rhetorical Exigence." Philosophy and Rhetoric 5 (1972): 111-118.

Miller, Carolyn R. "Genre as Social Action." Quarterly Journal of Speech 70 (1984): 151-167.

Mister, Steven M. "Reagan's Challenger Tribute: Combining Generic Constraints and Situational Demands." Central States Speech Journal 37 (1986): 158-165.

Norton, Robert Wayne. "The Rhetorical Situation Is the Message: Muskie's Election Eve Television Broadcast." Central States Speech Journal 22 (1971): 171-178.

Patton, John H. "Causation and Creativity in Rhetorical Situations: Distinctions and Implications." Quarterly Journal of Speech 65 (1979): 36-55.

Pomeroy, Ralph J. "Fitness of Response in Bitzer's Concept of Rhetorical Discourse." Georgia Speech Communication Journal 4/1 (1972), 42–71.

Rubin, Alan M., and Rebecca Boring Rubin. "An Examination of the Constituent Elements in a Presently-Occurring Rhetorical Situation." Central States Speech Journal 26 (1975): 133-141.

Salvador, Michael. "Technocratic Discourse and the Rhetorical Constraint of Local Knowledge." Western Journal of Speech Communication 56 (1992): 18-36.

Smith, Craig R., and Scott Lybarger. "Bitzer's Model Reconstructed. Communication Quarterly 44 (1996): 197-213.

Solomon, Martha. "Ideology as Rhetorical Constraint: The Anarchist Agitation of 'Red Emma' Goldman." Quarterly Journal of Speech 74 (1988): 184-200.

Swift, Crystal Lane. "’I Had an Abortion.’: The Rhetorical Situation of a Planned Parenthood T-Shirt." Qualitative Research Reports in Communication 8 (2007): 57-63.

Vatz, Richard E. "The Myth of the Rhetorical Situation." Philosophy and Rhetoric 6 (1973): 154-161.

Young, Marilyn J. "LLoyd F. Bitzer: Rhetorical Situation, Public Knowledge, and Audience Dynamics." Twentieth-Century Roots of Rhetorical Studies. Ed. Jim A. Kuypers and Andrew King. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2001. 275-302.

Young, Marilyn J., and Michael K. Launer. Flights of Fancy, Flight of Doom: KAL 007 and Soviet–American Rhetoric. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1988.