Analyzing Martin Luther King Jr.s 1964 London Speech

Analyzing Martin Luther King Jr.s 1964 London Speech

One of the most engaging speakers of our times, Martin Luther King Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. The London speech you will have a change to analysis was presented to the City Temple audience on his way to accept the Prize, on a stopover in London. This is a radio broadcast episode from Democracy Now, after the speech was discovered in the archives in 2014. You want to take a few minutes to listen to the speech, and then read it on the Democracy Now site.

Take notes as you listen to the speech and then read through the transcript. You will want specific language and quotes for the focus of your analysis. Think about how King uses the appeals in the language of the speech (its rhetorical points). As you develop ideas, use details from his language, words, phrases, and then evaluate his evidence and methods of persuasion. Use what we have discussed in the textbook for methods of analyzing the appeals. Note when doing an rhetorical analysis, you cannot simply listen and respond, you must read the accompanying transcript of the speech in order to use specific phrases, words, and ideas in exact quotes.

Something to keep in mind, from our text editors, …dont just describe techniques and strategies in your rhetorical analysis. Instead, show how the key devices in an argument actually make it succeed or fail. Dont be surprised when your rhetorical analysis itself becomes an argument. Thats what it should be.” Keep this in mind as your respond to the discussions and as you begin your own analysis of the Martin Luther King speech.

This advice seems crucial to understanding the purpose of this first essay. If I were a student writing this paper, I would find this information quite important. It helps me realize that my analysis should be evaluative, not neutral, and that my analysis is itself already the beginnings of an argument.

After listening to King’s speech, and reading the transcript, write a 2 to 3 page, double-spaced, rhetorical analysis of Kings use of the appeals (in MLA format). This rhetorical analysis should show an understanding of your reading of Chapter 6. Do not quote the textbook but demonstrate an understanding of it’s points. Remember the focus here is not race, or changes in society, or a history of slavery, but how King uses words, phrases and logic to achieve certain effects of argument. You want to focus on ideas and expression, not on what you know of history. It is a challenge to do this because the times were volatile and social questions were provocative. But the key to a good rhetorical analysis is to keep it objective and unbiased. Focus on his argument, not your opinions of it.


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