The purpose of stylistic analysis is to determine exactly what the writer did to achieve rhetorical effect. Prose writers have three tools”form, content, and style. Lucas assumes that the most powerful rhetoric is created when these three elements work together seamlessly. Form refers to how a piece is organized. For example, most prose has, at minimum, a beginning, middle, and end. Each section has a purpose to fulfill and each section must somehow pave the way for the following section. If a list of facts comes in a particular order, does that order serve a purpose?
Are formal expectations set in a section and, if so, are they met. Content refers to the facts, ideas, and anecdotes themselves. Do the facts support the argument? Do the ideas resonate with the audience? Does the anecdote make a point and is the point the right one? Do the ideas build to an irresistible conclusion? Are the expectations set up by the form fulfilled? What preconceptions does an audience have of these ideas? Style refers to the choice and arrangement of the words and sentences that convey those ideas. How are metaphors, allusions, and other figures of speech used?
What do the words sound like? Is there cadence and rhythm? Are long and short words and sentences used purposefully and to good effect? What is the tone? Is there momentum? Do the words and references have special meaning to the audience? To achieve maximum effect, each of these three elements must support each other. For example, the intent of a document is to persuade people that X is desirable. However, the best way to achieve the goal is not necessarily to say straight out, I want to convince you that X is desirable. Instead you might say, Barack Obama thinks X is wonderful.
That is a decision about content. Or, you might decide to list ten great things about X. Thats a decision about form. If you wanted people to have positive emotions towards X, you might choose to describe X in comparison to something people have great fondness for. Thats a stylistic decision. How to Perform a Stylistic Analysis Stylistic analysis is a close textual analysis of the work under consideration. As Lukas says, this analysis involves probing the document microscopically at the level of the sentence, phrase, word, and syllable (Lucas, p.565).
The first step is to summarize the purpose of the speech in a sentence or two. This is the grounding of the analysis in that the purpose of putting the text under the microscope is to determine if and how it achieved its purpose. The second step is to describe the structure of the piece. What are the major sections? The third step is to analyze each section, starting with the beginning of the document and ending with the conclusion of the document, and ask yourself the following questions: 1. What is the purpose of this section?
2.How does this section relate to the larger document? 3. What are the structural expectations for this section? How are they met? 4. What is the content and how is it persuasive? 5. What is the style in terms of diction, sentence length, tone, cadence, logic, emotive language, rhythm, use of figures of speech, etc. How do style choices contribute to persuasiveness? 6. Evaluate how well synthesis of form, content, and style is achieved. 7. How does this section lead to the next section? 8. Conclude by describing the movement of the whole speech and the persuasive impact of that movement.