Exigence is basically the catalyst of a rhetorical situation. Without the exigence, a person will not go into speaking rhetoric because he or she faced no such problem or situation that had prompted him or her to do so. Bitzer says, “an exigence is an imperfection marked by urgency; it is a defect, an obstacle, something waiting to be done” (6), I think because an exigence is something that needs to be overcome and that is exactly what sparks a rhetorical situation – the need to overcome an exigence.

Your audience is exactly what you would imagine it to be; it is the people listening to you, each one hanging onto the edge of his or her seat if you’re lucky. The thing is, an audience in the context of rhetoric does not exactly have to be a giant group of people, it could be anywhere from one to an infinite number of listeners and they don’t even have to be seeing you face to face to be counted. Say your rhetoric is written down and published, well then your audience is anyone anywhere who decides to sit down and read whatever it was you had to say.  As Bitzer says, however, “a rhetorical audience consists only of those persons who are capable of being influenced by discourse and of mediators of change” (6).

According to Bitzer, “Standard sources of constraint include beliefs, attitudes, documents, facts, traditions, images, interests, motives, and the like” (7). Constraints limit the view of the audience just as they shape the way a rhetor speaks to his audience. Constraints are important because they play a large role in the decisions made during a rhetorical situation.

In the beginning of his writing, I found that Bitzer wrote in such a way that it was a bit hard for me to follow. He goes for paragraphs saying “In saying this, I do not mean…”, “Nor do I mean…”, “Nor would I equate”, etc, by the time he gets to his point, I’ve already forgotten what it was he was trying to tell me in the first place. It makes it confusing and I suppose that in that way, it was hard for me to understand precisely what some of Bitzer’s concepts were. He later defines, to my confusion, a rhetorical situation as, “a complex of persons, events, objects, and relations presenting an actual or potential exigence which can be completely or partially removed if discourse, introduced into the situation, can so constrain human decision or action as to bring about the significant modification of the exigence” (Bitzer 5).

Source : Lloyd Bitzer’s “The Rhetorical Situation”

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