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Ancient Style and YouTube Commercials – English 328: Writing, Style, & Technology
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Ancient Style and YouTube Commercials

Find a commercial on YouTube that you find stylistically interesting (see below for guidelines on selecting a commercial).  Write a 1250-1500 word essay where you analyze the commercial according to the rules of “style” as the ancients thought of “style.” In other words, using as your guide the selection on style from Crowley’s and Hawhee’s book Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students, identify, analyze, and discuss the elements of ancient “style” evident in the analyzed text. Be sure to make some sort of point about the strengths and weaknesses of the text or of the applicability of this method of analysis.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you work on this assignment:

  • First, you need to find a commercial on YouTube. This is easy to do– simply do a search on YouTube for “commercials.”  Take some time to find a commercial you think will make for a good analysis.  It needs to be a single commercial– don’t use a “top ten” sort of compilation video– and I would recommend that you use a commercial that is one that originally aired on television and not one that was specifically designed for YouTube.  It would probably be best NOT to use a commercial that are just graphics and some kind of slogan, like the “Got Milk?” ads.  Also, you need to pick an ad that is understandable to a general audience– avoid ads that are overly technical or specialized. You will need to post two or three commercials you are thinking about writing about for this project as a blog post; check the schedule for when this is due.
  • You should be as detailed as possible in your analysis of the style of your YouTube commercial. For example, you will probably consider the appropriateness of the commercial, the uses of different kinds or ornaments, figures, and tropes, how the sentences are constructed, the word orders and use of language, etc.  However…
  • …keep in mind that none of us (your teacher included!) can rattle off the definitions of the many elements of ancient style Crowley and Hawhee discuss in their chapter. In other words, you should consider your audience somewhat “informed” about the elements of ancient style, but you should also quote from Crowley and Hawhee, and give definitions of the various parts of style as appropriate.  Indeed, a major part of the assignment is your ability to quote, paraphrase, and explain the readings about style in relation to your commercial.
  • Along these lines of quoting from Crowley and Hawhee: be sure to include a works cited page with citations for the materials you cite in your essay. Also, be sure to follow the rules for parenthetical citation that are a part of good MLA style.
  • Last but not least, you need to have some sort of point to your essay. The goal here is not to go on a “scavenger hunt” for each and every stylistic element you can find.  Rather, you want to make a point about what the applicability of ancient styles to examining very contemporary videos.  What does it mean to view these commercials through the lens of the ancients’ definitions of “style?” Are the ancients’ notions of style still relevant today? What is the effect on the reader of the stylistic elements present in the text that you are examining? Do you consider the text successful in terms of style? Why or why not?

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