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In order to understand better how and why persuasive strategies succeed and fail, Rhetorical Studies examines the use of symbols in a wide variety of contexts. Through the use of an extensive range of critical and interpretive methods, scholarship in rhetoric focuses on the ways texts come to have any meaning for an audience, whether the text is a speech, printed publication, television program, film, or public ritual, such as an inauguration.

Rhetorical theory aims, ultimately, to enable voices to be heard and citizens to be empowered to construct identities and interests that are meaningful for them and the larger society.