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Rhetorical Analysis of “Hidden Intellectualism” by Gerald Graff


In this paper, an article by Gerald Graff called “Hidden Intellectualism” will be analyzed. The author of the reviewed article is a professor of English and Education who wrote a number of works on literature and education. In the article at hand, he addresses students, administrators, and educators, aiming to inform them about another form of intellectualism, which is not obvious and may be unknown to them. The author claims that a person can be intelligent in many ways and differentiates between so-called “book smart” and “street smart” people.

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Graff believes that the main problem of school systems is that they do not include non-academic material in the program, leaving some students not involved in intellectual conversations. He states that students’ performance at school will increase if authorities in educational settings give them an opportunity to integrate their interests in studies. This teaching approach would drastically change learners’ attitudes towards studying and make this process more engaging, leading to better marks and comprehension of a subject. This paper will analyze the article from the perspectives of different rhetorical devices used by Graff, such as logos, ethos, and pathos, evaluate their effectiveness, and go through the examples of the techniques. It will also consider any logical fallacies found in the work and discuss whether they are critical for the argument’s overall effectiveness.

Appeal to logos

The first rhetorical appeal that will be discussed in this paper is logos. This technique is based on persuading the reader or the listener with the use of figures, statistics, literal analogies, or other factual information. Graff mentions the fact from the life of Marilyn Monroe, who “married the playwright Arthur Miller in 1956, the symbolic triumph of Mind over Jock suggested the way the wind was blowing” (26). By referring to Monroe’s biography and making this statement, the author appeals to logic and attracts the reader’s attention. With the help of this example, Graff wanted to convince the audience that intellectuality is not anything that should be ashamed of or laughed at.

Logical reasoning can also serve as an appeal to logos in writing, and the author of the analyzed essay utilizes this technique. Graff states that street smarts are often regarded in society as anti-intellectuals (22). This belief is based on their bad performance at school and in other educational settings. However, the author claims that students’ expertise in other fields, like sports, should not be disregarded by academicians. This argument can serve as an instance of logical reasoning, which contributes to the persuasiveness of the whole writing.

Moreover, the author utilizes his own experience to back up his logos. Apart from describing his own experience, Graff refers to other authorities on this subject. For instance, he cites Mark Edmundson – a professor of English who works at the University of Virginia: “I had never read all the way through a book that was written for adults that was not concerned exclusively with football” (Graff 28). Here, Edmundson mentions the time when he was more ‘street smart’ than ‘book smart’ and, similarly to Graff, was interested only in sports. However, this enthusiasm for football did not prevent him from becoming a professor and even helped make this transition.

Appeal to ethos

The next technique that is used by the author to sound more convincing is ethos. The purpose of this appeal is to persuade the reader by means of the credibility or authority of the rhetor. It is notable that Graff utilizes complex scholarly words such as “philistine,” “rudiments,” “interminable,” and “lucubration.” By choosing these words instead of more simple ones, the author presents himself as a qualified and believable resource. In this case, the appeal to ethos exerts a great impact on the audience, convincing them of the rhetor’s arguments. Moreover, the essay is written with correct grammar, syntax, and punctuation, which also adds to its credibility.

It is also worth mentioning the use of the author’s personal anecdote as an example of ethos. Graff tells the reader his story and provides examples from his personal experience in order to make the narration more trustworthy. For instance, the author reveals about his youth when the only thing he could talk about with passion was sports, and confesses that he did not take any interest in history or literature (Graff 27). He also stresses out that this absorption with sports should not be regarded as anti-intellectualism and describes it as another form of the phenomenon. The examples mentioned above show how ethos can make the audience believe the persuader’s words and how this device adds weight to the arguments.

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Appeal to pathos

Another rhetoric device that is present in the reviewed article – pathos is also known as appeal to emotion. This means that the rhetor resorts to the language or descriptions that evoke different feelings such as sympathy, anger, or pity in the reader or listener. In his work, Graff describes his experience of having to hide his intellectual abilities because other children in the neighborhood could beat him for being too smart (25). He notes that he “grew up torn between the need to prove his intelligence and the fear of a beating if he proved it too well” (Graff 25). The case portrayed by the author makes the audience sympathize with him and evokes the feeling of pity. Another example of an appeal to pathos in the essay is when the rhetor employs a childhood story of Michael Warner (Graff 22). One of the most memorable events from Warner’s life connected with hidden intellectualism was when a Bible study leader questioned him the doctrine of God’s omniscience (Graff 22). This story enables the reader to experience spiritual emotions and makes them agree with the author’s arguments about concealed intellect.

Furthermore, Graff describes situations the audience is likely to have experienced or writes about ideas they may have thought about. For example, he writes: “We assume that it’s possible to wax intellectual about Plato, Shakespeare, the French Revolution, and nuclear fission, but not about cars, dating, fashion, sports, TV, or video games” (Graff 22). The comparison of figures from philosophy, literature, and historical events with customary teenage hobbies is deliberate here. Graff knows what can engage children at school more than subjects and makes a contrast so that more readers could identify themselves with these examples. By stirring memories and emotions, the author draws the audience’s attention to the topic and facilitates communication.

The first logical fallacy

A logical fallacy is argumentation that is based on the wrong reasoning. It should be said that the reviewed article does not contain a large number of logical fallacies. However, a careful reader can find some flaws in the author’s arguments. First of all, it seems that sometimes Graff relies on his own experience too much and makes statements based not on the current state of affairs but on his own perception of the matter.

Actually, the foundation for the whole narration is how the author views the situation with education. This way of argumentation should be avoided in writing as it may lead to mistakes and mislead the reader. Graff tells his story of studying at school and describes the problems he encountered during this process. He states that the system of public education in the US requires improvement, but the situation might have already changed, and the author’s arguments, in this case, may be unwarranted. It would be better if the rhetor added more factual information to buttress his claims and cut down the number of references to his experience. Nevertheless, it seems that this logical fallacy does not interfere with the overall effectiveness of the author’s argumentation.

The second logical fallacy

The next author’s reasoning that can be viewed as wrong is connected with his own story and perception of intellectualism. Graff writes that he “found the sports world more compelling than school because it was more intellectual than school, not less” (28). In this sentence, it is not quite clear what he means by “intellectual.” He then explains that “sports were full of challenging arguments, debates, problems for analysis, and meaningful statistical math in a way that school conspicuously was not” (Graff 28). However, this interpretation of what can be related to “intellectual” subjects may be questionable as it reflects the author’s personal point of view.

School programs are developed by professionals in the field, and they involve all the compulsory subjects that students are to learn before graduation. Sometimes children are not interested in some subjects, but it does not mean that they are not “intellectual.” Furthermore, the relationship between “compelling” and “intellectual” seems to be wrong as the first does not necessarily involve the second. In other words, what interests or excites a person does not need to be intellectual and vice versa. Thus, the author’s passion for sports does not automatically refer this hobby to an academic subject. It should be said that this flaw in logical reasoning is not crucial for the work’s persuasiveness, and the author’s arguments remain to be logical.


In conclusion, the work by Gerald Graff not only raises an important issue but also serves as an example of an effective essay that features important rhetoric devices. The author resorts to logos, ethos, and pathos in order to convince the reader of the existence of concealed intellectualism. In addition, he aims to demonstrate that students’ interests should be encouraged by teachers and administrators at school as well as integrated into the curriculum. First of all, Graff appeals to logos when he mentions the fact from Marilyn Monroe’s biography. Then, he describes his own experience of having to hide his intellect in order to maintain good relationships with the children from the neighborhood. He also utilizes logical reasoning to back up his argumentation about hidden intellectualism.

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The use of complex vocabulary, correct syntax, punctuation, and grammar by the author can be regarded as an appeal to ethos. Moreover, Graff includes the narration of personal anecdotes in the essay to buttress his credibility. This technique is used by the rhetor in order to appeal to the reader’s emotions. For the same purpose, Graff mentions some situations he believes the audience has experienced. Apart from the rhetoric devices, the essay contains some logical fallacies, two of which have been described earlier in this paper. All in all, the literary elements utilized by the author make the writing more effective, increasing its credibility and drawing the reader’s attention to the topic.

Work Cited

Graff, Gerald. “Hidden intellectualism.” Pedagogy, vol. 1, no. 1, 2001, pp. 21-36.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, January 9). Rhetorical Analysis of “Hidden Intellectualism” by Gerald Graff. Retrieved from


StudyCorgi. (2022, January 9). Rhetorical Analysis of “Hidden Intellectualism” by Gerald Graff.

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"Rhetorical Analysis of “Hidden Intellectualism” by Gerald Graff." StudyCorgi, 9 Jan. 2022,

1. StudyCorgi. "Rhetorical Analysis of “Hidden Intellectualism” by Gerald Graff." January 9, 2022.


StudyCorgi. "Rhetorical Analysis of “Hidden Intellectualism” by Gerald Graff." January 9, 2022.


StudyCorgi. 2022. "Rhetorical Analysis of “Hidden Intellectualism” by Gerald Graff." January 9, 2022.


StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Rhetorical Analysis of “Hidden Intellectualism” by Gerald Graff'. 9 January.

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