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Film Mavericks in Action

New Hollywood, New Rhetoric, and Kenneth Burke

Alan Taylor

The book’s ambition is to uniquely yoke familiar histories of New Hollywood with aspects of critical theory that, since the 1950s, have embraced advances in the New Rhetoric as pioneered by literary theorist, philosopher, social analyst and educator Kenneth Burke (1897–1993). The study tracks the career arcs of Hollywood film directors Peter Bogdanovich, Martin Scorsese, Michael Cimino and Francis Ford Coppola whose productions are regarded as Burkean perspectives by incongruity. This analysis is contextualized within an overview that, from the 1920s to the present, considers Hollywood as a "languaged industry" that is grounded in Burkean principles of Order, identification, hierarchy, courtship and ambiguities of substance. The project is designed to serve the interests of colleagues and students in Rhetorical Theory, Film Education, Creative Writing, American Studies, Production Studies, and Film and Media Studies.

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2. Hollywood’s Bureaucratization of the Imaginative


An imaginative possibility (usually at the start Utopian) is bureaucratized when it is embodied in the realities of a social texture, in all the complexity of language and habits, in the property relationships, the methods of government, production and distribution, and in the development of rituals that reinforce the same emphasis (KB, ATH, p. 225).

By the end of the teens, production planning was standardized. At the start of the production season, the producer (usually located in Los Angeles) would consult with the president and various board members (the directors of capital) in New York City. There, the group would calculate expected income for the year. With that figure as the overall budget, the group then determined how many of what types of film at what levels of financial investment the firm would make (Staiger in Bordwell et al. 1991, pp. 143–144).

It is easy to see how Veblen’s concern with fossilized institutions fits with his concept of trained incapacity (KB, PC, p. 47).

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