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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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3. Peter Bogdanovich and Identification


Accordingly, we have advanced as follows: (a) There is a sense of relationships, developed by the contingencies of experience; (b) this sense of relationships is our orientation; (c) our orientation largely involves matters of expectancy, and affects our choice of means with reference to the future; (d) in the human sphere, the subject of expectancy and the judgment as to what is proper in conduct is largely bound up with the subject of motives, for if we know why people do as they do, we feel that we know what to expect of them and of ourselves, and we shape our decisions and judgments and policies to take such expectations into account (KB, PC, p. 18).

The quest for identification, thus finds itself within its own activity – the symbolic action of criticism itself reveals, as well as establishes, the analyst’s own needs and expectations in a world of contingencies and leaves open the door to further possibilities through future textual transactions (Cieslieski in Brock, 1999, p. 246).

I didn’t write about the movies I didn’t like; I wrote about ones I liked – so, if anything, I was trying to create a climate, an atmosphere, in which people would like my movies. Which of course, I hadn’t made yet (Bogdanovich in Harris, 1990, p. 3).

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