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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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8. Hollywood’s Postmodern Barnyard


Insofar as the individual is involved in conflict with other individuals or groups, the study of this same individual would fall under the head of Rhetoric…The Rhetoric must lead us through the Scramble, the Wrangle of the Market Place, the flurries and flare–ups of the Human Barnyard, the Give and Take, the wavering line of pressure and counterpressure, the Logomachy, the onus of ownership, the War of Nerves, the War (KB, RM, p. 23).

I argue that negotiated and collective authorship is an almost unavoidable and determining reality in contemporary film/television (Caldwell, 2004, p. 199).

As discussed in Chapter Seven, the business zeitgeist of 1980s Hollywood reflected reactionary national upheavals in politics and the economy as heralded by the Ronald Reagan administration. The working ethic in Hollywood accorded with a fail-safe managerial grip on production budgets. The expansion of multiplex cinemas coupled with the feverish reporting of weekend box office takings by a corporate press all focused press and film executive attention on a easy metrics that defined ‘success’. Just the mention of Heaven’s Gate was warning enough to creatives tempted from the cultural script. Peter Bogdanovich’s (1988) revision of Pieces of Time includes in its introduction perhaps the most pained representative anecdote of the time from one of our case study directors. At the age of

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