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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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9. Scorsese, Coppola, and Burke: A Parlor Discussion

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The comic frame of acceptance but carries to completion the translative act. It considers life as a project in “composition,” where the poet works with the material of social relationships. Composition, translation, also “revision,” hence offering maximum opportunity for the resources of criticism. The comic frame might give a man an attitude that increased his spiritual wealth, by making even bad books and trivial remarks legitimate objects of study. It might mitigate somewhat the difficulties in engineering a shift to new symbols of authority, as required by the new social relationships that the revolutions of historical environment have made necessary. It might provide important cues for the composition of one’s own life, which demands accommodation to the structures of other lives (KB, ATH, pp. 173–174).

“I suppose they must have a million problems in Europe, also, but it just seems like the baggage of working in American films and being part of the American system which is the studios, the unions (which have never done anything good for me, always drove me crazy), the press – which is as much a part of this wheel – and the distributors. It’s as though you are entering into this life support system of little fishes and big fishes. And I think of Francesco Rosi as working like a real artist, expressing himself” (Francs Ford Coppola in Cowie, 2005, p. 223)

“The seventies, the decade of the director as author, quote unquote…what’s the word? Acknowledged author, are...

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