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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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10. Final Alembication: Film Education


Students of Burke will understand why I have substituted “Alembication” in place of the more traditional title given to a concluding chapter, “Summary and Conclusions,” since it is a term frequently used by Burke to imaginistically symbolize the distillation process whereby human reason tries to make sense of the environment by means of language (Kimberling, 1982, p. 93).

How can I reconcile my extra technical interest in letters with my extreme detest for the modern trend of specialization? Specialization is technique; and technique is the opposite of humanism (KB to Cowley, 18/1/1923 in Jay, 1990, p. 133).

Power in Hollywood, according to the editors of Premiere magazine, derives from the “ability to get (movies) made, to make them in a particular way, or to influence or manipulate those who make them with money, fear, or simple persuasiveness” (Lewis, 1995, p. 143).

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