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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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In keeping with most writing advisers, Radhika Chhotai Kotecha suggests that

A preface is your best advertisement after your book cover…That’s why it is important that you put yourself in the readers’ shoes and ask yourself: ‘If I were a reader, what would I be looking for? What would make me think this book is worth reading? What would my expectations be? What would I like to find in it? What would impress me and intrigue me?…Leave room for some mystery, so that readers are curious to read your work (Kotecha, 28/2/2014).

In other such advice there is little mention of logos, pathos or ethos yet those rhetorical precepts from Ancient Greece inflect all such strategies to persuade, including film itself. Rhetoric, then, and the importance of identification. The relation between “identification” and “persuasion” was a career focus for Kenneth Burke (1897–1993) who opined how we

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