This course will focus not on rhetoric or discourse about film, but the rhetoric of film–the structure and function of cinematic form and its aesthetic and social influence. Using both historical and contemporary theoretical models for interpreting both static and moving images (see list of texts and contexts), students will be invited to explore and apply the rhetoric of cinema in its various contexts. This will include examining film as a persuasive medium that plays ideological, commercial, and normative acculturating roles; looking at films as rhetorical texts with their own structure and complex multimedia grammar (language, iconography, narrative); and examining the peculiar and evolving phenomenology of film as movies are now multipurposed and more diversely experienced through the digital media. Along the way we will look at comparisons between the pragmatic methods of composing texts and making films; film as translation (the rhetoric of adaptation), and film as spiritual rhetoric (rhetorical methods for representing or invoking the sacred).
Texts and Contexts: Ancient – Medieval – Renaissance
- Euripides, Bacchai (for its meta-theatricality and the acculturating force of theater)
- Plato, Republic (section on ideal forms; eidos as both pictorial “image” and as rhetorical “form”)
- Aristotle, Poetics (especially for his comments on spectacle and audience response)
- Miles, Margaret. Image as Insight: Visual Understanding in Western Christianity and Secular Culture (Boston: Beacon Press, 1985; role of images in medieval culture)
- Leon Battista Alberti, De pictura (1435; seminal treatise on perspective and the ut pictura poesis tradition comparing painting and poetry)
Texts and Contexts: Contemporary Semiotics, Rhetorical Theory, Film Theory
- Barthes, Roland “The Rhetoric of the Image” from Image-Music-Text (London: Fontana, 1977)
- Blakesley, David, ed. The Terministic Screen: Rhetorical Perspectives on Film. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2003.
- Bordwell, David. Making Meaning: Inference and Rhetoric in the Interpretation of Cinema (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989)
- Brummett, Barry. Rhetorical Dimensions of Popular Culture (U of Alabama P, 1991)
- Cegarra, M. “Cinema and Semiology” Screen 14 (1973): 129-87
- Eco, Umberto. “Articulations of the Cinematic Code” in Movies and Methods, ed. Bill Nichols (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), 590-607.
- Hendrix, Jerry, and James A. Wood, “The Rhetoric of Film: Toward a Critical Methodology” Southern Speech Communication Journal 39 (1973): 105-22.
- McLuhan, Marshall. Essential McLuhan, ed. Eric McLuhan and Frank Zingrone. (Concord, Ont.: Anansi, 1995).
- Metz, Christian, Film Language (U of Chicago P, 1974)
- Whittock, Trevor. Metaphor and Film. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990).
- Wollen, Peter. Signs and Meaning in the Cinema. (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1972).
Requirements / Assignments
Reading, research journal, and attendance at film screenings
Conference paper proposal (abstract of 250 words)
Cinematic rhetorical analysis (short paper of 4-5 pages)
Annotated bibliography (sources on rhetoric and film; publishing sites for such studies)
Publishable article (major research project of about 20 pages)