Thursday, September 3, 2009

Today's Film

Remember, we are screening the film "An Inconvenient Truth" in class this evening. Although most of you have seen the film before, this time you will be watching it with a rhetorician's eye, taking notes throughout.

You should pay attention to pathos, logos, and ethos moves, that is to say, appeals to emotions (fear, greed, hope), appeals to clarity (logical clarity as in relations of conclusions to premises or to evidence, definitional clarity, organizational clarity as in the provision of distinctions to relieve conceptual tensions or the organization of a case into easily digestable chunks or an easily digestable narrative or serial order), or appeals to character, through the presentation of the arguer as reliable, admirable, authoritative, one-of-us, etc.

You should pay attention to argumentative strategies that seem to aim to interrogate assumptions, or to seek to convince audiences to change their minds, or seek to persuade them to change conduct, or seem to aim to find ways to compromise in the face of irreconcilable or intransigent aspirations.

You should pay attention to strategies that seem to assume sympathetic, unsympathetic, and apathetic audiences, differences in levels of awareness among audiences, differences in the positionality of audiences, nationality (how would appeals to patriotism play to non-American audiences, for example?), gender, class, race, age, education, and so on, as well as strategies that seem to solicit audience identification or dis-identification and how these change over the course of the argument.

You should pay attention to pacing, volume, lighting, arrangement of the visual field, location of the protagonist (when is he speaking directly to you? when is he in voice-over?), to documentary footage, computer graphics, tables and charts, cartoons, and what kinds of claims seem to accompany these differences.

Your assignment is to write a paragraph (and publish it here on our blog by midnight Sunday at the latest) that makes an observation about a striking moment or recurring feature in the film as an argument.

It can be something that you regard as especially effective, or perplexing, or misleading, whatever. But it must be something that highlights a relation between two or more of the discourses of nature that I spoke to you about in our first lecture. It can be a scene in which two discourses of nature are juxtaposed, in which they complement each other, in which they compete with each other, in which they contradict each other in your view, either directly in play in some scene, or through a call-back to some earlier discourse, or as a strangely different framing of some scene compared to earlier variations in the film.

Whatever, all that is up to you.

These other things I mention you should be attending to -- visuality, pacing, Aristotelian appeals, aims of argument, solicitations of identity, and so on -- may provide the questions, the material, the language you use to describe what it is you take to be salient in the scene you are using to compare these two discourses of nature as they play out in the argument of the film.

Think about all of this before you go to class tonight, think back on the film if you have seen it before, get into an observant frame of mind, prepare to look for details in an active way rather than simply getting carried away in the argumentative/narrative flow of the film itself. See you all soon.

1 comment:

  1. One of the components that I focused on in this screening of the film were the cut-scenes that were not taken from his actual presentation. I saw the majority of the scenes that were not taken from his actual presentation or the short periods that elapse before or after (evidenced by the cheering crowd after one of his presentations in Asia) as a complete ethos move on Al Gore's part.

    Each one strove to portray Gore as a next door neighbor telling a story, in a similar style to FDR's famed "fireside chats". The cut-scenes are stylistically modeled after the fireside style chats that brought political celebrities to a social level where laymen could accept and listen to the content.

    Ethos is a continual Aristotelian appeal which Gore utilizes throughout "An Inconvenient Truth" to create a comfortable and open audience where he can "remove preconceived notions that prospective audiences could have.