Rhetorical Devices in Classroom Films — Eef Masson.

Rhetorical Devices in Classroom Films
(AIM, 17 May 2013)
Eef Masson (e.l.masson@uva.nl)
 Academic interest in non-theatrical and functional or ‘utility’ films (Hediger and Vonderau 2009) has increased considerably over the past decades. However, the research carried out so far has been somewhat restricted in scope. Studies published since the late 1990s have focused primarily on histories of production and distribution and questions concerning entrepreneurial or pedagogical effectiveness. Meanwhile, little attention has been paid to the films’ textual features: the means they employ in defending their informational, educational or commercial arguments. In the absence of such work, the image survives of very ‘formulaic’ genres, which are thought to make use of a very limited number of (highly recognisable) textual ingredients.
In my paper, I shall challenge this view, and propose an approach to the analysis of these films that helps to foreground their textual diversity. In doing so, I shall use the notion of ‘rhetoric’ which I operationalised in my recent book (Masson 2012). I depart from the assumption that the rhetorical functioning of films is always a matter of somehow incorporating into the text itself the audience addressed. Using some examples from a collection of Dutch classroom films (shorts from the 1940s and 50s), I shall argue that in order for a text’s rhetorical potential – and by extension also a corpus’ rhetorical diversity – to become visible, the interpreter needs to draw inspiration from the very specific viewing situations in which it functioned, and read it in terms of the particular audiences which it addressed.
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