Los Angeles Review of Books: The Eloquent Screen

A lifetime of cinematic writing culminates in this breathtaking statement on film’s unique ability to move usTHE FIRST THING to know about my impression of Gilberto Perez’s The Eloquent Screen: A Rhetoric of Film is that I’m not a film scholar, I’m a rhetorician.

And the first thing to know about rhetoricians is that, while our field of study is well over 2,000 years old, an alarming percentage of our disciplinary conversations revolve around what rhetoric actually is. Put 50 rhetorical scholars in a room together and you’ll have 50 slightly (or radically) different interpretations about what constitutes rhetoric. Even the basic definition of the term can be cause for contention. Aristotle’s definition circa 350 BCE is still a time-tested favorite, if a touch simplistic: rhetoric is the art of discovering all available means of persuasion in any given situation. Fast forward to 1969 and bohemian scholar Kenneth Burke offered this version: rhetoric is “the use of words by human agents to form attitudes or induce actions in other human agents.”


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