Rhetoric of the Cinema 10803 & 20803
I have a side interest in film, and I thought teaching composition through the lens of the film industry would be a fruitful way to get students thinking critcally about media and excited about writing. Thus, I taught both freshman and sophomore composition using film as a framework.
Students frequently report to me that they find writing more manageable and pleasurable when they get to write about something they enjoy, and I have yet to find a student that does not enjoy movies. I also very firmly believe that students should be taught to analyze movies because now, more than ever, people are bombarded with images and messages from the media, and students need to know how to decipher these messages for themselves. While I'd love to believe that my students would read over 100 books in their lifetime, the truth is they are far more likely to watch over 100 films. I want my students to be savvy viewers rather than passive audience members. The class has received rave reviews from the students, many of whom have gone on to continue blogging about and critiquing film beyond class.
I taught Writing as Argument: Rhetoric of the Cinema for five semesters at TCU. Each time I taught it, I challenged myself to add something new to the course. Consequently, there are many versions of the syllabus. The class explores argument through the medium of the cinema. The rhetoric of the cinema is multi-faceted: movies often make an argument through themes and characters. However, each part of a movie can be rhetorically analyzed for the appeals of ethos, pathos, and logos. In his work, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, Pierre Bourdieu explains the process of valuing and evaluating art. He divides people into categories based on the manner in which they judge art forms: those who enjoy it for its sheer entertainment value and those who enjoy dissecting the art for pleasure. In this class we seek to do the latter; we explore not just the movie's overall message, but the ways the music, the special effects, the actors, and the promotional materials all work together to craft an argument or to persuade an audience to see the film. Students are encouraged to make the class their own by selecting their own movies to analyze. The class has three major writing assignments in addition to a class blog and new media assignment in which students put their rhetorical skills to practice by making their own movie trailer.
Additional Information and resources:
Click on the images below for additional materials like the class syllabus, class blog, and student work.