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Seeing voices: cinema, rhetoric, and subjectivity

Authors
  • Martin, James
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2019
Source
Goldsmiths Research Online
Language
English
License
Unknown
External links

Abstract

What can cinema teach us about political rhetoric? Although many different types of speech and argument are to be found in cinematic productions, films rarely present a single or clear-cut argumentative case like a formal oration. Instead, dialogue conforms to a wider narrative process, anchoring speech in cinema’s visual form of storytelling. But if, as Richard Rushton claims, cinema films present narrative arguments that depict the tentative formation of subjectivity, we still need to account for the way audiences are lured into identifying with those narratives. In this paper I draw upon Lacanian film theory — specifically the notion of ‘the gaze’ — to explain how film enacts a form of rhetorical ‘exigence’ that disrupts the visual field to stimulate spectators’ desire and invite resolution. Two recent films about Churchill are used to illustrate this point. Political rhetoric, I conclude, might therefore usefully be conceived as having its own, similarly visual dimension.

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