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Watch and Learn

Watch and Learn: Rhetorical Devices in Classroom Films after 1940

Series: Framing Film
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 372
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  • Book Info
    Watch and Learn
    Book Description:

    Since the late 1990s, there has been a marked increase in academic interest in what are sometimes called 'utility films', intended for purposes of information, training, teaching or advertising. Although such research was long overdue, the current academic output tends to be restricted in scope, paying little attention to the films' textual features: the means they deploy in defending their informational, educational or commercial arguments. In the absence of such studies, the image survives of very 'formulaic' genres. This book seeks to modify this picture, and suggests a methodology that helps to foreground the films' rhetorical diversity. Taking her departure from a historic collection of Dutch classroom films, Masson proposes an approach that considers an audio-visual text as part of a so-called dispositif: the set-up of technology, text and viewing situation that is relevant to the specific corpus under scrutiny. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1411-3
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
    (pp. 7-9)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 11-25)

    Tidings of any ‘new’ audio-visual medium entering the domain of public consumption invariably seem to cause commentators to speculate on its potential educational use. In recent decades, it was the advent of innovative digital applications that provoked such thought; earlier on, it was the promise of analogue media such as still and moving photographic images. Pronouncements on the subject tend to be made in rather grandiloquent terms: authors claim that the particular technologies they advocate might in some way revolutionise current educational practice. The media they deal with are considered to hold the potential of radically changing didactic methodologies, and...


    • CHAPTER ONE Film for Education: Debates, Idea(l)s and Practices
      (pp. 27-98)

      On 6 May 1941, about a year after the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands had begun, the Dutch Ministry of Education, Arts and Sciences ratified the establishment of a new public body: Stichting Nederlandse Onderwijs Film or NOF.¹ The foundation’s remit was to centrally organise the production, acquisition and distribution of films for primary and early secondary education in Holland. The establishment of the new institute was an ambitious enterprise. In previous decades, attempts had been made to facilitate the use of film for teaching, but never before on such a scale. After a mere four years of operation, NOF...

    • CHAPTER TWO Classroom Film Use and the Pedagogical Dispositif
      (pp. 99-125)

      In the previous chapter I discussed how NOF, like similar bodies elsewhere, tried to influence its users’ conception of what constituted a good teaching film, and of how this tool should ideally be used. I suggested in the process that the institute’s efforts in this area should not be seen as the result of a philanthropic impulse, but as an act of self-preservation: an attempt to ensure the continuation of its own activities. By teaching potential subscribers the difference between what was appropriate for classroom viewing and what was not, it basically gave them the reassurance that the film medium...


    • CHAPTER THREE Rhetoric: Text & Frame
      (pp. 127-144)

      In his introduction to the National Film Preservation Foundation’s The Field Guide to Sponsored Films (2006), Rick Prelinger ponders some of the challenges of what he calls ‘ephemeral film scholarship’. He writes:

      As historically neglected film types gain attention, archivists and scholars face challenges quite unlike those confronted in collecting the better-documented fiction feature. In a universe of hundreds of thousands of poorly known and largely undocumented works, where do we begin? […] How can practitioners compare similar titles and characterize their specificities […]? (x)

      The methodological difficulties which the author here associates primarily with research on sponsored films (items...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Textual Rhetoric I: Motivational Devices
      (pp. 145-208)

      My basic theoretical assumption, I have explained, is that film texts contain a variety of rhetorical potential that either does or does not come to activation, depending on thedispositifin which they are embedded. On its most fundamental level, this potential is of a motivational nature: it concerns the ways in which the implied audience is encouraged to take into consideration the statements that are made. Its primary objective, then, is to invite communication, or alternatively, to ensure the continuation of an already on-going exchange.

      In this chapter, I loosely classify filmic procedures (representational techniques, or combinations thereof) in...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Textual Rhetoric II: Referencing the Pedagogical Dispositif
      (pp. 209-239)

      Textual rhetoric, I proposed in chapter 3, concerns those aspects of composition that can help create a willingness in the audience to consider a text’s various claims. The rhetorical process, I added, is based on a principle of implication: it works through the construction of a so-called ‘reader-in-the-text’ (Suleiman and Crosman 1980; compare also Browne [1975] 1992). In the examples I have given so far, these filmic ingredients always have an evident spectatorial appeal, in the sense that their deployment is based on implicit assumptions as to what the intended viewers appreciate and/or like. The films mentioned exploit sensibilities or...

  7. Conclusions: Towards a Conception of the Dispositif Notion as a Comparative Tool
    (pp. 241-254)

    In one of the first pages of this book, I quoted a statement by Schoevers, NOF director-to-be, in which he strongly emphasises the textual peculiarities of the classroom film. In the excerpted section he argues that classroom films are fundamentally different from other audio-visual texts, even (more broadly) educational ones. For the author this distinctness is asine qua non: shorts that do not contain the ingredients mentioned, in his view, simply do not deserve the label ‘classroom film’.

    About fifteen years later, Peters, one of his successors, followed a rather different logic. In his manualVisueel onderwijs, he characterises...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 255-320)
    (pp. 321-322)
    (pp. 323-324)
    (pp. 325-334)
    (pp. 335-354)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 355-372)