Formal Criticism Using Genre Analysis, Symbolism and Semiotics to analyze the Movie gladiator

compelling and clear thesis and develop it thoroughly in interesting and original directions. Be sure to consider alternative explanations.
Evaluation and Criticism, getting in depth, what functions does that text hold towards its audience?
3 Types
1) Popular journalistic critics- those that work in the media, have an audience, could be bloggers. Sometimes for profit, w commercial organizations.
System of systematic observation in defining a thesis based on theory.
-Best type of review is blind review.
They made movies for the masses to see, using a happy ending script brings them in in larger numbers.
Who is to blame for what’s marketable? The producer?
-Is the box office like the election box where people pay for what they desire.
Function always follows form, change the form of communication you change its function.
Criticism 3 characteristics
1)Focus on the message- interested in the message in the communication. Even if you start with the form, you ultimately are trying to interpret the message as the audience.
-The text is just the objectified version of the message, something you must be able to analyze.
2) The twin goals of evaluation and interpretation. Find a message that is important or has significance for its audience. Then you describe it (all of the texts important points) and evaluate it. Interpretation the first part is heavily descriptive. The second part depends on the type of interpretation you are doing, but it is breaking down how it might be interpreted by audience.
3) Route- you have a point, a specific arguable and interesting point in your criticism.
Functions of Criticism
1.-Guidance (bridge building)- to guide the audience, to serve as guide. Should give you a better appreciation of what you are being informed of, can enhance one’s appreciation. Also a point of view like all communication, if you don’t know the POV you will discover it. The best guides try to be fair, accurate and let the audience make up their own minds. They translate and serve as link b/w audience and writer.
2.&3. -(Suggesting New directions and proposing system cognizant change )
Suggesting Change to the producers but within the limits of popular criticism- expands the range of expression, enhance the critic’s awareness. Shouldn’t be too harsh, don’t evaluate a sequel based on the one before, use it as its own piece.
4. Serving as a proxy or watchdog – can serve as a watchdog for a viewer who may not be able to always speak effectively for himself. Goes back to journalism, holds people accountable. Public interest oriented.
5. Entertainment- a good piece should entertain, not just describe. Must have style with that, engage the reader, must use style to do this. Must change for your demographic, if you write for rolling stone the style will be much different than for the NY times. Helps to be engaging in your writing. Your job is to tell your story in your criticism, often time conversational (don’t crunch numbers) tell the story to the readers.
 
Functions of Criticism
2. Twin goals of Interpretation (describe/guide function) and evaluation. What is its affect? (How does it perhaps influence people’s interpretation of reality?)
-Think of how you’re going to guide your audience? Specific functions under that, either bridge building or act as liaison.
-Suggesting change
-Watchdog function (public interest)
-Entertainment (Whether people trust you, engaging other scholars or other students)
3.
Values of Criticism
1. Honesty of purpose is your criticism of a piece. (Much in popular culture is murky in its honesty of production, is its intent or aim of a producer/text clear or is it hidden? And should the audience know what that agenda is? ) These rules apply to both, because critics also have their own beliefs so they try to make it seem as though they are independent. –Watch out for anonymous messages.
2.Program variety- has to do with whether or not a text/collection of texts has different elements. In other words it’s not too much of one thing. Variety within and across texts.
3. Lack of respect for Human Dignity – texts that treat adults as children and we come back for more of it (Idiot culture). (Example: Toddlers and Tiara’s, Silly game shows, Jersey shore, etc. )
4. Diligence of Production – has to do with aesthetics (the beauty), how well a text is constructed. Using expectations of a genre or industry. How well did that film work? How well was it put together/acted? Was it believable? Was it coherent?
5. Informality of Presentation – how in popular media and texts how those texts should speak almost conversationally to their audience. As audience we should be engaged in the message/plot of the story. If we are thinking too much about a movie’s message.
6. Strong sense of Responsibility if media don’t have any sense of responsibility for the products out there then we are in trouble. It is up to us to keep them on it. Why should they represent the public interest? Orlick suggests that the critic can play watchdog over the media, so they don’t just give the people what they want, but what they need. Critics must continually remind the public of violations of the trust.
Popular Reviews
– Have a sense of your audience and the publication your writing for(has to be actual publication) PUT A BYLINE ON TOP
– Pay attention to the style that’s appropriate for that publication. (Rolling stone or People Magazine. would be different style than Los Angeles Times.) Keep audience in mind.
– If doing a movie or tv show, might note at the bottom if it is out now, its rating, if it is going to be released, when.
– Think about a lead, and amplifying that lead. Critique the rest of your text on that point, should be at least 2-3 pages. Edit for errors, very important, don’t overuse commas. Try to write directly, simply, clearly. Noun verb object.
– Avoid however, therefore languages, keep it short and sweet.
Comm 336
Evaluation and Criticism, getting in depth, what functions does that text hold towards its audience?
3 Types
1) Popular journalistic critics- those that work in the media, have an audience, could be bloggers. Sometimes for profit, w commercial organizations.
System of systematic observation in defining a thesis based on theory.
-Best type of review is blind review
 
Using “Proof or prove, influence”…. Don’t use these words in this course, nothing is proven.
-Interpretivism(perspective that you can’t separate the knowing from the know)- what makes us human? Assigning of meaning… What one is, shapes what one sees. Might start w a research question, but leave open the possibility that something else is true.
-Critical Cultural – rooted in structuralism, dealing with media messages, especially in broad culture. Almost always start off with a problem. Cultivated by popular media. Automatically deals with power, who gets what and how do messages shape who gets what. (what groups in society get what limited resources).
New Criticism
– How is it put together? For poetry it could be things like alliteration, rhythm, rhyme, etc. New critics developed a whole new way to criticize and analyze.
– An influential movement in literary criticism in the mid 20th century that stressed the importance of focusing on the text itself rather than being concerned with external biographical or social considerations. Only the text matters! It then generated many new forms of criticism that are used today in popular culture, heavily influenced how comm scholars studied from an interpretivist point of view.
-Distinctly formal, directed at the internal characteristics of the text (internal means we don’t care the authors intention or audience reaction. The text has a meaning independent of the author. To understand how the text works, understanding the authors intent is irrelevant.
-Many reject this because there is always intent and the audience will always be there. In the end they say that there is only one correct meaning/interpretation.
-B/c critics thought that any attempt to summarize a text would reduce its meaning. So they came up with “heresy paraphrase”, said any attempt to capture a texts meaning in a nutshell is reducing its importance and that it takes away from the overall meaning.
-Affective fallacy –leave out author intent/ audience response, because we can’t possibly know them anyways. Metaphorically the authors is dead/irrelevant.
-Formal criticism was adopted by scholars to look at television and what it means. Their influence about studying the text and how it worked was very influential to popular culture.
Expectations of form- genres
-Genre analysis is important b/c the genre’s share basic expectations of form.
Example: Western films in the US (all on the frontier, Indians, guns, saloons… good v evil , etc)
-Looking at how the message is constructed?
-The genre itself has a message independent of the content.
-The descriptive part is looking at the element of the text and how it is interpreted.
Genre Analysis
1. Basic Assumptions
A. The text has meaning beyond that intended by the author and has meaning that exists independently of audience response.
B. The rules of accurate interpretation apply: for any given text there is an assumed “perfect” interpretation; even if this ideal is never reached, the quality of competing interpretations may be compared according to principles of accuracy, fairness, toughness, etc.
-(Orlik’s point of suggesting change within the limits of criticism. Consider contradictions and alternative points of view, raise them and evaluate them. Accuracy, describe the text accurately.
– Belief in assumption, there is one perfect analysis/message of text. By perfect it means it cannot exist, so critique it based on that assumption. A critic is looking at the quality of the text.
-How do you know when criticizing film what a perfect movie would be? Look at a film and find other ways that this art can be articulated besides the basic narrative. Someone could do an analysis on the pictures in a film and its different from analyzing a basic commentary, but as long as they are thorough and hits on multiple elements, it works.
(if you broke down a genre like Vampire films, you would have to break down sub genres… you have teen vampire stuff like twilight which is totally different than say True Blood.)
C. the formal critic interprets the aesthetic dimensions and merits of the text- these are assumed to be inherent in the text; the formal critic evaluates text’s worth, relevancy, or reasonableness according to the text’s and critic’s purposes.
D. The formal critic assumes that form and content are inseparable. ( a genre implies some meaning/ ideology always… If you create a western you already have a framework that suggests certain values and point of view… Diff for satire, etc. )
-As a critic you have to separate them in order to get the message. Focus on form, in the end the evaluation is on the message.
Principles of genre analysis
A. Emphasizes “story” elements (narrative forms
1. Theme, or text’s unifying idea
2. Structure, or coherence and flow (sometimes chronological, sometimes jumbled up.)
3. Characterization (if you have a weighty character, then you need to use that in analysis in proportion to a character. )
4. Style (Pulp fiction, 3 separate vignettes and then there are 5 separate stories, these narratives are sandwiched because they are all interrelated and go hand in hand w/ the overall style of the film. They reflect the calm then violent juxtaposition. He always precedes the violence with something violent (the royale w/ cheese example that is his stylistic element supported in the structure.)
a. Principle of the story is important, how is it told within the expectations of the genre, pick a couple elements used, not all them.
B. Genres are ideological constructs
1. Genre crti. Focuses on categories or classes of texts
2. These modes may be broad ideal types (tragedy, etc) or more narrowly defined (the tragic western. )
3. The critic classifies content via some principle of coherence that leads to (a) a greater understanding of structure, and (b) a greater understanding of purpose.
III. Three approaches to genre criticism (we emphasize the second two)
A. Aesthetic approach (how the text was crafted, not doing much evaluation. For comm crit you have to do evaluation. Get the narrative of the text. Extend to second)
B. Ritual approach (habitual ritualized use of media, particularly true in popular media. It is part of the experience that shapes our lives. How does it tie into the audience idea of what is a popular response on issues like (gay marriage, anything that makes us human) Beyond description, we must evaluate how the text speaks to values … how does it relate to us?
C. Ideological approach … argue primarily that the text/genre serves to reinforce an ideology . Not just how the text reflects our values, but also how it marginalizes some groups…. Similar to second
-Westerns usually have manifest destiny . Good v evil
Genre Crit Applied: The structure of the TV Sit-com an the three approaches
Act I End Act I Act II
Setup of problem problem seemingly resolved, Resolution
Leading to further, w/o change in the status of the characters
bigger complications
-Change part Act II, is most important part of the structure.
Lecture 9/25/12
Persuasive Analysis- Neoclassical criticism
Aristotelian Criticism and Set Genre analysis differences
2 Key differences:
1. Applied only to overt attempts at persuasion. The persuasive intent may be hidden or obvious, but it is clear that whoever wrote it wanted to get the targeted audience to think/act a certain way when making it.
– Examples: Public relations campaigns and public speaking mainly- video, printing materials, could be website info (British petroleum has a certain message they want to persuade the audience to believe, this is seen through video and website. Company responding to crisis (BP oil spill )
– Classically this could also be a persuasive speech.
– Aristotle said if you can get the audience to participate then they cannot reject the message. Don’t do neoclassical criticsm with a sitcom for example, much more narrow on what you can do.
2. Evaluative part, what is the takeaway from this analysis? In genre analysis, and other types of formal crit, you are thinking of how that text has value/merit and assessing its worth. In neoclassical the focus is on what the message is likely to be deemed reasonable by the audience. (likely to be effective and is it ethical?)
-Many would say you cannot evaluate its ethos, but you can. Persuasive text only, evaluating if it is likely to be reasonable, and third look at the ethics. If people are doing/thinking the way the message creator wants, is that in their best interest and therefore we trust the source(ethos)
-Much more specific than genre analysis, you could look at something like sound or semiotics of a film rather than just the structure of the film. Rather than just looking at the narrative, analysis the styles use.
– More clear methodology, starts with organization (get at the arguments and their forms/fallacies) , then get at the underlying structure (how do these arguments arrange themselves), then audience (who is the intended audience), infer intention right from the start. Ethos, logos, pathos(emotional material in there, how it might be viewed), these are the types of evidence someone would want to use. Instead deconstruct the message.
Logos- “the word” = good reasons… does the message maker provide good reasons for the audience to do or think what they want them to do? (Assuming the audience is rational)
Pathos- “emotion or good feelings” = this can be positive (direction of good feelings) direct competing companies often use fear appeals to get you to like their product.
Ethos- “trustworthiness or good intentions” = how the message maker evokes trust in their audience. Most important and often lacking the most/disregarded. How does the message have built in that the message maker has our best intentions in mind?
Empathetic- messages/structure … how do you have the audience fill in the rest of the message and they either co-construct it or come up w it on their own. This concept applies to ethos.
-These work together, are not mutually exclusive
Example: the daisy commercial, essentially saying if you don’t vote then you support Goldwater than you support war… Appeal to fear/emotion. Negative implication yet they never say don’t vote for Goldwater.
-They use sound, something very underappreciated in our modern day. Very acoustic ad that is personalized and very intimate. (little girl sounds like a little innocent girl in the garden, then replace it with the mechanized voice of a countdown, leading to the bomb. The countdown vs little girl’s voice , everyone would recognize LBJ voice.
-There is a built in ethos in this commercial bc of past history with LBJ as vice president and the missile crisis, the fear appeal works bc he has been through this before. Feel reassured at end with his voice.
-Effective persuasive appeals often do this bc its hard for us to reject a message we already believe.
-John Kerry commercials… one could examine the texts (commercials) and make an argument about how ethos, pathos and logos is evoked in the ads?
-A scholar goes beyond that to get at ethos especially and explain how the text functions and here’s why it might have worked or not.
Lecture on Movie
Discuss dialectics in the film and symbolism.
Very diff from genre analysis or neoclassical criticism.
To get an idea of how symbolic action, grammar, and dialectic function as key principals of coherence in dramatism as a mode of analysis, Burke’s “Stages’” in “the Dead” stands as an exemplar.
Grammar : Three stages in “The Dead”
According to Burks, the story is about the transformative power of human connection- or “sociality”- and is structure according to 3 parts.
Stage 1 : expectancy of the night’s holiday party
Stage 2: The height of the party
Stage 3: Gabriel and Gretta alone (post party)
Dialectics: Thesis, Antithesis, and Resolution (comes in the 3rd stage towards end of story)
Each “stage” contains a dialectic b/w “life” events inside the home and “death” events outside as the night grows long.
(Constantly makes references to the life of the living and the realm of the dead, uses juxtaposition.
Thesis/Antithesis Grammar/Act
Stage 1
Everyday sociality expectancy of night’s party
Snow/death (superficially) welcoming’s and remembrances
Stage 2
Superficial sociality height of party
Snow/death (deepening) superficial socialities
Stage 3
Personal familiarty/ intimacy Gabriel and Gretta alone
Snow/death (awakening) -> Resolution = ideal sociality
Political and economic and social problems all intertwined.
-What one could know, was always a product of their faith in this time period.
Gabriel’s motives shift ftorm stage to stage, and in accordance with the dialectical structure:
-In stage one, no sooner than he assures himself he’s a good fellow, doubt follows.
In stage two, he bucks himself up, then, like others at the party, he sinks into superficiality as his mood worsens.
In stage 3, intimacy and Greta’s self-disclosure force Gabriel to reassess his motives and his self-conceit evaporates.
Motives go from self-deceit to that of substantiation.
The resolution: Gabriel’s epiphany may be transformative. His material ties to his identity and his self0awareness dissolve, replaced by a new awareness of his connection to the “vasts hosts of the dead”.
Gabriel puts things in perspective in the end…. Examine the transformational power of language and how it can frame our experiences and open up alternatives for action.
-The way you interpret experience is going to reflect your motives. Social construction of reality, we take the lessons we have learned from how drama is constructed…
-The writer argues this is a metaphor for how we live, we can avoid strife/poverty/war or other forms of conflict if we learn to use language as a tool for the benefit of all us.
Anti choice or anti life… the lessons we learn from drama provide conduct for how humans should behave. Are human motives easy to understand:? His point is no, he thinks this is the best way to get at our complicated nature.
How these films represent unconscious fears and desires.
Xeroxing becomes a representative anecdote, a little story that stands for the larger picture. A coherent narrative that can get boiled down to a metaphor, phrase or even a motto. Widely identifies who is the message maker to the audience.
-Think of what we get from media? Whether news or fiction they are anecdotal themselves.
Imperative action- how does that provide a framework as opposed to others? The writer must also provide alternative plans, what premises get limited or skipped over?
In a commercial…. Who is sponsoring this message? (the super bowl commercial w Clint Eastwood saying its halftime in America) The larger problem is the economy so he uses metaphors to talk about this.
-The anecdotes shape our ways of thinking about a particular issue.
-Our metaphor for thinking about an issue gets narrowed down subconsciously from when we started.
(Neoclassical, dramatism, semiotics) each is different tool of analysis …what kind of narratives do we have?
Semiotics 10/9/12
Semiotics is the study of signs. Looking at different types of signs and how they are arranged (coding)
-Context for interpretation (particularly social context)
-What does the text mean as socially constructed and what does it mean within social context?
-Part of studying logos is you look at the claims… can be true or false. The John Kerry ads are heavy on ethos/pathos it appeals to emotion. Would the audience be likely to believe the message or not?
Semiotics- the turn to deconstruction
•Like formalism we are looking at construction… especially signs and codes (the codes are the meaning) Look at how codes are structured in messages to evoke certain assumed meanings (ideological assumptions) It could be intended or not.
-This approach takes us away from formalist approach towards a structuralist approach.
-Formal crit is text heavy… now we are looking at how the texts are constructed and then how they are interpreted in a larger context.
Structuralism –
Semiotics: Embracement of the popular. (Rather than focusing on the arts like before… it began to focus on what the people wanted to see. The reason is semiotics argues that these are messages that reinforce the status quo or the dominant order… On could argue that it was maintaining gender roles in the 1950s when women’s power was extremely limited)B/c its popular its more important to study bc it is doing important ideological work.
-How codes shape meaning? (Relational meaning or ideology)
-Always looking at this or power. Focused on what the people want, how does it reinforce dominant ideologies?
Types of Coding
1. Denotative (the word/language)- could be written or oral. We refer to concepts over time within communities that then become institutionalized. (Example: when we say cat we think of a cat, not a dog…the terms are not naturally occurring. ) There is no natural relationship to its referent… cat
2. Index- (Example: paw print on snow, remains of animal while hes hiking the drag marks indicate sings of index…. All bear a natural relationship with reality; could be a stop sign)
3. Icon- visual representation… relationship between the sign and what it is referring to… always question the choice of images used. Somebody chose those, why would they chose those instead of others? How were those choices arranged and for what purposes?
Coding is most important part of semiotics.
-A physical representation plus the mental concept that goes with it (The peace sign)
-Signifier +signified = the sign
-Signification putting the sign in the social context of the situation.
-Some signs can evoke multiple meanings… aka symbols bc they have deep connotative meaning. (Example a cross could mean Christianity, faith or something more specific like Lutheran.)
-Not just signs, they go hand in hand with our beliefs (American Flag or Cross)
For Exam: know what the approach is and why? Why would you use dramatism, why would you use semiotics? Etc… know how to apply each tool .Explain heres the gist of them and here is how they are used.
Lecture 10/11/12 Representative Anecdote
3 Main points of Semiotics :
-Social Position and ideology (there are codes for gender and social class… but we are interested in social situations.
• 3 levels of communication…
1. Manifest
2. Relational
3. Cultural
(Example dominant ideology of 50s … “father knows best and women’s natural place is the home… one could argue just the opposite or for this)
Social position:
-the point is that these ideologies don’t just create differences, they create hierarchical differences within culture
-There is a relationship b/w message sender and the audience member, most importantly it is a relationship based on social difference.
-Another example is baseball or football… no representation of the opposite sex
-Barthes argues that these are not naturalization but social constructs… we use language to construct the reality forming hierarchical structure around us.)
– Relationship shapes the form of communication
-Mythic Construction (e.g Barthes Example: pro contact sports athletes coming out… they cannot because they would be embarrassed due to social constructs in our society) Media narratives about sports are very homophobic and reinforce the status quo and then validate this as a norm.)
-Modern Media 7 Potential for alternative “readings”
-Formal criticism was critiqued literary terms… Focused on stage, plays
Proxemics
1. Intimate
2. Interpretation
3. Small group
4. Public space
How do the codes enact a story?
Semiotics- the social relationship and how it is manipulated
 
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