I created this video as a weekly response for my RCID 801: Histories of Rhetorics course here at Clemson. It was inspired by a paper I wrote a week earlier titled “Caricatures of the Self” and I felt the need to put some of the main components of that paper into action. So this video was influenced by what I have been writing lately, which has been influenced by Richard A. Lanham’s “The Motives of Eloquence.”
In his discussion on Western styles of communication since the Ancient Greeks, Lanham contrasts the serious with the playful. Problems arise when we attempt to stay on one side of the spectrum, for at times “we ascribe to ourselves too durable and preexistent a self and think our ‘reality’ the only one there is. In such moods, we need a comic counterpressure, and thus change roles, go away on a trip, move in a different society” (Lanham 32). And that is why he champions the rhetorical stylists who use “narrative or stylistic discontinuity,” that “tends to turn in on itself and meditate on the limits of language… the boundary conditions language sets to truth” (Lanham 12).
I believe that the works of rhetorical stylists such as Gorgias, Ovid, Laurence Sterne, Soren Kierkegaard, Vladimir Nabokov, and Woody Allen, provide their reader with the ability to allegorize their own behavior. I think this is important because “…if you don’t dramatize your own creative pleasure, you may mistake your creation for reality itself” (Lanham 61). Therefore, we should continually attempt to conceptualize reality as a dramatization of our creative (created) pleasures.
In this video I was attempting to both draw the viewer in, and keep them at a distance. In order to draw them in I chose to depict intimate settings and common routines. I also tried to create a character who the viewer could identify with, that could quickly elicit an emotional response from the viewer; be it sympathy, disgust, laughter, etc. I am also trying to appeal to (for the first part of the video) the viewer’s visual literacy, by reinforcing confidence in their ability to “read” a video. Yet I also want to keep the viewer at a distance, thereby calling into question this confidence in visual literacy, and hopefully their confidence in logos as well. This is only possible if I have done a sufficient job of enabling an emotional interaction with the character during the first part of the video.
The dynamic that I am attempting to create, offers the viewer the ability to re-conceptualize their own motives. In doing so, the viewer will hopefully be able to see these motives as something other than an “authenticating myth” (Lanham 62) of themselves (their sense of urgency, their march towards perfection), and instead see the joy in attempting an authentification that will (thankfully/hopefully) always fall comically short: “the rhetorical lover plays acknowledge slave to his desires… and the serious world unacknowledged slave to its high-mined desires” (Lanham 56). Therefore, we must learn to imitate ourselves, and look to texts that allow us, not mirror (mere) images of ourselves, but ones that provide a view of our exaggerated selves; caricatures that are taken to our own logical absurdities.