The Visceral Politics of V for Vendetta: On Politica Affect in Cinema

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The Visceral Politics of V For Vendetta: On Political Affect in cinema.
By Brian L. Ott* pages 39-54

This essay concerns the role of political affect in cinema. As a case study, I analyze the 2006 film V for Vendetta as cinematic rhetoric. Adopting a multi-modal approach that focuses on the interplay of discourse, figure, and ground, I contend that the film mobilizes viewers at a visceral level to reject a politics of apathy in favor of a politics of democratic struggle. Based on the analysis, I draw conclusions related to the evaluation of cinematic rhetoric, the political import of mass art, and the character and role of affect in politics.
What is important in a text is not its meaning, what it is trying to say, but what
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In service of this argument, the essay unfolds in three parts. The first section sketches an appropriate framework for understanding how cinema marshals and moves viewers by engaging them in a fully embodied experience.4 The second section offers a brief overview of the film's plot before turning to an analysis of its triptych narrative and affective development. The third and final section considers the methodological, critical, and theoretical implications suggested by the preceding analysis.
A Multi-Modal Approach to Cinematic Rhetoric
The notion that film functions rhetorically is hardly novel, and, indeed, there is a long tradition of film criticism within rhetorical studies.5 Historically, the rhetorical criticism of film has tended to focus on the representational aspects of cinema, attending to how films compel audiences at a cognitive rather than corporeal level. But more recently, scholars in an array of fields (Kennedy, 2000; MacDougall, 2006; Massumi, 2002; Shaviro, 1993; Sobchack, 1995, 2004) have begun to consider how cinema appeals directly to the senses, how it sways viewers somatically as well as symbolically. Attention to the body corresponds closely to the affective (re)turn in rhetorical studies,6 for conceptualizing rhetoric as embodied necessarily “reflects a merger of reason and emotion” (McKerrow, 1998, p. 322; see also Johnson, 2007). Rhetorical
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