[KB] new book relevant to Burke-ophiles

Gregory Desilet info at gregorydesilet.com
Mon Mar 3 20:19:19 EST 2014

New Book on screen violence relevant to Burke-ophiles

Screens of Blood: A Critical Approach to Film and Television Violence

By Gregory Desilet

Published by McFarland Press (Feb. 2014)

The question of the relationship between screen violence and real world violence has been long debated. The net result of this continuous debate, thus far, has been confusion and issue stagnation. Few are clear on what is happening and, consequently, most are hesitant to propose any general response. This book changes the game. It provides insight on how to evaluate violent entertainment in relation to its potential to inspire real violence and thereby opens a path for understanding the appropriate nature of cultural and collective response.

Intense periodic waves of popular and political concern regarding the issue of screen violence in relation to real violence are repeatedly renewed and amplified by each cruel incident of random or not-so-random gun or bomb violence. We have all seen concern over this issue spike many times over the last decade.

In the wake of nearly every deadly incident, evidence surfaces to suggest possible unhealthy influence derived from violent screen entertainments through film, television, internet, or video games. The possibility of such influence then sets off a round of opinion pieces in newspapers and blogs and a series of political posturings in relation to popular pressure to do something about the prevalence and intensity of screen entertainment violence. Popular outrage then meets political stalemate as lobbyists in the entertainment industry push back by pointing to the lack of hard evidence—the contradictory or inconclusive results of empirical studies. Unable to persuade through hard evidence and unable to marshal any other form of persuasive line of argument, popular outrage readily deflects toward focus on gun and mental health regulation. But focus on the latter two issues, while admirable and important, should not come at the expense of focus on the issue of screen violence.

Much more can and ought to be said and done about screen violence and these discussions and actions need to derive from more nuanced and critically reflective understandings. All screen entertainments with portrayed violence do not belong in the same category of concern with regard to potential for real world aggression and violence effects. “Screens of Blood” borrows from one of America’s foremost literary critics and communication theorists, Kenneth Burke, and re-imagines and expands his Poetic Categories. These categories provide a foundation for prying more deeply into the relation between the structure of dramatic narratives and the potential effects of portrayed violence.

This approach is thoroughly developed in the Introduction and the remainder of the book is devoted to applying these insights in the analysis of particular cases. Half of the book examines examples in film and the other half focuses on examples drawn from popular television dramatic series. Some examples in each section illustrate praiseworthy dramas containing violence and others illustrate what not to do in portraying violence with regard to effects. These evaluations turn as much on criteria for creating dramatic conflict as they do criteria for reduced potential for violent real world effects. In sum, the book makes a persuasive case in providing an explanation for the confusing results of empirical studies while enlisting an alternative critical/rhetorical/poetic methodology as the primary engine in gaining needed clarity on the question of screen violence effects. 

For further information follow these links:

Table of contents: http://www.gregorydesilet.com/code/Table_of_Contents_for_Screens_of_Blood.html

Additional reasons to read: http://www.gregorydesilet.com/code/Message_to_Potential_Readers_of_Screens_of_Blood.html

Available from the publisher here: http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com/book-2.php?id=978-0-7864-7791-3

And available from all other online booksellers.


Gregory Desilet

Independent Scholar


Gregory Desilet has spent more than two decades researching and writing on communication and rhetorical theory, language philosophy, and various media and cultural phenomena as these relate to conflict, violence, and community formation. He holds degrees in communication and media studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of Colorado at Boulder. He lives in Longmont, Colorado. 

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