The Craft of Writing: When Reality is Pushed Up to 11: The Mockumentary and the Documentary Problem
Film R1A Section 004 | CCN: 31621
Fareed Ben-Youssef and Jennifer Blaylock
How are arguments formed and what is rhetoric’s role in lending them credence? This is a crucial question for first-time college writers and for the study of documentary film. However, our course approaches this question by focusing on documentary’s obverse—the mock documentary or mockumentary. Engaging with a range of theoretical and cinematic texts, like Rob Reiner’s rock mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap (1984), we will illustrate how reality on film, what appears objectively real, is constructed by an assemblage of ingrained tropes. Our course will study the formal tenants of documentary realism to understand how traditional examples of the form exaggerate, accentuate, or excise facets about their subjects. At the core of our discussions we will ask, “What is cinema’s relationship to the real?” These explorations will bring us from the origins of documentary during the silent film era to the infamous digital photographs of Abu Ghraib.
By considering how documentary conventions can manipulate the viewer into accepting a filmmaker’s fictional and sometimes absurd realities as the truth, we will come to understand how argumentation operates in the same way. Examining documentary convention will not only make course participants more critical writers aware of formal minutiae, but it will also provide the groundwork to develop the well-formed and persuasive argumentation that is crucial in successful academic writing.
● Rosenwasser, David, and Jill Stephen. Writing Analytically, Sixth Edition. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2011.
● Course Reader (purchase at Replica Copy, 2138 Oxford Street, Berkeley, CA)
● “MLA Formatting and Style Guide.” The Purdue OWL Family of Sites. Web. 4 Jan. 2014. <https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/>