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Michael Moore and the Rhetoric of Documentary

Michael Moore and the Rhetoric of Documentary

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Edited by Thomas W. Benson and Brian J. Snee


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
240 pages, 6 x 9, 15 illustrations


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About the Book

Not afraid to tackle provocative topics in American culture, from gun violence and labor policies to terrorism and health care, Michael Moore has earned both applause and invective in his career as a documentarian. In such polarizing films as Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11, and Sicko, Moore has established a unique voice of radical nostalgia for progressivism, and in doing so has become one of the most recognized documentary filmmakers of all time.

In the first in-depth study of Moore’s feature-length documentary films, editors Thomas W. Benson and Brian J. Snee have gathered leading rhetoric scholars to examine the production, rhetorical appeals, and audience reception of these films. Contributors critique the films primarily as modes of public argument and political art. Each essay is devoted to one of Moore’s films and traces in detail how each film invites specific audience responses.

Michael Moore and the Rhetoric of Documentary reveals not only the art, the argument, and the emotional appeals of Moore’s documentaries but also how these films have revolutionized the genre of documentary filmmaking.


Thomas W. Benson is the Edwin Erle Sparks Professsor of Rhetoric at Penn State University and has edited and authored several books, including Reality Fictions: The Films of Frederick Wiseman.

Brian J. Snee is a professor and the chair of the communication and media department at Manhattanville College. He is a coeditor, with Thomas W. Benson, of The Rhetoric of the New Political Documentary.

Contributors include Jennifer L. Borda, Joe Davenport, Thomas S. Frentz, Peter B. Gregg, Christine Harold, Daniel Ladislau Horvath, Davis Houck, Brian L. Ott, Kendall R. Phillips, Thomas Rosteck, Edward Schiappa, and Susan A. Sci.


“The essays in Michael Moore and the Rhetoric of Documentary offer a fresh and engaging perspective on Moore’s documentary method, laying bare the affective power beneath the political sentiments and critical reason that make his movies a vital part of the domain of contemporary national politics. This collection of essays will help not only scholars interested in political rhetoric or film studies but also concerned citizens understand the vital role that documentary film can play in a democratic political culture.”—John Louis Lucaites, coauthor of No Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracy

 “This volume represents the cutting edge of film criticism from a rhetorical perspective. Benson and Snee have assembled a who’s who of practicing critics to examine the films of Michael Moore. Whether one considers Moore to be a cinematic prophet, a left-wing propagandist, or a rhetorical provocateur, this book will challenge those presuppositions and leave the reader feeling both educated and enlightened.”—Martin J. Medhurst, Baylor University