Columbo. A Rhetoric of Inquiry with Resistant Responders, Christyne Berzsenyi (2021)

+ info: Intellect

This book presents an analysis of Lieutenant Columbo’s investigative method of rhetorical inquiry as seen in the television police procedural Columbo (1968-2003).  With a barrage of questions about minute details and feigned ignorance, the iconic detective enacts a persona of ‘antipotency’ (counter authoritativeness) to affect the villains’ underestimation of his attention to inconsistencies, abductive reasoning, and rhetorical efficacy.  In a predominantly dialogue-based investigation, Columbo exhausts his suspects by asking a battery of questions concerning all minor details of the case, which evolves into an aggravating tedious provocation for the killer trying to maintain innocence. Based on the Ancient Greek ideal of Sophrosyne (temperance, restraint) and the Socratic method of questioning to discover truths, the Lieutenant models effective rhetorical inquiry with resistant responders: shy, secretive, anxious, emotionally-disconnected, angry, arrogant, jealous, and, in this case, murderous conversants. While designed to be critical and theoretical, this text strives to be accessible to interdisciplinary readers, practical in application, and amusing for Columbo buffs.

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