Lisa Coulthard


Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

How the world ends : what global catastrophe cinema has to say about Lacanian ecocriticism (2023)

The discipline of film studies is seeing a growing body of work that looks to questions of ecocriticism and humanity’s relationship with nature. This subdiscipline often looks to the blurring of human-nature boundaries and works to decentre human subjectivity. This decentering of the human experience is, in part, a political project in that the goal of ecocriticism is to challenge the anthropocentric perspective which has dominated philosophical thought throughout the modern era. The break between ecocriticism and the human experience, however, leaves questions open as to why the human perspective struggles to make sense of these ecological values and concerns. This thesis takes the terminology and concerns of ecocriticism as developed by thinkers such as Jane Bennet, Murray Bookchin, and Timothy Morton and puts it into conversation with the lens of Lacanian psychoanalysis with its focus on the limitations of human psychology. By engaging with Lacanian thinkers such as Mark Fisher and Slavoj Žižek, this thesis develops the framework begun by Robert Geal of ecocritical psychoanalysis further by exploring how much of what is properly ecological exists outside of the Symbolic order and in what Lacanian thinkers term the Real. The Lacanian focus on the thinking-subject is used to show the limitations of an anthropocentric framework as it fails to comprehend modes of action that are unintentional yet reverberate throughout the universal ecosystem. The chapters of this thesis demonstrate this ecocritical psychoanalysis through close readings of two films: Armageddon (Michael Bay, 1988) and Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011). These films are used to demonstrate two approaches film can take in regards to the limitations of human perception of the Real of nature by either reducing nature to a projection of ourselves in order to make sense of it or by accepting the incomprehensibility of something larger than humanity. In developing the framework of ecocritical psychoanalysis these films are also used to distinguish subcategories within the field of disaster cinema as the films in question demonstrate the distinctions between categories of global catastrophe and apocalypse cinema.

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Enacting cinematically: a concept analysis of enactments and their philosophical worldbuilding (2022)

In the subdiscipline of film studies that researches the relationship between films and philosophy, there is a longstanding debate about how to understand this relationship. Often articulated as an issue of film’s ability to ‘do’ philosophy, this debate questions whether film can contribute significant content to the field of philosophy, rather than merely acting as an example of pre-existing philosophical work. Those who defend film’s philosophical capacity often rely on the concept of cinematic thinking to do so. If films can be said to think, then the leap to philosophy is not far behind. However, even with considerable development of this concept, the debate between film and philosophy remains ongoing.As another way into this debate, this thesis develops the alternative concept of enactment by drawing from scholars like Daniel Frampton, Robert Sinnerbrink, and Stephen Mulhall. These scholars describe film’s philosophizing in active terms, sometimes claiming the films can enact philosophy. However, this concept is often overshadowed by cinematic thinking, leaving it vague and underdeveloped. To gain a better understanding of what enacting philosophy entails, this thesis analyses how the concept of enactment is already used in other philosophical works. Scholars like Nicholas Wolterstorff and Ashon T. Crawley study ritualistic religious practices as enactments that produce philosophically interesting results. By turning to these philosophers, a specifically cinematic understating of enactments is developed by comparison.Additionally, this thesis considers two case studies, Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust and Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon. Both films illustrate divergent features of cinematic enactments, building a complex understanding of this concept. Through close attention to each film’s formal construction, a focus on enactments shows how films build a philosophical dialogue in their arrangement of formal features.

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Teasing the Twitter timeline: examining Hollywood's internal pre-teaser (2021)

The endless scroll of social media complexifies today’s era of film promotion, expanding and fragmenting promotional materials such as trailers and teasers that proliferate in endless abundance. The social media user frequently scrolls upon such texts unintentionally, perhaps never continuing to view their source films. Many have acknowledged the internet’s liberation of movie trailers from the theatrical screen, but less considered is the new intimacy these texts find in the social media screen. The social media timeline now teems with stand-alone encounters that alter the form and function of the modern Hollywood trailer. Foregrounding the Twitter platform and its video autoplay technology, this thesis unpacks how these conditions evoke a new convention in the Hollywood trailer text. Specifically, it connects the 2015 advent of autoplay on Twitter with the 2016 outbreak of teasers-within-the trailers, excerpts or micromontages edited within the opening seconds of official trailers and yet signalled as separate from the trailer with an ‘Official Trailer’ title card. Proposing the term internal pre-teaser (IPT) to account for this online phenomenon, this work maps the convention’s formal parameters and historicizes its emergence, offering a timeline and arguing that key events in technology and industry contributed to this formulaic opening device. Engaging with theories of network temporality, this work considers the centrality of immediacy and incessancy in both the conditions of the Twitter timeline and the IPT’s textual strategies. Ultimately, it argues that the central significance of the internal pre-teaser is the interplay it reveals between platform and text. Exploiting the forced flow of autoplay, the internal pre-teaser deploys spectacle and speed to cause an affective jolt that ultimately stops the scroll. Exchanging narrative investment for an entrapment of eyeballs, the internal pre-teaser reveals a recasting of persuasive strategies in the online Hollywood trailer.

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Love triumphs: the production code, sex, and the screwball comedy (2019)

“The love impulse in man,” reports a psychiatrist in Bringing Up Baby, “frequently reveals itself in terms of conflict.” This statement perfectly embodies not only the situation of the central couple in the film, but also the circumstances surrounding the creation of the screwball comedy, a genre representative of 1930s Hollywood.In June 1934, Hollywood implemented a new system of internal regulation which radically altered the cinematic landscape and its representation of sexuality for the next three decades. The Motion Picture Production Code required films to pass rigorous processing by the Production Code Administration and its newly appointed leader Joseph Breen. The Production Code enforced strict regulations for film content, promoting socially conservative views and banning material which could challenge the institution of marriage. This involved themes of sexuality, forbidding any depiction of explicit or suggested nudity, sex, or illicit behaviour.The screwball comedy became a predominant genre in Code-era Hollywood, in spite of its seduction-driven narratives. However, the screwball did not represent sex or any implication of it onscreen. Often, the principle couple of the screwball comedy did not so much as kiss by the film’s end. So how did the screwball comedy represent love and sex? In what ways were these themes coded in order to evade interference from the Production Code Administration? How was romantic union represented as triumphant when so many barriers were put in place to prohibit the depiction of sexuality onscreen?This thesis discusses such questions via case studies of Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night (1934) and Howard Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby (1938). By employing historical research and visual formal analysis, this thesis examines the genre’s codification of sexuality and lust, positing the archetypal screwball heroine as a critical figure for breaking down narrative and symbolic barriers. In transgressing the narrative barriers of these films, the “screwy” female also subverts conservative values promoted by the Production Code in the 1930s. By reading the genre alongside its historical context, this thesis considers the screwball heroine as an important cultural critique for the era’s expectations of gender and discourse of women’s sexuality.

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On longing for loss: a theory of cinematic memory and an aesthetics of nostalgia (2019)

Nostalgia is everywhere in media today – be it films, television, ads, or social media. But what does it mean to say that a media text is nostalgic? Beyond simply presenting nostalgic narratives, media texts also express nostalgia through their form and style. So how does this nostalgia look and feel? This thesis explores the aesthetics of nostalgia in the context of film studies, positing that “pastness” becomes synonymous with fantasy when films and other nostalgic media rely on an artificial audiovisual style – most often a hazy and hyper-coloured image. By pairing stylistic analysis and film theory with a philosophy of nostalgia, this project argues that this aesthetic serves as both a theory of cinematic memory and a reflection of the experience of lived nostalgia, which is effectively always a longing for the inaccessible, the impossible, the lost – in other words, fantasy itself. Relying on theories by Edward Casey, James Hart, and Steven Galt Crowell, this study takes a phenomenological approach, describing nostalgia as the experience of a dialectic between proximity and distance to the past. This contradictory position between emotional proximity and distance points toward a radically critical nostalgia, an area that remains relatively underexplored in nostalgia studies. This thesis also takes its cue from key works by Christine Sprengler, Rebecca Comay, William Beard, Jane M. Gaines, and Bliss Cua Lim, discussing nostalgia via two case studies on films by Canadian director Guy Maddin. Chapter Two applies this theory of nostalgic aesthetics to Careful (1992), using a melodramatic framework to explore how nostalgia inheres in the form of the film itself. Chapter Three interrogates these ideas on a more abstract level, positing that the spectral imagery in Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary (2002) serves as another way of expressing nostalgia as a dialectic between past and present. Ultimately, this nostalgia locates nostalgic audiences not in a static and idealized relic of the past, but in the present moment, where time splinters into its heterogeneous parts and is rendered in subjective, emotional terms, so as to be experienced as the loss of a past so inaccessible that it never was.

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Ringing, humming, silence: point of audition representations of deafness, tinnitus and sonic technology (2019)

A young girl moves through an abandoned grocery store. As the camera cuts closer, drawing attention to her cochlear implant, the quiet sounds of the store drop away. The audio-viewer is wrapped in her deaf perspective, and the shades of silence of her cochlear implant. Occurring early in John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place (2018), this sequence embodies the vital role of sound and technology in cinematic representations of deafness. The sonic equivalent of the point of view shot, point of audition (POA) sound is frequently used in cinematic representations of deafness and tinnitus. Using the frame of point of audition sound, this thesis brings together the disciplines of sound, disability, technology and Deaf studies to interrogate the role of auditory perspectives in cinematic representations of deafness and tinnitus. It examines the use of point of audition sound in A Quiet Place, and Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver (2017). Through point of audition sound, both films blur the boundaries between the audience, the characters, and sound technology (the iPod, cochlear implant and Dolby Atmos). Point of audition in these films brings together representation and the tools of representation, providing a platform to consider the ways in which sound technology and sonic experiences are portrayed through sound. This thesis argues that point of audition, along with adding a significant dimension to representations of deafness and tinnitus, provides a sounding space in which to confront the cultural beliefs, myths and ideologies bound up in sound technology. In the process, it demonstrates the constructive critical possibilities of bringing Deaf, disability and sound studies into conversation with each other. Together they provide a formidable framework for critically engaging with the complications and possibilities of acoustically representing deafness or tinnitus for hearing audiences.

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Hell becomes other people : cinematic form and cruel fantasies of affectlessness (2018)

Towards the end of Jean-Paul Sartre's 1944 play, No Exit, Joseph Garcin begrudgingly recognizes that due to his misdeeds on Earth he has been punished to eternally share a single drawing room with two strangers. "Hell is---other people," he realizes (45). Instead of this recognition surfacing further anxieties amongst the new roommates, it calms them down. The realization that we cannot escape the impact of others, but will always be contingent upon them, opens up the possibility for a less strained form of co-existence. In other words, hell is not necessarily other people. However, if we do not accept and work with our capacity to be affected by others, then hell becomes other people.Despite the inescapability of our contingencies and capacity to be affected, contemporary Hollywood genre cinema is well-stocked with characters that have either seemingly achieved or are actively pursuing the fantasy of an unaffected existence. Although this lack of feeling is usually only explicitly associated with societies’ most beleaguered citizens (e.g., drug users, serial killers, etc.), this thesis argues that these cinematic fantasies of affectlessness have become ordinary and widespread. By diverting my attention away from cinema's explicit announcements, and toward cinematic form, I will explore how specific formal features encourage fantasies of affectlessness for both characters and audience members.Within this thesis, I seek a theoretical explanation of these fantasies as well as to understand the motivations that have encouraged their widespread popularity. In order to understand how cinema facilitates these fantasies for audiences, I will also examine two formal features which filmmakers have used to evoke these fantasies of an unaffected existence: coloured noise (in Solaris (Soderbergh 2002) and Mom and Dad (Taylor 2018)) as well as the erasure of affective markers (in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Wright 2010)). Despite these fantasies’ widespread circulation, I will argue that these fantasies encourage what Lauren Berlant has termed ‘cruel optimism’; indeed, despite the optimism these fantasies of affectlessness provide in promising a tensionless existence, in actuality they cruelly obstruct individuals from reducing their lives’ tensions.

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Embracing Alterity: Rethinking Female Otherness in Contemporary Cinema (2015)

The Other operates as a figure of inherent transgression: A manifestation of the repressions necessary for the sustenance of dominant ideology. As the Other lurches in from the sidelines to threaten and frighten before being neutralized through assimilation or death, dominant ideology is upheld and confirmed by being set against the abnormality and monstrosity of difference. In feminist film theory, otherness has been foundational as a means of describing women’s marginalization within patriarchal society. Where Man is constructed as subject, Woman is constructed as Other. As such, the female Other tells us far more about patriarchal constructions of Woman than it does about female subjects in the world. Feminist film theory demonstrates a pronounced investment in the need for spectatorial identification with female characters, conflating the roles occupied by character and person, and thus the female Other has traditionally been theorized as staunchly misogynistic—the embodiment of patriarchal and phallic fears of female monstrosity and lack. Against this tradition, I propose that the female Other is not always and necessarily an anti-feminist figure. Iterations of the Other that foreground character opacity and thus disrupt empathetic and identificatory methods of spectatorship productively disturb processes of ideological comfort. By refusing to subject the Other to an epistemological narrative structure, one which poses the female Other as mystery to be demystified, and by denying a resolution that destroys the Other and thus the threat that they represent, the films analyzed in this thesis demand an alternative methodology to account for the radical alterity of the female Other. The two case studies offered in support of this thesis are the melancholic Other, with the example of Justine in Melancholia (von Trier 2011) and the posthuman Other, as exemplified in Under the Skin (Glazer 2013) and Ex Machina (Garland 2015). Rather than occupying the traditional role of the female Other as monster, these characters threaten the integrity of the human precisely because of their revelation of the human monstrosity that lies at the heart of patriarchal masculinity.

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The Art of Becoming: Performance, Temporality, and the Composition of the Filmic Body in Contemporary Cinema (2015)

Film performances have long served as a point of contention in Film Studies. The elusive nature of the art form is often overlooked, and consequently approached via history, star studies, or in reducing a performance to the mise-en-scène. The aim of this thesis is to theoretically root film performances by deviating from classical performance analysis, and focusing on the abstract qualities that demarcate the practice of becoming other. To do this, I turn to the works of Gilles Deleuze (and Félix Guattari) when confronting the unique relationship between the actor’s frame and process to suggest that film performances are necessarily informed by the body and time. The film body is a doubled body, belonging to both actor and character. It serves as an aesthetic platform for the medium, and a technical substructure that maintains artistic cohesion. In investigating this interaction across cinema’s fractured temporality, we can address not only the implications of the film actor’s art, but art more generally.In What is Philosophy? Deleuze and Guattari argue that “composition is the sole definition of art,” and “what is not composed is not a work of art” (1994 191). Not only are film performances composed for the sake of the medium, they are bound by their own compositional structure. This calls for a negotiation between the materiality of a physical body and the potentiality of a screen body that embodies otherness. In this project, I emphasize the film body’s ability to house and negotiate Deleuze and Guattari’s technical and aesthetic planes of composition. In doing this, the film body navigates the before and the after, the self and the other, and the interior and surface throughout the duration of a performance. With the increasingly popular wave of body-centered cinema emerging post-twentieth century, we can draw explicit parallels between the performative process and the physical conditioning endured prior to shooting – particularly in portrayals of pain, suffering, and emaciation. In navigating this compositional interplay, I seek to illustrate how the art of the actor is not so much dictated by the character she becomes, but rather, by the process of becoming.

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Weapon of War: Representations of Sexual Violence in Contemporary American War Cinema (2015)

Sexual violence in war can no longer be ignored by contemporary American war cinema. There is a responsibility to bring to light what can be described as an epidemic of sexual assault within the American military and in times of war. This thesis looks at how the lack of representation of sexual violence in American war cinema rewrites history, and erases rape and sexual assault from public memory of military history. Due to the limited representation of wartime sexual violence, not only within American cinema, but also academically and historically, I focus on the lack of resources and cinematic depictions in order to posit how inadequate representations of sexual violence renders victims invisible. In order to provide a comprehensive overview of sexual violence in American war cinema I draw upon historical as well as academic sources. By looking at examples of sexual assault in military history I am able to detail the ways in which American war films ignore the reality of wartime sexual violence in order to rewrite history. This rewriting of history, I argue, not only erases the truth of rape and sexual assault in America’s military history, it also glorifies the white, American, male soldier. I have chosen to look at this issue from three perspectives. First, I explore what literature exists on wartime sexual violence, and where the lack of representation is in historical and academic sources. Second, I look at the Vietnam War where I discuss the films Casualties of War (dir. Brian de Palma, 1989) and Platoon (dir. Oliver Stone, 1986) in relation to their problematic depictions of rape. Third, I investigate sexual violence in the American military and its representation in the films The General’s Daughter (dir. Simon West, 1999) and G.I. Jane (dir. Ridley Scott, 1997), while drawing upon the statistics given in the documentary The Invisible War (dir. Kirby Dick, 2012). With the combined information discussed throughout this thesis I shine a spotlight on a difficult, yet important topic, in hope of helping to remove the invisibility of victims of wartime sexual violence.

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(Neo)Bazinian realism: Existential phenomenology and the image body (2014)

French critic-cum-theorist André Bazin remains a central figure in discourse concerning cinematic realism. A prolific film commentator during the postwar period, Bazin advanced a theory of realism that took resemblance to be the apogee of film aestheticism, a radical departure from the then-dominant views held by Soviet film theorists that cinema's "essence" as an art form hinges on techniques that dissociate it from reality (via montage, for instance). A one-time favoured approach, in the 1960s and 1970s Bazin's theories were lambasted in the wake of an intellectual paradigm shift that came to view cinematic realism as an ideological subterfuge, lulling passive viewers into accepting bourgeois "realities" driven by inequalities and capitalist motivations. More broadly, Bazin's perceived faith in the objectivity of the image was labelled naïve and empirically dogmatic, an antiquated notion founded on Catholic mores that had no place in the modern, secular world. Today, the residual negativity from these criticisms still mar the reception of Bazin's realism, resulting in facile summations that neglect or misrepresent the more sophisticated, nuanced version he presents.Situated within the larger reappraisal of Bazin's work taking place in film studies – known collectively as "neo-Bazinianism" – this thesis acts as a much-needed corrective to the near-ubiquitous view of Bazinian realism as being ontologically contingent upon the photographic medium, and "indexically" connected to an antecedent reality. I argue that, given his proximity to the leading figures of French existentialist and phenomenological thought – namely, Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty – Bazin advances a theory of realism based, not on the objectivity of the camera's gaze, but the intersubjectivity of embodied experience, having recognized in the image a perceptual engagement with the world analogous to our own. It is the concept of the "image-body" that is crucial here, a self-coined term that anchors the thesis around the central assumption that, if Bazin's realism offers us recognizable representations of the world onscreen, and it is our perceptual bodies that make manifest this world, then the "realistic" image must in someway share with us an embodied, enworlded state.

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Digital folklore: Marble hornets, the slender man, and the emergence of folk horror in online communities (2014)

In June 2009 a group of forum-goers on the popular culture website, Something Awful, created a monster called the Slender Man. Inhumanly tall, pale, black-clad, and with the power to control minds, the Slender Man references many classic, canonical horror monsters while simultaneously expressing an acute anxiety about the contemporary digital context that birthed him. This anxiety is apparent in the collective legends that have risen around the Slender Man since 2009, but it figures particularly strongly in the Web series Marble Hornets (Troy Wagner and Joseph DeLage June 2009 - ). This thesis examines Marble Hornets as an example of an emerging trend in digital, online cinema that it defines as “folk horror”: a subgenre of horror that is produced by online communities of everyday people—or folk—as opposed to professional crews working within the film industry. Works of folk horror address the questions and anxieties of our current, digital age by reflecting the changing roles and behaviours of the everyday person, who is becoming increasingly involved with the products of popular culture. After providing a context for understanding folk horror, this thesis analyzes Marble Hornets through the lens of folkloric narrative structures such as legends and folktales, and vernacular modes of filmmaking such as cinéma direct and found footage horror. The focus then shifts to the ways in which Marble Hornets’ digital folk context amplifies the classic horror conventions with which the series engages. Primary attention is given to three key components: the monster, the narrative, and the audience. Folk horror might be a new term, but it is an old concept, one that reflects the important role that community plays in the forging of fear. It has been suggested that the Slender Man is a tulpa, a creature brought into physical existence by collective thought. As such he is truly a monster for the digital age as he reflects the many faces—positive and negative—of the increasingly “connected” individual. Through the lens of folk horror we may not only witness significant developments in the horror genre, but also those of storytelling on a broader scale.

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Breaking narrative: Narrative complexity in contemporary television (2013)

Emerging from the “quality TV” shows of the early 1980s, contemporary American television shows such as The Sopranos (HBO, 1999 - 2007), Lost (ABC, 2004 - 2010), Game of Thrones (HBO, 2011 - ) and Breaking Bad (AMC, 2008 - 2013) have been frequently praised by critics and scholars for their narrative complexity. However, often neither critics nor scholars define what narrative complexity specifically constitutes. That is to say, what are intricate plotlines? What distinguishes complex characters from “simple” ones? And in what ways do complex television narratives differ from complex feature films? This study takes a cognition-based approach to the topic and discusses the AMC series Breaking Bad as one of the prime examples of narrative complexity in contemporary television. The series revolves around Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a fifty year old high-school chemistry teacher, who is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer and decides to team up with a former student of his to produce methamphetamine in order to secure a financial future for his family before he dies. Breaking Bad frequently uses “puzzling” narrative devices such as flashbacks, flashforwards, time-jumps or cold opens and aligns its viewers with a main protagonist whose actions are often morally objectionable. During the course of this study, which is primarily based on the works of theorists such as David Bordwell, Edward Branigan, Thomas Elsaesser , Murray Smith and Jason Mittell, I discuss how narration in visual media storytelling operates, what narrative complexity in the television medium constitutes, and how watching “Complex TV” has changed how viewers process television narratives on a cognitive level. In particular, I explore the ways in which contemporary television narratives have adopted trademarks of what Elsaesser has termed “mind-game” films and how engaging with complex characters over the course of several seasons of a series can influence our understanding of the narrative as a whole. However, the study of “Complex TV” has only begun and this work is primarily supposed to generate more discussion about a narrative trend that has left its mark on the current “Golden Age of Television.”

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Silence studies in the cinema and the case of Abbas Kiarostami (2013)

This thesis is an attempt to formulate a systematic framework for ‘silence studies’ in the cinema by defining silence in pragmatic terms and suggesting different forms of filmic silence. As an illustration of my model, I examine the variety of silences in the works of Abbas Kiarostami, a notable figure of Art Cinema. The analytical approach suggested here can further be applied to the works of many other Art Cinema auteurs, and, by extension, to other cinematic modes as well, for a better understanding of the functions, implications, and consequences of various forms of silence in the cinema.Chapter 1 provides a working and pragmatic description of silence, applicable to both film and other communicative forms of art. Chapter 2 represents a historical study of some of the major writings about silence in the cinema. Chapter 3 introduces, exemplifies, and analyzes the acoustic silences in the films of Kiarostami, including the five categories of complete, partial (uncovered; covered with noise, music, or perspective), character/dialogue, language, and music silences. Chapter 4 introduces the concept of meta-silence and its trans-sensorial perceptions in communication and in arts, and then defines the four categories of the visual, character/image, narrative, and political silences in Kiarostami’s oeuvre. In the conclusion, some of the powers of silence in the cinema of Kiarostami are discussed. The narrative, ethical, philosophical, and aesthetic dimensions of silence in Kiarostami make it possible to define his cinema as one based in, and dependent on, silence.

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Violent subjectivity: New extremist cinema and the philosophy of Jean-Luc Nancy (2013)

Non-simulated penetrative sex, graphic sexual violence, gore, cannibalism, murder, incest, and necrophilia: excessive violence and explicit sexuality characterize European new extremism, a contemporary arthouse film movement that challenges audiences through its visceral interrogations of the body. Affect and embodiment are at the heart of the discourse concerning new extremism. Although approaching the movement from different frameworks, scholars agree that these films are transgressive in terms of style as well as content: they foreground the ways that cinema is able to impact the body, rather than the mind, of the spectator, and in doing so challenge traditional notions of spectatorship. This thesis examines new extremism in light of the work of contemporary French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy, whose ontology of the subject provides a fresh perspective on the confrontational and occasionally traumatic cinematic experiences offered by these films. Nancy is a philosopher of limits: he argues that metaphysics has reached an impasse, and the way forward is to figure these limits in order to gesture towards what is beyond our ability to signify. He characterizes this excess in corporeal terms, arguing that there is always an excess in our material experiences that cannot be constrained to a system of thought. Using films such as Claire Denis’s Trouble Every Day (2001), Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void (2009), Philippe Grandrieux’s Sombre (1998), and Marina de Van’s In My Skin (2002), I explore the ways that new extremism illustrates and exemplifies Nancy’s argument that the body is in excess of our understanding. The subject for Nancy constitutes itself, and in so doing divides itself from its body: this results in paradoxes and contradictions that are inexorable to our metaphysical thinking. But these paradoxes are suspended over the groundless non-essence of reality, a reality that we make images of through art and language. Nancy argues that art and existence are predicated on violence and cruelty, forces that he characterizes ambivalently as giving rise to the possibility of both abhorrent brutality and radical creation. New extremism touches on this ambivalence, using its central interrogation of the body to expose what is at the limit of our understanding.

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The Good, the Bad, the Thirsty: De-mystification in the Postmodern Vampire Film (2011)

The predominance of romance, exoticism and mystical powers of the supernaturalembodied onscreen by the character of the vampire has created both allure and apathy inviewers. While vampires have been portrayed in a large number of films since the early daysof cinema, there has recently been a considerable modification in their depiction. Rather thanthe demons of Nosferatu (Murnau, 1922) and various other Dracula adaptations, or theromantic figures of Interview with the Vampire (Jordan, 1994), Twilight (Hardwicke, 2008),and even the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series (Whedon, 1997-2003), a selection ofcontemporary vampires are informed by a postmodern reconfiguration of the monster. Thisthesis examines the global and hybrid nature of these films by establishing a select groupbased on the character of the postmodern vampire. These postmodern vampires aresympathetic and de-mystified, exhibiting symptoms stemming from a natural illness ormisfortune.Over the course of this thesis, both narrative and stylistic patterns emerge,emphasizing the way these films stray from pre-established conventions of vampire films.This thesis first investigates onscreen portrayals of sympathetic female vampires throughrecurring depictions of melancholy and isolation in The Addiction (Ferrara, 1995), Let TheRight One In (Alfredson, 2008), and Trouble Every Day (Denis, 2001), followed by theplacement of South Korean film Thirst (2009) within Park Chan-wook’s oeuvre as afilmmaker notorious for graphic depictions of violence and revenge, and finally the sociopoliticalcontext of Hong Kong film Mr. Vampire (Lau, 1985), which reflects the growingtension of the state in the years leading up to its 1997 return to China. The portrayal of thevampire as a sympathetic figure allows for a shift away from the conventional focus on mythand the exotic, toward a renewed construction of the vampire in terms of its contribution togeneric hybridization and cultural adaptation.

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