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Title: Deconstructing national identity : character, place, and contemporary American independent cinema
Author: Mitchell, Stephen Mark
ISNI:       0000 0004 5346 962X
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis achieves a deconstructive interrogation of American national identity by analysing its representation in contemporary independent cinema. Drawing upon the poststructuralist work of Jacques Derrida (and limited applications of his thought to film scholarship), this project theorises a rigorous (but non-programmatic) model for conducting deconstructive readings of cinematic texts. Engaging with a corpus of ostensibly independent films, case-study analyses of American identity narratives are used to theorise and enact a fruitful process of Derridean cinematic and cultural interpretation. In undertaking this broad theoretical objective, I intervene within a range of specific filmic and socio-political debates. Analysing texts drawn from within prevailing independent film definitions, this project undertakes a deconstructive re-inscription of this prominent cinematic category. Destabilising its conventional designation as Hollywood’s antonymic “other,” the ontological solidity of independent film is fatally compromised, opening up its constituent texts to a greater range of interpretative gestures. Furthermore, in addressing textual representations of national identity, I elucidate a discursive area largely unexplored in existing independent film scholarship. Characterising case-study analyses as overtly deconstructive, this thesis also destabilises structural orthodoxies that orient American identity discourses around dichotomous concepts of character and place. Thus, studying representations of prominent cultural narratives (individualism, the nuclear family, the small-town, and the wilderness), this thesis uncovers and then dismantles their restrictive metaphysical foundations. Specifically, drawing attention to discursive slippages and paradoxes that inhabit these forms of cultural narration, textual readings problematize their self-coherence and ontological closure. Relating these cultural analyses to popular and academic discourses of national identity, this thesis also expands the reach of Derridean theory into a range of other disciplines, such as American studies. Ultimately, this thesis’ multifaceted research objectives open up American identity discourses to an unfixed freeplay of différance, laying the foundations for a liberatory intervention into oppositional American cultural debates.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available