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Title: G. W. F. Hegel and the myth of total cinematic genius
Author: Fitzsimons, Edward James
ISNI:       0000 0004 2739 3828
Awarding Body: Manchester Metropolitan University
Current Institution: Manchester Metropolitan University
Date of Award: 2012
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Since the early 1950s the concept of the individual cinematic genius has been widely accepted as a legitimate status of the successful auteur, and its most renowned advocates have been Cahiers du Cinema of that period - 'the age of the auteur'. Despite being historically questioned and refuted by the other arts of the last century the concept of the genius auteur has survived the 'linguistic turn' of the 1960s and 1970s, and has since been maintained most prominently in the figure of Alfred Hitchcock. The thesis discusses the ways in which historical constructions of genius have been justified by outlining how the concept itself has evolved from notions of divinity prior to the invention of cinema as an art form, to the politicized terms of its contemporary use. Of particular import to this study is Cahiers du Cinema's early justification of cinematic genius that the thesis proves reducible to their understanding of G. W. F. Hegel's philosophy. However, developing an understanding of Hegel' s philosophical texts only serves to further undermine the concept of individual genius revealing a paradox, in that Hegel himself refuted the idea of the singular divinely gifted individual in his Phenomenology of Spirit 1807. The thesis' in-depth analysis of the relationship between genius, cinema and philosophy, through the new lens of Film-Philosophy, shows the concept of the genius auteur to be in many ways inconsistent with the source of its original philosophical justification in Hegel; and incompatible with the very collective nature of a true science of knowledge. In response to this the thesis illustrates the suitability of the critical tenets of Film- Philosophy in confirming the hypothesis that film can philosophise, and can do so autonomously in the sense that it already holds the philosophical ideas within its final product. In investigating the 'myth of total cinematic genius' from this Hegelian perspective against a variety of ancient and historical cultures and beliefs, the thesis' initial study develops the sense in which the signifier genius has evolved from its etymological roots and focuses on its subsequent politicisations. The second study is a more complex development of the ways in which Hegel's concepts of logic and teleology have been historically appropriated into a language of genius associated with the auteur forming the necessary grounds to conduct a critique of Cahiers du Cinema of the 1950s. Studying these early historical expressions of the journal in this larger context develops a more objective understanding of their subjective ideas of the auteur, their practice, their product, as theoretically restrictive on these terms, and their critical appraisals understood in the wider objective context of Absolute Spirit, the thesis returns to 'historical' film discourse on these more interrogative terms of political justification and philosophical misrecognition. On the basis of this revised understanding of Hegel' s oeuvre and its central concepts of Absolute Knowledge and Absolute Spirit, the third study drawing on Hitchcock as the model auteur fully illustrates the autonomy of the philosophical idea in the moving image and thereby relegates the work of the auteur genius to historical forces in a final confirmation of a philosophizing film. The final case study in illustration of this idea of an unconscious transference of the philosophical idea in the moving image in many ways explains how genius has been displaced onto the flesh and blood film-maker by focusing on one individual shot from Hitchcock's 'signature film' Rear Window 1954. Returning to this film and the critical and philosophical climate in which it couched with the hindsight of Film-Philosophy proves a successful means of reducing the genius, film and Hitchcock's film to products of a systematising culture of film and philosophical study that has traditionally discussed the film in the immediacy of their understanding of Hegelianism and cinema. As such, the thesis purports the subsequent necessity to return, not only to the film, shot or sequence in question, but also taking into account the practices and methods of analysis pertaining to how these historical objects have been understood and embalmed in this language of genius. This outline serves to obviate the necessity for a more detailed and measured focus on how these cultural objects have been reduced entirely to the individual under the auspices of the auteur, as well as the ways in which Hegelian philosophy had become a formal and misappropriated endorsement of the auteur genius. Referencing this particular period of the journal and the philosophical climate in which it is couched, the evidence formulated in this thesis will be used to illustrate a final Hegelian understanding of film and cinema that will expand our understanding of authorship and the experimental, as well as developing the ways in which this approach can cause us to rethink film history with a particular emphasis on its inherited notions of cinematic genius.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available