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Title: The postmodern auteur : a contradiction in terms?
Author: Denny, Matthew
ISNI:       0000 0004 5921 8231
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis proposes a new approach to film authorship that is compatible with the postmodern theory of Linda Hutcheon. By taking up, building on, and combining the work of Peter Wollen, Michel Foucault, and Will Brooker I develop a theory of film authorship that moves away from conceptualisations of the author in terms of self-expression and instead conceives of the author as a text. Additionally, I identify four different genres of authorfunction: The Romantic, modernist, feminist, and commercial genres of author-function. These four genres of author-function provide a framework and critical vocabulary for the accurate description of the ways in which author-texts are constructed. The characteristics of these four genres of author-function are derived from the major trends in theories of film authorship identified in the review of literature. In addition to these genres of author-function, I also develop my own postmodern genre of author-function. The characteristics of this postmodern genre of author-function are derived from the analysis of existing literature on two key directors of postmodern film, David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino. In particular, the postmodern genre of author-function adapts and expands upon Peter Brooker’s and Will Brooker’s affirmative reading of the role played by generic reworking in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994). The characteristics of the postmodern genre of author-function are further refined through its application as a critical framework in two case studies focusing on Tony Scott and Sally Potter. Scott and Potter serve as contrasting case studies. In addition to operating in the very different contexts of Hollywood action cinema and art cinema respectively, Scott and Potter occupy very different positions in regards to authorship. The Scott author-text is largely constructed in terms of failed authorship. In contrast, the Potter author-text is apparently more secure in its authorial status. There are, however, a number of overlaps between the Scott and Potter case studies. Firstly, films across both the Scott and Potter oeuvres exhibit stylistic features associated with postmodern film. Despite this, Scott and Potter are not included within the central canon of postmodern cinema, and occupy a more marginal position. The Scott and Potter oeuvres are also characterised as fragmented and fractured rather than in terms of unity. This further limits the possibility of constructing Scott as an auteur and suggests that the Potter author-text is more precarious than at first appears. The thesis opens with a review of literature tracing the developments of theories of film authorship. The first chapter begins by examining the place of authorship in postmodernism as conceptualised by two key theorists of postmodernism, Fredric Jameson and Linda Hutcheon. This is followed by the development of the new approach to authorship outlined above, and its demonstration through the meta-critical analysis of existing literature on Lynch and Tarantino. This analysis also facilitates the development of the postmodern genre of author-function and provides the initial characteristics of that genre. The postmodern genre of author-function is further refined and tested through the case studies. Each of these case studies follows a similar format, beginning by situating Scott and Potter in their respective contexts. The second stage of the case studies involves determining the genres of author-function in play in the construction of the Scott and Potter author-texts. The final stage of the case study focuses on the analysis of three films by each director from the perspective of the postmodern genre of author-function in order to determine what readings are yielded by this approach, and how they compare to existing approaches. The development of a postmodern genre of author-function facilitates a revaluation of postmodern cinema. The Scott case study demonstrates one aspect of this reappraisal, the revaluation of texts previously classified as meaningless spectacle in terms of a re-inventive impulse and a critical reworking of genre conventions. The Potter case study demonstrates both the political and critical potential of such a de-constructive engagement with genre, while also showcasing the ways in which adopting the postmodern genre of author-function as a critical perspective allows for texts to be reorganised around a new centre, and for new patterns of meaning and significance to be traced across the oeuvre.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PN1993 Motion Pictures