Date of Award

May 2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

English

First Advisor

Patrice Petro

Committee Members

Elena Gorfinkel, Peter Paik, Kennan Ferguson, Brian Price

Keywords

Aesthetics, Ambiguity, Art Cinema, Authoritarianism, Global Cinema, Political Transition

Abstract

A comparison of films made after the transition from authoritarianism or totalitarianism to democracy, this dissertation addresses the ways that cinema can digest and extend moments of political transition. By comparing films from four different nations—the Italian Germany Year Zero, Hungarian Sátántangó, South Korean Woman on the Beach, and American Medium Cool—in relation to ideas drawn from critical and political theory, this project examines how and why these wildly diverse films turn to ambiguity as their primary means to disrupt the ravages of unchecked authority. By intervening in discussions of aesthetics and politics, this dissertation contends that ambiguous aesthetics has the capacity to help us see the world differently, and is therefore productive for any revolutionary undertaking. Accounting for questions of art and authority more broadly, this project examines the perhaps impossible task of creating a work of art that can at once create meaning and reject its own authority. The significant conclusion of my project, then, is that ambiguity is a coherent response to the end of authoritarian politics, but that its total rejection of authority always rediscovers the difficulties of inaction and ineffectiveness that arise from the assumption that extension and waiting are the only solutions that can yield radical change.

Available for download on Thursday, May 30, 2019

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