Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Comparative Literature

Year Degree Awarded

2016

Month Degree Awarded

May

First Advisor

Catherine Portuges

Second Advisor

Donald Maddox

Third Advisor

David Lenson

Fourth Advisor

Barton Byg

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities

Abstract

In this dissertation I compare apophatic[i] approaches including those associated with Christian mysticism, early postmodern thought and the literature of Gothic monstrosity through their collective emergence in late-twentieth century modernist cinema. I identify confluences between these and related theoretical strains with regard to metaphysics, ontology, ethics and mimesis. The dissertation is structured around concepts relative to limit-experience including death’s impossibility, the gift and phenomenological excess culled from texts such as Jacques Derrida’s Donner la mort (1999), Emmanuel Levinas’ Totalité et Infini: Essai sur l'extériorité (1961), Maurice Blanchot’s L’écriture du désastre (1980), and Jean-Luc Marion’s De Surcroît: Études sur les phénomènes saturés (2001). After establishing connections between these texts and earlier works, including Denys’[ii] “Mystical Theology” (circa Fifth Century) and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus (1818, revised in 1831), I provide close readings of late modernist films illustrative of this inheritance. I compare the manner in which films such as Georges Franju’s Les yeux sans visage (1959), Roberto Rossellini’s Europa ’51 (1952), Carl Dreyer’s Ordet (1956), Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre sa vie (1962), Robert Bresson’s Le diable, probablement (1978) and R.W. Fassbinder’s Die Sehnsucht der Veronika Voss (1982) utilize singular formal strategies influenced by or reminiscent of those of the aforementioned sources to flout reductive tendencies inherent in representation, semiotics and visual reception.

[i] William Franke, in his book Philosophy of the Unsayable (2014) describes the apophatic and negative theology as “a kind of perennial counter-philosophy to the philosophy of Logos” emphasizing “that what is not and even cannot be said is actually the basis for all that is said” (Franke, 1). “Negative theology is not so much a theology or a philosophy as a dimension inherent to thought – precisely what escapes it in all its forms, hence its formless, unformulatable ground” (296).

[ii] While the primary figure associated with negative theology is often referred to as Denys in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, he is more commonly known in the West as Dionysius the Areopagite or Pseudo-Dionysius, for having appropriated the nom de plume of a judge reputedly converted by Paul in “Acts of the Apostles.”

In this dissertation I compare apophatic[i] approaches including those associated with Christian mysticism, early postmodern thought and the literature of Gothic monstrosity through their collective emergence in late-twentieth century modernist cinema. I identify confluences between these and related theoretical strains with regard to metaphysics, ontology, ethics and mimesis. The dissertation is structured around concepts relative to limit-experience including death’s impossibility, the gift and phenomenological excess culled from texts such as Jacques Derrida’s Donner la mort (1999), Emmanuel Levinas’ Totalité et Infini: Essai sur l'extériorité (1961), Maurice Blanchot’s L’écriture du désastre (1980), and Jean-Luc Marion’s De Surcroît: Études sur les phénomènes saturés (2001). After establishing connections between these texts and earlier works, including Denys’[ii] “Mystical Theology” (circa Fifth Century) and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus (1818, revised in 1831), I provide close readings of late modernist films illustrative of this inheritance. I compare the manner in which films such as Georges Franju’s Les yeux sans visage (1959), Roberto Rossellini’s Europa ’51 (1952), Carl Dreyer’s Ordet (1956), Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre sa vie (1962), Robert Bresson’s Le diable, probablement (1978) and R.W. Fassbinder’s Die Sehnsucht der Veronika Voss (1982) utilize singular formal strategies influenced by or reminiscent of those of the aforementioned sources to flout reductive tendencies inherent in representation, semiotics and visual reception.

[i] William Franke, in his book Philosophy of the Unsayable (2014) describes the apophatic and negative theology as “a kind of perennial counter-philosophy to the philosophy of Logos” emphasizing “that what is not and even cannot be said is actually the basis for all that is said” (Franke, 1). “Negative theology is not so much a theology or a philosophy as a dimension inherent to thought – precisely what escapes it in all its forms, hence its formless, unformulatable ground” (296).

[ii] While the primary figure associated with negative theology is often referred to as Denys in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, he is more commonly known in the West as Dionysius the Areopagite or Pseudo-Dionysius, for having appropriated the nom de plume of a judge reputedly converted by Paul in “Acts of the Apostles.”

Share

COinS