What makes the films of David Lynch and Jim Jarmusch postmodern?

GRIN Verlag
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Seminar paper from the year 1998 in the subject Film Science, grade: 1, University of Aberdeen (English Department), course: American Film Renaissance, 10 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: The term ‘postmodern’ has been used in different areas of study to describe similar phenomena. However, one must differentiate between postmodernism as a historical period, a cultural theory and an aesthetic category. The latter two uses will be the most important ones for my essay. It is essential for my discussion to include theories on postmodern culture, because the relationship between the real and its representation, and the zeitgeist as presented in film, is of vital importance for postmodern film. I will not define the term postmodernism here, on the one hand because the brevity of this essay does not allow my entering this ongoing debate, and, on the other hand, because the term itself escapes any fixed definition - it is rather a set of different tendencies. The terms ‘postmodernism’ or ‘the postmodern’ are less precise categories than different versions of an all-embracing gesture which sums up a spirit of the times, an atmosphere.1 However, to be able to discuss whether or not Jim Jarmusch’s and David Lynch’s films are postmodern, I must first find a definition for ‘postmodern film’. One would expect a postmodern film to tackle the postmodern condition, life in postmodernity, as its subject matter. Since the differences in class, gender and ethnicity are central to the discussion of postmodernism,2 one can assume that these categories are equally important for the plot of a postmodern film. However, Down and Out in Beverly Hills is a film about life in the postmodern city and deals with questions of class and gender, but it is conventional in its style and structure, and obviously far from being a postmodern film. Thus not only the subject matter, but also the audiovisual style and narrative structure of a film should display postmodern characteristics.
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GRIN Verlag
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Jun 30, 2003
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Markus Widmer
Essay from the year 1998 in the subject American Studies - Culture and Applied Geography, grade: 1 (A), University of Aberdeen (English Department), course: Read the City - Read the Text, 11 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: Edward W. Soja called Los Angeles ‘the quintessential postmodern metropolis’. This, however, shall not be the premise of my argument in this essay, because of the obvious danger of circularity. Yet I will use postmodern critics and compare my findings to postmodern models of culture, space and society. I will not discuss the term postmodernism itself, simply because the range of this essay does not allow my entering this ongoing debate. The term will be used as denoting both a period, beginning, for my purposes, in the 1960s, and a theory of cultural tendencies in contemporary life. For this essay, I will assume that postmodernism is a fact, a part of everyday reality, and that it differs substantially from modernism. The main body of this essay will consist of a discussion of the fundamental factors which define Los Angeles as postmodern space. I will focus on particularities that distinguish Los Angeles from other cities, most of all from those which have not yet crossed the threshold of postmodernity. Firstly, I will investigate the geographical instability of the city; the fact that it is threatened to be annihilated by natural forces such as earthquakes and the desert. Secondly, I will address the idea of the city as a desert, its horizontality, its vastness, its lack of centre. Thirdly, the structure on this flat surface will be addressed; the freeways as an arterial network, and the structure of segregating walls, both literal and metaphorical. Finally, I will conclude by investigating the parallels between the idea of instability that underlies all of the factors I discuss, and the notion of the unstable in postmodernism.
Markus Widmer
Essay from the year 1998 in the subject English Language and Literature Studies - Literature, grade: 1 (A), University of Aberdeen (English Department), course: Tristram Shandy, 4 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: Metafiction, according to Patricia Waugh, consists of ‘the construction of a fictional illusion (as in traditional realism) and the laying bare of that illusion’. Tristram Shandy, I will argue in this essay, undermines fictional illusion by foregrounding ‘the most fundamental set of all narrative conventions: those concerning the representations of time’ (Waugh 70). I will exemplify this by trying to apply a conventional set of narratological terms to Tristram Shandy. I will show that these terms, which are based on conventional narratives, are neither exhaustive nor distinctive when one tries to use them for Tristram Shandy. Narrative fiction, Rimmon-Kenan states, has three main aspects: story, text and narration: ‘Story’ designates the narrated events, abstracted from their disposition in the text and reconstructed in their chronological order, together with the participants in these events. Whereas ‘story’ is a succession of events, ‘text’ is a spoken or written discourse which undertakes their telling. ... Time is essential for all of these three aspects, as will become clear in my discussion. Time in itself, following Rimmon-Kenan, can be viewed in three respects: order, duration, and frequency (p. 46). I will focus on the first two aspects since they are more essential to the novel than frequency.4 Finally, I will discuss whether, after my discussion of Tristram Shandy’s time structure, one can conclude that the novel is a metafiction according to Waugh’s definition of the term.
Markus Widmer
Seminar paper from the year 1998 in the subject American Studies - Literature, grade: 2 (B), University of Aberdeen (English Department), course: Chicano Fiction, 9 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: In this essay, I will address the question of Chicano identity by investigating two very different texts, that both deal with a quest for identity in a Mexican-American context: Tomás Rivera’s ...And the Earth Did Not Devour Him and Richard Rodriguez’ Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez. I will first discuss the contextual differences between the two works. Then I will consider the definitions of identity upon which the texts are based. Going deeper into the works themselves, I will finally discuss along which lines the two quests for identity develop. In conclusion, I will connect my investigations to the question of whether Chicano identity is unified or fragmented. Both Tomás Rivera’s ...And the Earth Did Not Devour Him and Richard Rodriguez’ Hunger of Memory are about an individual searching for his identity. In both works, the protagonist is a Mexican-American or ‘Chicano’. However, the differences between the two books are huge. The generic difference is most obvious: Rivera’s work is a fictional narrative, which Héctor Calderón termed ‘novel-as-tales’.1 Rodriguez, referring to his book, speaks of ‘[e]ssays impersonating an autobiography’ (p. 7). This entails that the subject searching for identity is, in Rodriguez’ case, the author himself, or rather his literary image. In Rivera’s case, the subject is purely fictional, although some critics have identified this literary subject with the author.
Markus Widmer
Studienarbeit aus dem Jahr 1997 im Fachbereich Filmwissenschaft, Note: 1, Universität Zürich (Filmwissenschaftliches Seminar), Veranstaltung: Die Figur im Spielfilm, Sprache: Deutsch, Abstract: Diese Arbeit soll am Beispiel von Robert Altmans Short Cuts die wichtigsten Probleme aufzeigen, die ein Film ohne Hauptfigur mit sich bringt und Strategien zur Lösung dieser Probleme in Short Cuts untersuchen. Als Vergleichsbasis soll dazu zuerst das gängige Modell des klassischen Hollywood dargestellt werden, also Filme mit Hauptfigur. In einem nächsten Schritt werde ich die Figurenkonstellation in Short Cuts diesem Modell gegenüberstellen und die Schwierigkeiten eines Films ohne Hauptfigur diskutieren. Der Hauptteil der Arbeit untersucht die Strategien, die Altman zur Lösung dieser Probleme anwendet. Dabei geht es hauptsächlich um Vereinheitlichung auf den Ebenen Zeit, Raum und Handlung. Die Einheit der Handlung wird, wie ich zeigen werde, hauptsächlich durch die Vernetzung der Figuren erreicht. Bei der Untersuchung dieses Figurenmosaiks werde ich zwei Arten von Verbindung unterscheiden: kohäsive und kohärente Verbindungen. Diese beiden Begriffe sind der Textlinguistik entnommen, es scheint mir aber sinnvoll zu sein, diese auch auf filmische Narration anzuwenden. Die beiden Begriffe sollen hier folgendermassen definiert sein: Kohäsion schafft Verbindung durch Wiederholung ähnlicher oder gleicher Elemente auf der Oberflächenstruktur. Beim schriftlichen Text wären dies Mittel wie Wortwiederholung, Synonyme oder Pronomen. Im Film sind wiederkehrende Figuren oder Orte kohäsive Elemente. Kohärenz schafft Verbindung durch Wiederholung ähnlicher Elemente in der Tiefenstruktur. Im Text wie im Film entspricht dies der wiederholten Referenz auf ein Thema, logischen Verknüpfungen und Kausalität.
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