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Screen Combat: Recreating World War II in American Film and Media

Allison, Tanine (2011) Screen Combat: Recreating World War II in American Film and Media. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh.

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    Abstract

    "Screen Combat" interrogates how the cultural mythology of the Second World War as the "Good War" surfaces in the American war film by examining the change in the aesthetics of combat sequences over time. By juxtaposing 1940s documentary and fiction films with contemporary cinema and video games, this dissertation argues that the World War II combat genre is not the conservative, coherent, "classical" genre that previous studies have assumed it to be. Rather, combat films and video games are complex, polysemic texts that challenge our assumptions about Hollywood filmmaking and mainstream American media.This dissertation contends that the combat sequences of World War II films give voice to a counter-narrative of the war, breaking away from the typical plots of noble sacrifice and dedicated heroism to show explosive images of devastation and annihilation. Even seemingly conventional cinematic histories of the war—movies like Destination Tokyo (1943) and Pearl Harbor (2001) and video games like Call of Duty (2003)—contain jarring and exhilarating combat sequences that undercut our usual notion of the Second World War as a morally righteous undertaking and replace it with a dangerously fascinating portrait of awesome destruction. It is in these moments of action that the contradictions of war come bubbling to the surface, convulsing and even rupturing the body of the text as it seeks to simultaneously contain and unleash the violence of battle. In combat-centered films and video games, heterogeneous messages about the experience of war converge in the body of the spectator/player, who is caught up in both the spectacle of fantasy and the visceral sensation of "being there" on the front lines. Beyond the realism of historical fidelity or visual mimesis, these texts activate a "corporeal realism" that exists at the very base of specular experience—that of bodily sensation.


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    Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
    ETD Committee:
    ETD Committee TypeCommittee MemberEmail
    Committee ChairLowenstein, Adamalowen@pitt.edu
    Committee MemberFischer, Lucylfischer@pitt.edu
    Committee MemberLandy, Marciamlandy@pitt.edu
    Committee MemberHalle, Randallrhalle@pitt.edu
    Title: Screen Combat: Recreating World War II in American Film and Media
    Status: Unpublished
    Abstract: "Screen Combat" interrogates how the cultural mythology of the Second World War as the "Good War" surfaces in the American war film by examining the change in the aesthetics of combat sequences over time. By juxtaposing 1940s documentary and fiction films with contemporary cinema and video games, this dissertation argues that the World War II combat genre is not the conservative, coherent, "classical" genre that previous studies have assumed it to be. Rather, combat films and video games are complex, polysemic texts that challenge our assumptions about Hollywood filmmaking and mainstream American media.This dissertation contends that the combat sequences of World War II films give voice to a counter-narrative of the war, breaking away from the typical plots of noble sacrifice and dedicated heroism to show explosive images of devastation and annihilation. Even seemingly conventional cinematic histories of the war—movies like Destination Tokyo (1943) and Pearl Harbor (2001) and video games like Call of Duty (2003)—contain jarring and exhilarating combat sequences that undercut our usual notion of the Second World War as a morally righteous undertaking and replace it with a dangerously fascinating portrait of awesome destruction. It is in these moments of action that the contradictions of war come bubbling to the surface, convulsing and even rupturing the body of the text as it seeks to simultaneously contain and unleash the violence of battle. In combat-centered films and video games, heterogeneous messages about the experience of war converge in the body of the spectator/player, who is caught up in both the spectacle of fantasy and the visceral sensation of "being there" on the front lines. Beyond the realism of historical fidelity or visual mimesis, these texts activate a "corporeal realism" that exists at the very base of specular experience—that of bodily sensation.
    Date: 27 January 2011
    Date Type: Completion
    Defense Date: 08 September 2010
    Approval Date: 27 January 2011
    Submission Date: 08 December 2010
    Access Restriction: No restriction; The work is available for access worldwide immediately.
    Patent pending: No
    Institution: University of Pittsburgh
    Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
    Refereed: Yes
    Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
    URN: etd-12082010-150654
    Uncontrolled Keywords: Andrè Bazin; classical Hollywood cinema; first-person shooter; Flags of Our Fathers; Gregg Toland; Inglourious Basterds; John Ford; John Huston; Nazi zombies; Saving Private Ryan
    Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
    Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 15:09
    Last Modified: 22 May 2012 13:15
    Other ID: http://etd.library.pitt.edu/ETD/available/etd-12082010-150654/, etd-12082010-150654

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