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Frame and Finitude: The Aporetic Aesthetics of Alain Resnais's Cinematic Modernism

Rhym, John (2018) Frame and Finitude: The Aporetic Aesthetics of Alain Resnais's Cinematic Modernism. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation argues that the modernist cinema of Alain Resnais and the philosophical writings of Martin Heidegger share a sustained commitment to aporias, which not only serve as conceptual sites for investigation but also function as structural forms that shape their respective projects. In the case of Resnais, I show that specific films address a number of postwar anxieties through the reflexive staging of the following intrinsically irresolvable tensions: between film’s technologically disclosive capacity and its limits, between art and instrumentalization, between the unrepresentability of historical trauma and the material articulations of memory, and between the political discourse of agency and cinema’s foreclosure of spectatorial intervention. In the case of Heidegger, from the earlier existential analytic to his later lectures and essays on the historicity of being, his entire project can be understood as deliberately attending to the diverse forms of the interplay between revealing and concealing that constitutes, for him, the essentially aporetic structure of truth. Furthermore, I argue that the different configurations of epistemic and existential finitude underwrite an approach shared by both filmmaker and philosopher that preserves the irresolvability of these aporias and manifests their generative possibilities. It is by drawing on the crucial role ascribed to finitude in the aporetic structures of Heidegger’s thought and Resnais’s cinema that I map out one form of this generative possibility as an ethics and aesthetics of acknowledgement.

Chapter One interweaves Resnais’s Van Gogh with Heidegger’s insights into the aporetic mode of disclosure that characterizes artworks in order to elucidate Resnais’s distinctive cinematic constructions of worldhood. Chapter Two places Resnais’s Night and Fog in dialogue with Heidegger’s account of modern technology to situate the film’s reflexive interrogation of the aporia between representation and instrumentalization within a broader postwar philosophical discourse surrounding the question concerning the possibility of art as a site of resistance. Chapters Three and Four take up anxiety and releasement as affective manifestations of finitude in Heidegger’s thought in order to read the aporetic configurations of Hiroshima mon amour and Je t’aime, Je t’aime as organized around the radical disavowals demanded by an ethics of acknowledgement.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Rhym, Johnjor39@pitt.edujor39
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairLowenstein, Adamalowen@pitt.edualowen
Committee CoChairMorgan,
Committee MemberLandy, Marciamlandy@pitt.edumlandy
Committee MemberMajumdar, Neepanmajumda@pitt.edunmajumda
Date: 31 January 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 4 December 2017
Approval Date: 31 January 2018
Submission Date: 7 December 2017
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 191
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Resnais; Heidegger; Cinema; Modernism; Aesthetics; Phenomenology
Date Deposited: 31 Jan 2018 18:53
Last Modified: 31 Jan 2018 18:53


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