Secondary Textualities: Ideology, Form, and Performative Cinematic Authorship
Abstract: Abstract This dissertation examines a multifaceted cinematic form,
the Narrative of Character Authorship. Films in this category allow discursive material
objects (or secondary texts) created by characters in the diegesis proper (or primary
register) to displace, either periodically or perpetually, the illusion of the film itself
as closed-off, omniscient, and complete. In other words, ... read morewhenever a character creates a
visual text that seems to take the place of the actual work, or narrates in such a way that
scenes from the film play out subordinated to that narration, we are likely in the realm of
this form. The crucial, linking element is that the secondary text must form an actual
physical artifact that exists and exerts influence upon the events of the primary. These
films, I argue, produce three distinct effects: They demand a reworking of Laura Mulvey's
theory, still central to contemporary film studies, that the looks of the viewer and the
camera are disavowed and subordinated to that of represented characters, and since
recording apparatuses are omnipresent in these narratives, characters are constantly aware
of their potential as performative and textual subjects; they recurrently result in
characters who use textualized performance as a means of shaping their ideological identity
in relation to the (often hostile) social order; and, most curiously, they tend to omit
representation of an audience within their own diegesis, seldom showing their secondary
texts actually being viewed, which I read as indicative of the failure of textualized
spectacle to adequately subjectivize its creator. My first chapter analyzes the
distinctions between mere performance and authorship or textualized performance, before
analyzing P.T. Anderson's breakthrough work Boogie Nights (1997). My second chapter
theorizes cinema's turn from silent to sound film in order to stake a claim for the
problematics of voice-over, then applies this argument to Wilder's Double Indemnity (1944),
arguing that voice-over allows the noir protagonist to scapegoat and contain the femme
fatale. Chapter three engages with films in which the secondary and primary texts are
entirely congruent, focusing on the interplay of banality and anxiety in the two most
common types of this subgenre: found footage and mockumentary. My final chapter inverts the
framework to explore the disorienting, surveillant effects of films in which the
protagonists are the recipients of secondary texts, while the authors remain obscured,
focusing especially on Michael Haneke's Caché (2005). The filmography of this project is
intentionally diverse, to the point of appearing nearly arbitrary. The desire to create
text, to encapsulate our performative impulses - not for immediate personal gain, but as a
means of shaping symbolic identity - appears in various forms in the period epic, film
noir, satiric mockumentary, found footage horror flick, and postmodern thriller. It is not
a genre unto itself, but a narrative form that can shape any genre.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2015.
Submitted to the Dept. of English.
Advisors: Lee Edelman, and Joseph Litvak.
Committee: Todd McGowan, and Sonia Hofkosh.
Keyword: Film studies.read less