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2022 Abstracts Stage 3

An Exploration of Personal Identity in Contemporary (20th and 21st Century) Film and Television

What is it to be a Self?
• My objective is to explore personal identity by using film and television as thought experiments. I want to further my own understanding of my ‘self’, as well as that of others around me.
• Body theory: Our personal identity persists because we have the same body from birth until death. Challenged by ‘Star Trek’ Transporter thought experiment.
• Soul theory: The soul houses our identity, supported by Plato and René Descartes. Challenged by films such as ‘Still Allice’, how does Alzheimer’s damage the soul?
• Memory theory/ psychological continuity: John Locke’s Memory Theory. We have memory links to different stages in our lives, and they are all connected. Films such as ‘Total Recall’ and ‘Blade Runner’ call into question the role false memories can have in shaping our personal identities.
Society and the Self
• Zygmunt Bauman: Timeline of personal identity. We are in Liquid Modern Times, technology dictates personal identity. Explored in films such as ‘The Social Network’ and ‘Her’.
• Friedrich Nietzsche: Flux, we are in a constant state of becoming, so there is no fixed self that persists through time. Christian values of the past should be rejected, instead we should practise Amor Fati.
• Fixed identity: Exists in the Pre-modern Era and in Social Frameworks, i.e. institutions such as the Christian Church. Patrick Bateman in ‘American Psycho’ undergoes an identity crisis in response to the fixities in his life.
• Fluid identity: The transition from Walter White to Heisenberg in Breaking Bad is fluid identity in action. Supported by Bauman and Nietzsche, as it can make for a more tolerant society. However, lacking a solid sense of self can be dangerous.

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2022 Abstracts Stage 2

A Discussion of the Representation of Women in Horror

This project seeks to explore the film genre of horror, and within that, its representation of women. With a territory surroudning the representation of women in horror, the objects of this project consist of a selection of horror films, most notably slashers from the 1970’s and 80’s. These include The Texas Chainsaw Massacre I & II, Halloween, Aliens, and the non-slasher Videodrome. The overall aim of the projects was to discover how a genre so fixated on producing an atmosphere of fear from the physical mutilation and sexual assault of women could be anything but negative representation. However, through the researching and writing of the project, it was discovered that, through the exploitation of cultural taboos, the horror provides space for concepts of female agency, inverted male-female dynamic, and critiques of existing gendered issues of domestic violence and the sexual exploitation industry, to be explored in ways which other film genres do not allow. Moreover, horror has always existed as a medium for representation, specifically for women, compared to more commercially and critically successful films have not.
Through utilizing Freudian psychoanalysis, and screen theory, this project dives into the aforementioned films, as to derive how female characters within the films are represented, through their costuming, framing, and overall qualities. In addition, Simone De Beauvoir’s The Second Sex allows an application of feminist philosophy to the project, providing depth to the politically/culturally systemic nature to the representation of women in the broader sense. Furthermore, her reference to the Hegelian Slave-Master dialectic assisted in the analysis of the discussed films.
Other texts used within the project include Laura Mulvey’s ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’, Coral J. Clover’s Men, Women and Chainsaws, and Erin Harrington’s ‘Gyneohorror: Women, Monstrosity & Horror Film’.

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2022 Abstracts Stage 3

Should the failure to give an account of oneself be used as an explanation for violent behaviour? Explore this in relation to the television series ‘You’.

In this essay, I explore if a failure to give an account of oneself should be used as an explanation for violent behaviour, with reference to the Netflix television series ‘You’. I reference Butler’s account of oneself, where we will often face opacity as we come across barriers in our own self-narration. This occurs because we are not in control of our narrative origins, nor the social norms that were shaped by a pre-existing society. I also reference Laplanche’s enigmatic demand of the Other, where we possess a radical dependence on our caregivers from the moment we are born and discover that we are vulnerable to them. I also reference Levinas’ face-to-face relation with the Other, where we are met with the unavoidable face of the Other, and we must recognise our inherent responsibility to appeal to their presence, with an obligation to live a life of peaceful pacifism. However, the fictional serial killer Joe Goldberg subverts the notion of non-violence as he suffers with numerous neurological disorders and is unable to give an account of himself due to his traumatic and neglectful childhood, whereby his psyche protected his egoistic sense of self through repression.

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2022 Abstracts Stage 2

A Discussion of the Psychic Mechanisms Within Cinematic Catharsis

The emotional release that is often felt by spectators when observing cinema is an interesting focus in the context for Freud’s catharsis, as early cinema was still developing as an art form when he wrote his various works. He extensively discussed the psychic mechanisms at play during dreams, fantasy and even when telling jokes yet applying his theories of repression and the unconscious to cinema specifically has produced insight into the unique experience of being a spectator to cinema.

This dissertation explores the role of catharsis in cinema, focusing on the 2016 television series ‘Fleabag’ and analysing the psychic mechanisms at play during such catharsis. My object therefore is Cinema and Fleabag and the territory is catharsis.
Cinema is referenced through a variety of secondary sources and Fleabag is referenced through Phoebe Waller- Bridge’s original scripts- The Scriptures (2020).
Aristotelian Catharsis is reference through his Poetics (1995) which influenced Freudian catharsis as demonstrated in Breuer and Freud’s Studies in Hysteria (2004) which describe a therapeutic technique which harnesses the process of catharsis to treat neurotic patients. Finally, I discuss the feminine experience of catharsis with reference to the popular culture term dissociative feminism, relating it to Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (2011).

By the above primary thinkers, my project demonstrates that the process of cinematic catharsis is purgative because it facilitates a processing of unconscious conflict, even if we are unaware of it.

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2021 Abstracts Stage 2

DESIRE BEYOND THE FAMILY: EXPLORING DESIRE IN ‘FESTEN’

My project’s territory is desire, and the object of this enquiry is the film Festen by Thomas Vinterberg. Festen showcases a family’s revelation to its secrets and traumatic past. The film was the first film made under the influence of the rules of Dogme 95 Movement. The aesthetics of the film are directly influenced by the strict rules of the movement. From the aesthetics of the film, I started my examination of the film in order to uncover a new understanding of desire. The conceptual tools that I utilised for this intellectual exploration are found in two primary texts. The first text, written by Gilles Deleuze, is Cinema 2: The Time-Image. This text provided a philosophical taxonomy of cinematic images that indicated a way the aesthetics of a film can be understood. The second, and more central text, is Anti-Oedipus. This text was written by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari and it features an extensive critique of the psychoanalytic discourse and a new conceptual image of desire.My project’s main objective is to present the novel image of desire, as seen in Festen, with the aid of the two philosophical texts. The film is interested in the idea of the family and all things that are attached to it. Through my examination, I uncovered how closely attached is desire to the family. Festen, seemingly, unpacks this conception of desire and reveals the repressive implications of such conception.The result of my examination is a new, and more open, picture of desire that can reverse the negative and repressive implications of the familial conception of desire that was previously established.

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2021 Abstracts Stage 2

What are the implications of actors playing roles with a different sexual orientation to their own?

This research paper seeks to answer the research question of “what are the implications of actors playing roles with a different sexual orientation to their own?”. To do this the objects of Armie Hammer’s performance as Oliver in Call Me By Your Name, and Rupert Everett’s Performance as Sir Arthur Goring in An Ideal Husband are applied to Sartre’s notion of authenticity and Butler theory of performativity. Sartre’s notion of authenticity is used to assess the implications to the authenticity of an actor’s performance when playing a character with a different sexual orientation to their own. Butler’s theory of performativity is used to assess the implications that performativity has on performances, specifically performances where actors play roles where their sexual orientation is different from the character they play.

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2021 Abstracts Stage 2

The Corrosive Social Effects of Greed with Reference to There Will Be Blood.

This project will endeavour to explore the corrosive social effects of greed and capitalism. The territory is the subject of capitalism as a political and economic system as presented throughout history and also currently. The 2007 film There Will Be Blood (directed by Paul Thomas Anderson) is my object through which I shall spring the discussion of my project from, exploring the questions throughout and what they mean for us. I am using the works of John Locke (primarily his Second Treatise of Government) and Karl Marx (primarily his Philosophic and Economic Manuscripts of 1844). Locke explores the human right of private property and how one rightly comes to have ownership, and Marx explores the disproportionate and devastating relationship between capitalist and labourer and how such a relationship and work brings about alienation and estrangement from labour for the labourer. I shall compare the two philosophic ideas of Locke and Marx with reference to There Will Be Blood.

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2021 Abstracts Stage 3

The Precarious Worker as Homo Sacer

• This project will place the film ‘Sorry We Missed You’ (2019) within the territory of biopolitics, in order to understand the relationship between the worker and their employer.
• ‘Sorry We Missed You’ is a film set in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, following the Turner family where parents, Abby and Ricky, work within the gig economy.
o Abby works as an outsourced, in-home care worker.
o Ricky is a delivery driver, mockingly referred to by his son as a “white van man”.
 As a contemporary film, this project shall be contextualised against the backdrop of ‘Capitalist Realism’: the pervading atmosphere that capitalism is the only possible economic system.
• Workers that are self-employed or are on zero-hour contracts are referred to as ‘precarious workers’.
o Precarity is anxiety that lacks a definite object.
• Paolo Virno empirically observes these workers to contain the qualities of opportunism, fear and cynicism.
o These qualities alienate workers from their social ties as their morals are uprooted and knowledge is fixed to capital, creating ambivalence.
• Ivor Southwood’s first-hand account of this sector echoes Virno arguing that workers suffer from inertia as they can no longer separate work from their private life.
• The relationship is biopolitical as the relation between worker and employer is constituted by the originary bond of sovereignty to bare life.
• Over the course of the film, the bare life of the worker is demonstrated by the violence and exploitation exerted towards Abby and Ricky, for the goal of maximising their bodies potentiality to gain capital for their sovereign employer.

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2021 Abstracts Stage 2

Reconciling Both Sides of Oneself: Using Freudian & Lacanian Psychoanalytic Theory to Deconstruct Tony Soprano.

This essay explores and deconstructs the inner psyche of Anthony Soprano, the protagonist of the TV show ‘The Sopranos’ (1999-2007). This essay puts an explicit focus on the work of Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan and their work on subjectivity and the formation of selfhood. The broader aim of this essay is to better understand how a personality is formed, and the ways in which our experiences – even the ones forgotten over time – have a permanent effect on our self-esteem, our behaviour and our response to certain situations. Tony Soprano was chosen for analysis because of the extreme dichotomy between the side of him that wants to be good and the side of him that is demonstrably bad. This essay also discusses whether or not Tony’s inner conflict can be resolved, coming to the conclusion that this is impossible for him. This essay also seeks to avoid an ethical discussion and look objectively at character-forming from a purely psychoanalytic perspective to avoid a discussion of moral relativism, instead hoping to understand the notion of morality as being formed through experience.

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2021 Abstracts Stage 2

The Essence of Masculinity and its Presentation in Film

Essentialism is a widely debated facet of philosophy, often focused on the role of women in society. However, not often is research concerned with the role of masculinity within essentialism. To see the effect of and on social influence I will be reflecting the concepts of masculinity and essentialism onto film. This is not previously reflected upon categories, and overall the way that feminism can reflect onto masculinity is something that can be helpful to both genders. I will approach this question through an analysis of the films Billy Elliot (2000) and Dead Poets Society (1989) as a microcosmic story of society’s values. These films will enable me to see complete storylines. Also, I will refer to The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) and Goldfinger (1964), and Skyfall (2012), from the Bond franchise as influential storylines for the viewer. It will be approached under the guise of three methodologies, analytic, interpretive, and historical. Between these, I will proficiently examine the argument of essentialism, the idea of masculinity in relation to this, and finally, the way film can illuminate the way we view masculinity. This will be with specific reference to Diana Fuss’ book Essentially Speaking (1989) to frame the essentialism argument; also using Andrea Waling’s discourse around ‘toxic’ and ‘healthy’ masculinities. The addition of Locke’s idea of ‘nominal’ versus ‘real’ essence and Luce Irigaray’s input on feminism of difference all integrate to form a coherent basis from which to analyse and interpret the selection of films and draw conclusions. The concluding finding is that film is an integral lens through which we can view society and the demonization of femininity that evolves from the negative masculinity we continue to idealise. This is important to explore as previously the literature has fallen short of showing the practical ends film can lead to, and the importance of delineating the way we view essence even if it is a foundational part of knowledge.

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2017 Abstracts Stage 2

Are the ethics instilled within the current film ratings still attainable within our modern society? A historical insight into the progression of the rating system and the ethics applied within it

The aim of my project is to provide a historical exploration in the change of films rating system from its first code, The Hays Code, to the current classification of film ratings. In order to do this I will need to understand the ethics implemented in its change and then comment as to whether I believe it to be viable in modern society. Specifically looking at the notion of the Spectacle as a critique.

Key thinkers involved within my project will include John Stuart Mill, Jeremey Bentham. I will specifically take from their works the key idea of the Harm Principle and Bentham’s Hedonic Calculus. An interpretive analysis of Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle will help answer whether the ethics within film ratings is sustainable in modern society.

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2015 Abstracts Stage 3

What can Film Tell Us About What it Means to Exist?

What can we truly know of what it means to exist? The contemporary mode of scientific rational thought says nothing of the way one exists. The thought of Heidegger and Deleuze, however, does. Heidegger’s thought suggests that one may find truth through an authentic experience of art and attunement to the mood of anxiety. (Heidegger, 1993) Deleuze claims that we may create concepts that enable a coherent understanding of phenomena, such as time and space, with an appreciation of film. (Deleuze, 1997) This Project suggests that these ideas may be extrapolated through the films of Steve McQueen. McQueen’s directional techniques and their subject matter provide the perfect representation for this philosophical thought, as this project explores.

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2014 Abstracts Stage 3

The Double

This project aims to argue that the doppelganger in cinema represents a fear in society. The project will aim to chart the change in this fear. Deleuze’s work offers a psychoanalytical perspective on this whereas Giddens and Beck look at modernity more generally. Science fiction cinema is a cinematic cousin of the double film and works in a similarly reflexive manner. As film projection is digitized so is our society, meaning that we both rely on and resent technology. So is the prevalence of double films in 2014 related to our increasingly strong links to machines?

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2014 Abstracts Stage 2

Stanley Kubrick: Rapture and the Ubermensch

2001: A Space Odyssey is a film many find hard to properly understand. I aim to present an account of 2001 that enables easier comprehension of this cinematic feature through philosophical themes.

In 2001: A Space Odyssey Stanley Kubrick exhibits on rapture and the Ubermensch. I will, in my project, present how Kubrick uses colour, sound and cinematography to evoke feelings of rapture.

Focusing on the character Dave Bowman, I reveal how rapture and the overcoming of computers enable humans to delve into the next stage of Ubermensch.

The project contains breakdowns of the most important scenes of the film in relation to the works of Nietzsche. Including mans overcoming of computers, and the transcendence of humanity.

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2014 Abstracts Stage 2

The Wolf of Wall Street

Project Aims:
•To distinguish the moral issues within the life story of Jordan Belfort and explore whether the initial presumption that he is solely to blame for such actions is completely accurate.
•Can philosophers such as Nietzsche explain such actions through their own reasoning and logic about how people operate?
•Can a true objective answer be found for such moral dilemmas or is it too subjective to conclude with one judgement?
•Assessing the overlooked factors that aren’t so apparent when first understanding Belfort’s past.

Philosophy:
•Apollonian vs. Dionysian: Nietzsche’s division between the two realms of approaching the world. A good combination of both will help you lead a sustained lifestyle, whereas if you fall too deep into either you risk becoming ‘too boring’ or ‘out of control’. Throughout the study of Belfort’s life this concept is very applicable because he certainly experiences the description of both realms and consequentially allows the Dionysian to be the downfall of his reign.

•Cultural Relativism and how it can help people to understand the differences between certain environments and how such external influences play a vital role when making such moral judgements.

•Immanuel Kant’s absolute laws on ethics. On principles such as: “Do not use people as a means to an end” he would not condone Belfort’s actions.

•Friedrich Nietzsche’s study into Epistemology and how the process of receiving and using knowledge infringes our own free will.

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2013 Abstracts Stage 2

Cinema Violence. Quentin Tarantino in the World of Aesthetics and the Problem of Beauty in Evil

Territory: Cinema Violence

Object: Quentin Tarantino

Concepts: Audience emotion, aesthetic formalism, the problem of beauty in evil.

Philosophers: Noël Carroll, Mary Devereux, Joseph Kupfer, Quentin Tarantino

Objectives
– To better understand the arguments put forward by Quentin Tarantino for his use of violence.
– To further explore these ideas in the context of philosophy of audience and aesthetics.

– How has violent cinema developed?
– What is Tarantino’s role in the history of cinema violence?
– What is Tarantino’s relationship with his audience?
– What is Tarantino’s aesthetic philosophy?
– Where does Tarantino fit in with the problem of finding beauty in evil?

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2012 Abstracts Stage 3

Is the Grass Always Greener on the Other Side? A Look into Marriage and Infidelity, in Reference to Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut

I aim to explore the concept of how we act morally in marriage and what motivates us to do so. I chose to use this film as my object, as in the film, the character of the ‘wife’, Alice, is honest about her psychological desires for other men and claims she believed herself incapable of controlling this desire and that it was only though accidental luck that it did not happen. However, the ‘husband’, Bill, claims that he simply does not fulfil the desires he has for other women out of consideration for Alice and out of respect for the commitments made in their marriage.

In my project, I want to investigate whether the concept of marriage holds any value and if a faithful, monogamous relationship is possible in our modern society today. With the factor of temptations surrounding us, are we able to resist and rationally control our inclinations of overwhelming desires and manipulate our will in order to follow the duties inherent in marriage. The philosophers I will use are: Immanuel Kant and his duty based ethics, Soren Kierkegaard and his views on marriage and St Thomas Aquinas relating to lust as a sin.

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2012 Abstracts Stage 3

Brechtian Techniques in Contemporary Cinema

In my project I will be investigating the use of Brechtian techniques in contemporary cinema. I will look into why Brecht first developed his techniques. I will look closely into one of his most famous plays Mother Courage and Her Children. 

I will then investigate more contemporary cinema producers. I will do this by looking into Jean-Luc Godard’s comedic film Pierrot Le Fou and Michael Haneke’s cruel and sadistic film Funny Games. 

I will explore whether or not they use Brechtian techniques in the same way that Brecht wanted them to be used. I will be arguing that although the producers tend to use Brechtian techniques to convey different emotions and messages it is only because the producers are living in different societies. They, therefore, want to express different issues that relate to their society. For example, while Brecht wants to criticize how the society is run Godard wants to criticize the role of the cinema and Haneke wants to criticize certain individuals in the society, those who take pleasure from watching cinema put together through violence and torture.

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2011 Abstracts Stage 2

“Madness. Death. Passion. Perfection.” A Philosophical Commentary of Black Swan and The Red Shoes

Is madness a symptom of a quest for perfection, or is madness a social failure? Is it passion that kills us, or does death consume us once our passion is achieved? These are the territories I will explore in response to my concept of Black Swan and The Red Shoes.

Black Swan and The Red Shoes are cinematic experiences of the ballet world, and of a passion that leads to madness and death. One protagonist is trapped by a perfection that makes her envy her lucid alter ego, and the other protagonist is torn between the love of her work and the love of her life. Both are alike in a tragic finale of death. But it must be asked – was it the ballet that led to their downfall, or were they in themselves a destructive force?

Apollonian + Dionysian ≠ A Beautiful Soul

Nietzsche’s Apollonian and Dionysian from The Birth of Tragedy, proved that the ballerinas were tormented. The Apollonian was the “ethical deity” of the innocent white swan, and the “self knowledge” of outstanding ballet ability. The “chaotic” Dionysian was the seducing black swan, and despairing romance. In being torn between two passions, and two perfections, the ballerinas became mad.

Schiller’s notion of the “Beautiful Soul” reveals why. There must be inner harmony between the formal and sense drives in order to have a beautiful soul. In always allowing the Dionysian to devour the Apollonian, the ballerinas could never have harmony. Real perfection was in the culmination of both passions.

A Tragic Finale

Nietzsche enforced that “the continuing development of art is tied to the duality of the Apollonian and the Dionysian” , whilst Freud warned that satisfying dreams could hide “painful ideas”. The ballerinas could not equate their two passions, and so their art could not continue. Death became inevitable. Their aspirations were not pleasurable, they were painful.

Foucault’s Madness and Civilisation discusses madness a symbol of passion verses madness a social fault. It allows the conclusion that the ballerinas cause their own downfall. And death became a necessity. Madness and torment was seeping into their art. It was slowly destroying their inability. And so they had to die, because it was the only way to preserve the legacy of their passion.

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2010 Abstracts Stage 2

Absurdity and the Apocalypse. Meaningful Existence in a Dying World

Mankind has long held a kind of morbid fascination in the prospect of its own demise, and with that of the world as a whole. The apocalypse – the cataclysmic end of all life on Earth – has frequently been a subject of film, art and literature. In my project, I intend to investigate one such literary instantiation of a world subject to just such a cataclysm – the bleak and ruined existence described in Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’ – with regard to the philosophy of the absurd, as found specifically in the works of Søren Kierkegaard and Albert Camus.

When faced with the absurdity and meaninglessness of our existence – by the tension between our intuitive feeling that our lives have meaning, and our inevitable failure to find it in the world – we are plunged into nihilism.

The absurd man has recourse to three possibilities upon his experience of nihilistic feeling; faith, defiance, and suicide.

Through an investigation into the absurdist thought of Kierkegaard and Camus, and with reference to the world imagined in The Road, I intend to show existence in the post-apocalyptic world to be the ultimate embodiment of the absurdity of human life; that in this Godless world, where death is an experience one cannot stop living, and where nihilism is substantiated, inescapably, by existence itself, we find the true essence of our being, and the true nature of our attempt to give a point to our lives.

I intend to argue two things; one, that our world and the post-apocalyptic one are, in terms of human meaning, identical. And secondly, that despite the absurd nature at the core of human existence, our lives can still be worth living.