The cinematic corpography of war : re-mapping the war film through the body
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In this thesis, I explore the ways the sensory experience of war is staged as a corporeal apprehension of space in the Hollywood war film. Placing an emphasis on films that foreground tactile, and sonic experience in combat as a key dimension of symbolic meaning in the depiction of war, I move beyond the emphasis on optics and weaponised vision that has largely dominated contemporary writing on war and cinema in order to highlight the wider sensory field that is powerfully evoked in this genre. In my conception of war cinema as representing a somatic experience of space, I am applying a term recently developed by Derek Gregory within the theoretical framework of Critical Geography. What he calls “corpography” implies a constant re-mapping of landscape through the soldier’s body. Gregory’s assumptions can be used as a connection between already established theories of cartographic film narration and ideas of (neo)phenomenological film experience, as they also imply the involvement of the spectator’s body in sensuously grasping what is staged as a mediated experience of war. While cinematic codes of war have long been oriented almost exclusively to the visual, the notion of corpography can help to reframe the concept of film genre in terms of expressive movement patterns and genre memory, avoiding reverting to the usual taxonomies of generic texts. The thesis focuses on selected films exemplary of the aesthetic continuities and changes in American cinema’s audio-visual representation of war (with each chapter centring on a specific military conflict and historical constellation): All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), Paths of Glory (1957), Objective, Burma! (1945), Fury (2014), Men in War (1957), The Boys in Company C (1978), Rescue Dawn (2006), and Zero Dark Thirty (2012).
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2022-05-25
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 25th May 2022
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