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Constellations of Adornian theory and film: readings of Adorno with Tarkovsky and Haneke

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posted on 2023-06-07, 15:54 authored by Simon Paul Mussell
This thesis engages in analysis and interpretation of certain ideas within the critical theory of Theodor W. Adorno (1903-1969). These analyses are placed into a constellational relationship with some filmic works of Andrei Tarkovsky and Michael Haneke. In doing so, I aim to highlight the ongoing relevance and validity of at least some core elements of Adornian theory in a contemporary context. The thesis consists of four substantive chapters. The first chapter functions as an extended introduction to and justification for the thesis as a whole, and it provides the theoretical background to the project before explicating the idea of a constellational method. The second chapter explores the notion of mimesis in Adorno’s thought and Tarkovsky’s films as a crucial rejoinder to the prevailing ‘communicative’ paradigm instituted in large part by Jürgen Habermas’ work. The third chapter considers the importance of marginality to the task of social critique by analyzing Adorno’s theoretical reflections on the matter and how these can be related to and supported by Haneke’s filmic work. The fourth and final chapter examines the relationship between humanity and nature within two preeminent ecological discourses, in contrast to Adorno’s critical theory and some of Tarkovsky’s films, with the intention of showing how the latter offer a more nuanced and dialectical understanding of this relation. Throughout the analyses herein, I defend and demonstrate the fertility and pertinence of Adornian theory, for both the interpretation of film and robust criticism of extant social and political conditions. The thesis shows that by constellating Adorno’s critical theory with film one may bring out important insights that enhance and enable people’s capacity to critically respond to the woefully inadequate status quo.


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