The act of viewing: indeterminacy and interpretation in narrative film

Billingham, Jimmy Patrick (2011) The act of viewing: indeterminacy and interpretation in narrative film. Doctoral thesis (DPhil), University of Sussex.

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This thesis argues that the presentation of narrative in film involves a
fundamental indeterminacy, derived from the status of the event in film. I elaborate this
idea of indeterminacy through Gilles Deleuze’s ontology of the filmic image and Daniel
Frampton’s phenomenology of film-thinking. I analyse various manifestations of
narrative indeterminacy, looking at examples from silent-era, classical and
contemporary cinema from around the world, both within the studio model and outside
of it. I look at how we may theorise narrative agency in light of this indeterminacy and
its various forms, proposing an alternative to previous models of filmic narration, as
well as examining the implications of indeterminacy for a viewer’s activity in
understanding narrative and how this relates to narrative agency. Here I use Wolfgang
Iser’s reader-response theory and his theory of literary indeterminacy to propose that
this act of viewing is fundamentally interpretive, exploring the extent to which a filmic
equivalent to Iser’s implied reader may be identified, and the implications of this for
conceptions of the relationship between the various types of viewer proposed
throughout film theory.

What emerges from this is a theory of the act of viewing that attends to the
particular status of the event in the moving image of film and the indeterminacy that
follows from this in a manner that previous theories do not, proposing an alternative to
David Bordwell’s theory of narrative comprehension and the related dismissal of
interpretation. I suggest how viewer activity can be theorised alongside – rather than
instead of – the 'passive' spectators of ideologically oriented film theory, and that what
is required is attention to this intersection of viewing positions in film theory.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > Media and Film
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion pictures
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 15:02
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:50

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