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Title:Playing on all screens: new understandings of film authorship in an age of media convergence
Author(s):Sherwood, Ryan Joseph
Director of Research:Basu, Anustup
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Basu, Anustup
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Newcomb, John T; Turnock, Julie; Capino, Jose B
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
new media
film criticism
Abstract:My dissertation investigates the idea of cinematic authorship in a twenty-first-century mediascape increasingly defined by the breakdown of medium specificity and the proliferation of viewing options. Throughout, I interrogate the validity of the search for authored cinematic inscription in a “post-cinema” world in which systems of image production, dissemination, and consumption would seem to undermine the legibility of “the auteur” as defined and defended by twentieth-century film critics. I consider the simultaneous inflation and displacement of the auteur concept as it has lost much of its aesthetic significance to join the media slipstream. Once the sine qua non of Modernist cinema, the auteur now exists largely as a function of marketing. Nowhere is this more evident than in the discourse surrounding so-called “Auteur TV,” which has paradoxically toppled cinema from its cultural pride of place while reinvigorating the concept of the auteur in the form of all-powerful “showrunner.” Taking a culturally and historically expansive view of media convergence, this project, on a case-by-case basis, contradicts or circumvents the showrunner-as-auteur model as it explores contemporary television and new media as possible sites of Modernist cinematic expression. Chapter I: Introduction establishes the scope and stakes of the project, providing essential background on the origins and historical applications of Auteur Theory, as well as television’s ever-fluctuating cultural position relative to cinema. Chapter II offers a historical survey of established feature filmmakers directing episodic television, considering how the separation of powers between director and executive producer has manifested and been received critically at crucial moments of film-TV convergence. Chapter III focuses on director Steven Soderbergh’s little-seen HBO pseudo-documentary series K Street (2003)—specifically on its aesthetic correspondence with Nouvelle Vague titan Jean-Luc Godard’s attempts to make avant-garde television in the 1970s, which distinguishes it from the contemporaneous premium cable series more widely, and reductively, described as “cinematic.” Chapter IV compares the critical reception of the first and second installments of director Jane Campion’s detective series Top of the Lake (2013-2017), testing the veracity of critical claims that contemporary television is more conducive than cinema toward formal experimentation and auteur expression. Chapter V submits the 2017 revival of David Lynch’s cult series Twin Peaks as a negotiation between television’s ignominious past—represented by “junk TV” like The Monkees (1966-1968)—and the avant-garde mandate to explore the ontology of the cinematic image, in the tradition of Chris Marker’s La Jetée (1962).
Issue Date:2021-11-08
Rights Information:Copyright 2021 Ryan Sherwood
Date Available in IDEALS:2022-04-29
Date Deposited:2021-12

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