Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


English & Film Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Kilbourn, Russell J A

Advisor Role



This dissertation begins from the position that cinema’s ongoing persistence as a specific operation of subjective perception is intimately related to the questions of self and memory it raises. Even as digitization and global capitalism have ostensibly led to the creation of a “post-cinematic” culture, cinematic forms and practices remain inextricably related to the larger (often unacknowledged) metaphysical concerns of the cultures and social contexts in which they continue to signify. These concerns—which include beliefs in perceptual realism, the relations between images and the past, and notions of selfhood—shape both the production and consumption of cinema as a tool which mediates relationships between human beings and between humans and the world. Addressing especially the impact of cinema’s role as a materialization of memory, this dissertation makes the case that cinema can enact and materialize the structures of consciousness and that cinema opens the possibilities for crafting an ethical stance toward the world.

Through analysis of examples drawn from contemporary transnational art cinema, including, among others, The Tree of Life (2011), Melancholia (2011), and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010), this dissertation explores the role that art cinema practices play and have played in the constitution of identity, explaining the enduring presence of themes surrounding memory and identity in cinema. By articulating how the notion of self is problematized through both the images on the screen and the activity of viewing them, this dissertation explores how films communicate the existence of an inner life and why particular filmic conventions continue to persist which carry particular meanings about perceptual experience and the nature of the self. Because memory, a term which integrates the various biological, social, and technological processes which relate the past and present, plays a key role in underpinning the human relationship to temporality, memory’s dependence on visual technologies is instrumental to understanding how cinema functions.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season