Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

 

The soul announces itself : Terrence Malick's Emersonian cinema Public Deposited

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  • This thesis takes an auteurist approach to the films of director Terrence Malick by reading them through the spiritual philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I establish Malick's thematic concern with the human struggle to achieve better existences in a broken material world, a concern buoyed by his signature aesthetic that includes expressive voice-overs and sublime photography of nature. I close-read each of Malick's six films, drawing upon tenants of Emersonian philosophy to reveal Malick's expression of transcendent events of the soul against brutal earthly realities. In chapter one I put forth Badlands and Days of Heaven as Emersonian "cautionary tales" for lives lived bereft of meaningful communion with the world. Chapter two sees The Thin Red Line as Malick's turn toward an explicitly philosophical cinema where the spiritual/material divide becomes paramount. In chapter three I focus on The New World and The Tree of Life as refined versions of Malick's renewed philosophical interests and style. I conclude on Malick's latest film, To the Wonder, finding that despite his depictions of an increasingly fractured modern world, Malick retains an Emersonian faith in the individual's ability to spiritually transcend material life.
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