THE AUTOMATON OF ITALIAN CINEMA: TOWARDS A REINTERPRETATION OF HUMANISM IN THE AGE OF THE CINEMATIC APPARATUS

Other Titles
Abstract
This dissertation focuses on the story of a film character that Italian cinema has brought to the fore, particularly by the neorealist film movement. The automaton of Italian cinema is a marginal, alienated character who apparently does not possess an individual consciousness and will but is subjected to those of others. Combining Aristotle’s notion of the automaton with anthropologist Clara Gallini’s discussion of the urbanized population in late nineteenth-century Italy, I focus on the automaton not as the machine that imitates the human but as the human in flesh who imitates a machine that imitates the human, through bodily and psychological automatisms. In this way, I define this figure as a “flesh automaton,” in which the Christian and phenomenological notion of the “flesh” meets with the automatic kind of event brought by cinema. As a philosophical figure that can be described from time to time as an aesthetic figure and/or a psycho-social type, but is not reducible to either of them, I also define the flesh automaton as a Deleuzian cinematic conceptual persona. In my study, I complicate the notion of humanism usually associated with Italian cinema, in the filmmakers Cesare Zavattini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Elio Petri, by showing the weight of automatisms both at the gestural and cinematographic levels. I argue that understanding the interplay between event and habit, and human and non-human provides deeper understanding of the subjects portrayed in these films. I combine archival research, theoretical reflection, and textual analysis to explore the automatic body in this cinema and to show how themes elaborated by Italian literature and culture, and expressed through acting and cinematographic productions, anticipated contemporary transnational mediatic developments and posthumanist theories of agency and performativity. My research develops in three directions: first, a genealogy of the automatic body in Italian theatrical magnetism and the influence of French psychiatry and theatre on it; second, the use of non-professional actors in the cinema, particularly neorealism in the early 1940s; third, the filmmakers’ peculiar relationship with the marginal automatic body. The Automaton of Italian Cinema shows how authors such as Zavattini and Pasolini either use cinema to “reanimate” the automatic body, thereby releasing it from its destiny of repetition, or to show its inherent negative charge and another possible outcome towards the grotesque, as reflected by Petri. Ultimately, I discuss how, by forming an enunciative assemblage with these filmmakers, the flesh automaton questions the monolithic male bourgeois subjectivity of the postwar Italian Marxist and humanist intellectual.
Journal / Series
Volume & Issue
Description
377 pages
Sponsorship
Date Issued
2020-08
Publisher
Keywords
automaton; cinema; cinematic apparatus; flesh; humanism; Italian
Location
Effective Date
Expiration Date
Sector
Employer
Union
Union Local
NAICS
Number of Workers
Committee Chair
Pinkus, Karen Elyse
Committee Co-Chair
Committee Member
Attell, Kevin D.
Campbell, Timothy C.
Degree Discipline
Romance Studies
Degree Name
Ph. D., Romance Studies
Degree Level
Doctor of Philosophy
Related Version
Related DOI
Related To
Related Part
Based on Related Item
Has Other Format(s)
Part of Related Item
Related To
Related Publication(s)
Link(s) to Related Publication(s)
References
Link(s) to Reference(s)
Previously Published As
Government Document
ISBN
ISMN
ISSN
Other Identifiers
Rights
Rights URI
Types
dissertation or thesis
Accessibility Feature
Accessibility Hazard
Accessibility Summary
Link(s) to Catalog Record