The Stillness of Solitude

Romanticism and Contemporary American Independent Film

Michelle Devereaux

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Examines the influence of Romantic philosophy and practice on American independent film
  • Places Romantic art and philosophy in a fresh context
  • Studies four popular filmmakers: Wes Anderson, Sofia Coppola, Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman
  • Contributes to the emerging field of neo-romantic cinematic study
  • Highly interdisciplinary, this book will also be of interest to those researching Romanticism in other contexts, such as literature and visual art

In the first book-length study of Romanticism in relation to American film, Michelle Devereaux takes established theories of contemporary American independent cinema as a point of entry, exploring the underlying philosophical and aesthetic Romantic connections between a selection of seven films from four popular filmmakers: Wes Anderson, Sofia Coppola, Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman.

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Introduction: Filmmaking as Romantic Quest

What is ‘Romantic’?

Imagination and the Romantic Sensibility

Romanticism, Sincerity and Authenticity: A Problem of Identity

‘Metamodernism’ and Romantic Irony

From the New Wave to New Hollywood to Now

Chapter Overviews

Part I. Romantic Clarity and Confusion

1. Beauty Among the Ruins: The Painful Picturesque and Sentimental Sublime in Wes Anderson’s Aesthetics

The Sublime and the Beautiful in Eighteenth-century Aesthetics

The Royal Tenenbaums and the Painful Picturesque

Trapped in a Never-ending Play: Anderson’s Use of Diegetic Space

A Search for Meaning Within Postmodern Pastiche

The Middle-aged Man and the Sea: The Life Aquatic and the Sentimental Sublime

The Camp Cathedral: Eclecticism in Anderson’s Mise-en-scène and Dialogue

Conclusion

2. ‘An Endless Succession of Mirrors’: Irony, Ambiguity and the Crisis of Authenticity in Synecdoche, New York

Romantic Irony: From Kant and Schlegel to Byron and Beyond

Embracing Irony and Undermining Realism in Synecdoche, New York

‘A Series of Mad Visions Perhaps’: The Screen as the Site of Confused Subjectivity

The Mise en Abyme and the Mathematical Sublime

Conclusion

Part II. Emotion, Imagination and the Feminine Sublime

3. ‘Oh! You Pretty Things: The Egotistical and Feminine Sublimes in Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides

Gendered Expressions of Sublimity: The Egotistical and Feminine Sublimes Staging Sublimity in Seventies Suburbia

Mood Creation and the ‘Emotional Core’ of the Film

The Aesthetics and Politics of ‘Pretty’

‘Preparing to Give Assault’: Creating the ‘Pseudo-political’ gothic

Conclusion

4. Girlfriend in the Machine: Intersubjectivity and the Sublime Limits of Representation in Spike Jonze’s Her

The Role of Will in the Romantic Imagination

Sublime Obscurity and the Mind’s Eye

Photographing Sound in a Disembodied Mise-en-scène

‘The Light of Sense Goes Out’: Intersubjectivity and the Acknowledgment of Others Conclusion

Part III. Childhood, (R)evolution and Imaginary History

5. ‘Because I’m a Wild Animal’ : Nature Versus Nurture in Fantastic Mr Fox

Romantic Conceptions of Childhood and Nature

Digging for the Middle Ground: Fantastic Mr Fox and American Pastoralism

‘A Native Blend of Myth and Reality’: The Landscape of Imagination

Little Savages in the Garden: Ash, Kristofferson and the Romantic Child

Mourning the Loss of Animal Nature

Conclusion

6. ‘It’s Not Too Much, Is It?’ Keats, Fancy and the Ethics of Pleasurable Excess in Marie Antoinette

Fancy and Material Excess as Alternative Romantic Discourse

Marie Antoinette and the ‘Material Sublime’

The ‘Romantic Ethic, Daydreaming and Modern Consumption

Revolution, Modernity and Shifting Personal Identities

‘Like a Little Piece of Cake’: The Body, Consumption and Moral Utility

‘Dying into Life’: Embracing the Romantic Depth Model?

Conclusion

Conclusion: On Endings and New Beginnings

The Romantic Relationship to Reality: A Questioning of Absolutes

The Battle Between Self-consciousness and Solipsism

‘Bravery in the Midst of Indeterminacy’: Emotion as a Form of Revolution

List of Works Cited

Index

In this intricately argued and elegantly written book, Michelle Devereaux offers an inventive, original take on American independent film, arguing that works by Wes Anderson, Charlie Kaufman, Sofia Coppola and Spike Jonze exemplify “neoromanticism”. [...] The Stillness of Solitude: Romanticism and Contemporary American Independent Film will serve as a valuable resource for researchers interested in the filmmakers she highlights, for each chapter offers a stand-alone analysis of one director’s film.
Suzanne Ferriss, Nova Southeastern University, Film-Philosophy Volume 25, Issue 2
While other thinkers have gestured towards the complementarity of Romanticism and contemporary art, none have done so in such a thorough and thoughtful manner. Michelle Devereaux’s monograph breaks new ground by placing Romantic art and philosophy in conversation with cutting-edge American independent cinema, and in so doing presents both in a new light. Rich in detail and beautifully written, Devereaux’s readings of films by the likes of Wes Anderson and Sofia Coppola illuminate the connections between the Romantic era and our present moment. But more than this, in deepening our understanding of mankind’s enduring feelings of anxiety and isolation, her book offers a first step in their overcoming.
Dr. Catherine Wheatley, King's College London
While other thinkers have gestured towards the complementarity of Romanticism and contemporary art, none have done so in such a thorough and thoughtful manner. Michelle Devereaux’s monograph breaks new ground by placing Romantic art and philosophy in conversation with cutting-edge American independent cinema, and in so doing presents both in a new light. Rich in detail and beautifully written, Devereaux’s readings of films by the likes of Wes Anderson and Sofia Coppola illuminate the connections between the Romantic era and our present moment. But more than this, in deepening our understanding of mankind’s enduring feelings of anxiety and isolation, her book offers a first step in its overcoming.
Dr. Catherine Wheatley, King's College London
Michelle Devereaux is a film journalist and scholar. She received her doctorate in Film Studies from the University of Edinburgh and has taught film theory, history and criticism at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Birmingham. She is a board member of intersectional feminist journal on visual culture MAI and currently lives in British Columbia, Canada.

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