Jung, Jeewon (2018-12). Modernist Urban Culture and Cinematic Perception: Contingency, Superficiality, and Fragmentation. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon

abstract

  • This dissertation investigates the ways in which urban experience and cinematic experience converge and shape each other during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I do not intend simply to assess how the city is represented in the cinema, but also to examine the ways in which urbanization changed the perception of urbanites and required a new medium to represent their lives in the city. My focus in this dissertation concentrates on three characteristics of the city that define urbanity at the turn of the century: contingency, superficiality, and fragmentation. Each chapter examines one of these three characteristics and consists of two parts. In the first part, I examine the aesthetic responses of various arts to urbanity. Informed by discussion of the cinema, urban space, and modernism in the first part, the second part performs close textual analysis of a particular film or a literary text, through which I aim to examine the affinity between urbanity and the cinema. First, I examine contingency in urban space in interdisciplinary contexts to understand how the notion of chance shaped the perception of modernist artists. Main texts include Le Corbusier's The City of Tomorrow and his vision of a systematic and orderly city; Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent with its film adaptation Sabotage, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, to discuss the literary and cinematic representation of unpredictable urban environments; and August Sander's city photographs capturing urban contingency in People of the Twentieth Century. Based on the first part, the second part discusses the city symphony film, specifically Walter Ruttmann's Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, to examine how the film manages accidental incidents in the city. The next chapter explores the superficiality of the city and the responses of art movements that experimented with the concept of surface, starting with Christopher Isherwood's camera-eye, which he employed to represent the lives of urbanites in "Sally Bowles"; Adolf Loos's architectural theory, which favors effectiveness and simplicity over luxurious ornamentation; and Art Deco and Machine Art, which prioritize aesthetics over functionality. After I explore diverse aesthetic responses, I turn to Joe May's Asphalt to gain insight into the affinity between the city and the cinema in terms of superficiality. Last, I discuss the fragmentation of city life and argue that the cinema is the medium most in tune with fragmented perception and non-contiguous urban life. To understand the directionlessness of urban geography and culture and their opposition to completeness and wholeness, I mainly examine Georges-Eug?ne Hausmann's totalitarian urban planning; several key modernist avant-garde painters who attempted to represent the fragmentary and ephemeral city; Etienne-Jules Marey, Dziga Vertov, and Fernand L?ger's cinematic fragmentation. Focusing on John Dos Passos's Manhattan Transfer, the second part explores the ways in which the modernist literary text employed cinematic aesthetics to describe the fragmentation of the city.
  • This dissertation investigates the ways in which urban experience and cinematic experience converge and shape each other during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I do not intend simply to assess how the city is represented in the cinema, but also to examine the ways in which urbanization changed the perception of urbanites and required a new medium to represent their lives in the city. My focus in this dissertation concentrates on three characteristics of the city that define urbanity at the turn of the century: contingency, superficiality, and fragmentation. Each chapter examines one of these three characteristics and consists of two parts. In the first part, I examine the aesthetic responses of various arts to urbanity. Informed by discussion of the cinema, urban space, and modernism in the first part, the second part performs close textual analysis of a particular film or a literary text, through which I aim to examine the affinity between urbanity and the cinema.
    First, I examine contingency in urban space in interdisciplinary contexts to understand how the notion of chance shaped the perception of modernist artists. Main texts include Le Corbusier's The City of Tomorrow and his vision of a systematic and orderly city; Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent with its film adaptation Sabotage, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, to discuss the literary and cinematic representation of unpredictable urban environments; and August Sander's city photographs capturing urban contingency in People of the
    Twentieth Century. Based on the first part, the second part discusses the city symphony film, specifically Walter Ruttmann's Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, to examine how the film manages accidental incidents in the city.
    The next chapter explores the superficiality of the city and the responses of art movements that experimented with the concept of surface, starting with Christopher Isherwood's camera-eye, which he employed to represent the lives of urbanites in "Sally Bowles"; Adolf Loos's architectural theory, which favors effectiveness and simplicity over luxurious ornamentation; and Art Deco and Machine Art, which prioritize aesthetics over functionality. After I explore diverse aesthetic responses, I turn to Joe May's Asphalt to gain insight into the affinity between the city and the cinema in terms of superficiality.
    Last, I discuss the fragmentation of city life and argue that the cinema is the medium most in tune with fragmented perception and non-contiguous urban life. To understand the directionlessness of urban geography and culture and their opposition to completeness and wholeness, I mainly examine Georges-Eug?ne Hausmann's totalitarian urban planning; several key modernist avant-garde painters who attempted to represent the fragmentary and ephemeral city; Etienne-Jules Marey, Dziga Vertov, and Fernand L?ger's cinematic fragmentation. Focusing on John Dos Passos's Manhattan Transfer, the second part explores the ways in which the modernist literary text employed cinematic aesthetics to describe the fragmentation of the city.

publication date

  • December 2018