Leckey, Brittany White (2017-05). Irritatingly Incomplete: The Ontologically Reconsidered Filmic Image. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • This dissertation seeks to provide a novel understanding of the ontological structure of the filmic image. To do this, it first evaluates three ontological perspectives of the artistic image: the Platonic transcendental ideal, the Heideggerian historical and contextual provenance, and the challenge Walter Benjamin makes against these two grand traditions of aesthetics in his considerations of film. Ultimately, I argue that the filmic image does not promote or participate in any transcendental ideal, nor does it remain tired to the historical or cultural ground of its creation. With and beyond Benjamin, I argue that the radically untethered nature of the filmic image requires us to turn away from traditional notions of aesthetics that claim that an artistic image is an imitation of an idea, that is, a secondary result of a previously conceived idea, historical situation, or socioeconomic situation. Instead, I argue that the filmic image is a second with only an accidental first - by this, I mean that it is a work that need not adhere to the prior condition(s) that contributed to its creation, whether we describe that in terms of the transcendental ideals of Plato, the historical provenance of Martin Heidegger, or the material conditions of late industrial capitalism as described by Walter Benjamin. As such, the filmic image requires our deep aesthetic, social, and political consideration of it in order to ascribe for it meaning not just once, but in as many different ways as we authentically can. I thus offer what I term an authentic existential comportment towards the filmic image. This approach, I argue, is successful because it (a) includes both past and future interpretations of the filmic image not as potential impediments to a fuller interpretation, but as necessary components of it and (b) recognizes that the task of interpretation when facing an aesthetic artifact such as the filmic image is never complete, and will always require further interpretation, further valuation, and further consideration. I then illustrate this approach by performing analyses of three films: F. W. Murnau's Der letzte Mann (1924), Christopher Nolan's Inception (2010), and Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980).

ETD Chair

  • George, Theodore  Professor and Texas A&M Presidential Impact fellow, Head of the Department of Philosophy

publication date

  • May 2017