Ghost stories without ghosts : a study of authorship in the film script 'the seabourne'

  • Matt Marshall

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    In 'The Crypt, the Haunted House of Cinema, Cholodenko argues that film is, metaphorically speaking, a haunted house: an instance of the uncanny. This raises the possibility the film script is also uncanny, from the Freudian notion of das Unheimliche, the strangely familiar and familiarly strange - and thus also a haunted house. This proposition engenders a search as self-reflexive practice for that which haunts the script' an uncanny process to explore the uncanny. The search requires drawing on Barthes, acting 'as dead' with that process' attendant contradictions and problematics' the most likely ghost in the script being the writing self. Establishing the characteristics of the writing self involves distinguishing that figure from the author. This requires outlining the development of theories of the author from the concept of authorial will, as per the argument of Hirsch, to the abnegation of the author as a philosophical certainty. Barthes and Foucault call this abnegation the death of the author. Rather than that marking the end of a particular branch of analysis, the death of the author can be considered an opening to the writing practice. From this perspective, the death of the author becomes a strategy in Foucault's game of writing, effecting the obfuscation of the writing self, by placing a figure as dead, the author figure, within the metaphorical topography of the text. Indeed, the author as dead is akin to a character in the narrative but at a substratum level of the text. What places this dead figure within the text is an uncanny writing self, a figure of transgression, brought into being in the experience of Blanchot's essential solitude. 'The Seaborne' written by Matt Marshall, provides an example of a film script that constitutes a haunted house, a site of the uncanny. In terms of the generic characteristics of the film script as text type, its relative unimportance in relation to any subsequent film based on the script becomes of itself a feature of the film script. This makes the film script a site of negotiation and contestation between the implied author as hidden director on the one hand and the implied reader as implied director on the other. This confirms the film script as, using Sternberg's terminology, a blueprint text type. Examples of the negotiation and relationship between hidden director and implied director are found in analysis of 'The Seaborne' as are the tensions in the relationship between the individualistic impulses of the hidden director and the mechanistic, formal requirements of the text type as blueprint. These tensions are ameliorated by the hidden director who is then effaced within the constructed layers of the film script text to allow interpretive space for the implied director. 'The Seaborne' as representative of the film script text becomes the after-image of a written text and the foreshadowing of a future filmic one. It therefore never finds completion within its own construction process and its formation begins in templates that accord with the Bakhtin's description of the epic, as is shown by comparing the construction notes for 'The Seaborne' with Aristotlean dramatic requirements. But at the same time there is present in 'The Seaborne' a Bakhtinian dialogism that points towards the individual markers of a writing self. This writing self, referring to Kristeva, is a figure of abjection. It transgresses itself and transgresses its own transgressions. It is a ghost in a ghost story without ghosts.
    Date of Award2008
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJen Webb (Supervisor), Belinda MORRISSEY (Supervisor) & Felicity Packard (Supervisor)

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