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Matt Denny

Background

I hold a First-class honours degree in Film and Literature and an MA for Research in Film and Television Studies from The University of Warwick. My MA dissertation consisted of a re-conceptualisation of the British Horror film between 1957 and 1976, concentrating on Hammer Films. I have also completed a shorter research project on Nietzschean narratives of self-overcoming and the eternal return in Hollywood cinema.
My PhD is funded through the AHRC Block Grant competition.




Research Interests

  • Film Theory; particularly the relationship between post-structuralism, postmodernism, and theories of film authorship
  • The Horror film, particularly British Horror, Folk Horror, and the Gothic
  • The relationship between British popular cinema and Hollywood

Current Research

Ph.D. Thesis Title: The Postmodern Auteur: A Contradiction in Terms?
Supervisor:Dr Catherine Constable
Abstract:

The phrase "postmodern auteur" would appear to be a contradiction in terms. It is widely accepted that the condition of postmodernity makes the existence of the author impossible. If the author remains at all, it is only as a brand name and nothing more. There is in addition a fundamental contradiction between the characteristics of cinematic postmodernism and traditional formulations of the auteur: the fragmented and intertextual nature of postmodern film questions the notions of unity, originality and authenticity upon which the auteur depends.
Despite this apparent contradiction, there are a number of directors to whom the title postmodern auteur has been applied. Notable examples of this group include David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers. This sample of directors is indicative of the focus of accounts of cinematic postmodernity on Hollywood and American independent cinema. This focus means that the formal features of postmodernism are drawn almost exclusively from these film cultures. Such a restricted focus raises the question of whether cinematic postmodernity is an exclusively American phenomenon. My thesis will address these problems through three, interconnected, research goals.
The first of these research goals is an investigation of the place of authorship within postmodern theorising. I will demonstrate that whilst the Romantic model of authorship may well be incompatible with postmodern culture, this is not the sole model of authorship. Through the examination of existing theories of film authorship, I aim to identify the model of authorship that each theory constructs and\or sustains. I will then investigate which, if indeed any, of these models are compatible with postmodern theory.
My second research goal is an investigation of postmodern style, which is often closely connected to authorship. I aim to demonstrate that there are numerous cinematic postmodernisms rather than a monolithic postmodern cinema. This can be compared to the work of Roberta Garret, whose recent book The Postmodern Chick Flick expands the corpus of postmodern films beyond the "masculine" works of Lynch, Tarantino and the Coen brothers to include postmodern reworkings of the woman's film. Where Garret uses genre to demonstrate the diversity of cinematic postmodernism, my thesis will be organised around case-studies of a number of directors. This will allow me to address how our perception of what constitutes cinematic postmodernism shifts according to the taxonomy used by the critic.
My choice of directors reflects my third research goal, an expansion of the corpus of postmodern cinema beyond the limits of Hollywood and American independent cinema by examining British films alongside those from North America. This adds a national and industrial aspect to the project and allows me to investigate how notions of both authorship and the postmodern differ in an American or British context. Globalisation and the permeability of national boundaries is a key aspect of postmodern theory and by examining the films of directors working in both national contexts I am able to explore whether there are regional differences or if all the films can be said to be part of an Anglo-American postmodern aesthetic.


Teaching

I have presented lectures for the undergraduate modules Theories of the Moving Image and Postmodernism and Hollywood covering Derridian palimpsests and Batman Begins (Nolan, 2005) and Donna Haraway's "A Manifesto for Cyborgs" and District 9 (Blomkamp, 2009) respectively. In 2014, I assisted in teaching seminars for Postmodernism and Hollywood


Other

I am also an editor andd regular contributor for dual-review film criticism site Alternate Takes


Contact

matthew dot denny at warwick dot ac dot uk