'We live inside a dream': Ideology and Utopia in the Films of David Lynch
In this thesis I contribute a political reading of David Lynch’s films. To do so I employ a mode of ideological analysis that draws explicitly on the thinking of Fredric Jameson and in particular his conception of three ‘concentric interpretative horizons’: the political, social, and historical. Taking these horizons as three perspectives on David Lynch, I contend that Lynch’s films have entered into a dialogue with various processes and events inhering in our own historical moment of globalised multi-national capitalism. My Introduction surveys the terrain of existing scholarship on David Lynch, identifies the various alternative or competing modes of analysis and interpretation and enables a number of Lynch’s most notable commentators to have their say prior to setting out the terms of my own argument. Chapter one constitutes an analysis of Jameson’s thinking, particularly in relation to his conception of a ‘political unconscious’. This chapter also attempts to situate this thinking historically in relation to Marxist critical theory. Chapter Two, corresponding to Jameson’s first interpretative horizon — the political — involves an analysis of Lynch’s narratives which are discussed in relation to genres, institutions and traditions, so as to situate them in relation to contemporary and postmodern forms of cultural production. In Chapter Three I introduce the argument that Lynch’s films can, to greater or lesser degrees be seen as variants of what Jameson refers to as ‘conspiratorial texts’. In focusing on the second interpretative horizon — the social — I consider Lynch’s filmic conceptions of community. In particular I explore the inherent antagonisms pertaining between Lynch’s protagonists and their respective community’s institutions and social structures. Finally, Chapter Four is explicitly concerned with the form of Lynch’s films and corresponds to the third and final of the interpretative horizons; the historical. Here I consider Lynch’s connections with and relations to what I will call discourses of ‘non-rationalism’, most significantly Surrealism. I argue that these discourses, involving specific modes of knowledge and understanding, are set in opposition to, and possibly constitute critiques of, forms of reason and rationality primarily associated with the Enlightenment. Each of these three levels of interpretation, the political, social and historical, involves a dialectic — between form and content, subject and community, and present and future — and it is in relation to these dialectics that I situate my political interpretation of David Lynch’s films.
Advisor: Fowler, Catherine; Nicholls, Brett; Ryan, Simon
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Media Film and Communication
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: David Lynch; Fredric Jameson
Research Type: Thesis