Doctor of Philosophy
Humanist Narratology in Contemporary American Cinema and Folksong
Although references to the “humanistic drama” abound across a breadth of critical media, including film and literary theory, and we often describe narrative works as humanist, there has been scarce exhaustive scholarly investigation into the narrative conditions of humanism.
My ongoing study approaches questions around evolutionary explanations for storytelling, such as Brian Boyd’s suggestion that narrative “develops our capacity to see from different perspectives, and this capacity in turn both arises from and aids the evolution of cooperation and the growth of human mental flexibility,” the ethics of stimulating empathy and compassion for fictional characters, and the value of character complexity when representing hypothetical circumstances of the other in narrative. I also raise questions around the abuse of story’s capacity to inspire compassion in excusing and permitting antisocial acts, as well as use of the abject in humanist art. I ask whether we need to anthropomorphise the other, intersubjectively from our own experience, to include them as ethical subjects.
I extend these concepts to two under-acknowledged communities of storytellers straddling different media: American folk singer-songwriters in the 1980s and 1990s, and independent American post-digital filmmakers in the suburban realist tradition.
Professional and/or Community Engagement
I am the co-founder and co-curator of I have published film journalism and filmmaker interviews for publications including British Cinematographer, International Cinematographers Guild, and Perspective magazines.
I am a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and recording engineer, and I produce music for Australian progressive folk acts.
I am currently coordinating a postgraduate film studies reading group.
“Humanist Ethics in John Sayles’ Casa de los Babys,” Film International, forthcoming, 2014.
Parenthood (Ron Howard, 1989)
Casa de los Babys (John Sayles, 2003)
O Lucky Man! (Lindsay Anderson, 1973)