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Materialising the Unseen: The Multisensory Cinema of the Invisible Body

Law, Jonathan (2014) Materialising the Unseen: The Multisensory Cinema of the Invisible Body. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:48182)

Language: English
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The long century of western cinema has produced numerous depictions of invisible bodies – those bodies that function as any other, save for the distinctive feature of their invisibility. The invisible body challenges conventions of cinematic production, presentation and reception, suggesting an ‘extra-visual’ cinema. But, as well as this, the invisible body also challenges conceptions of the limits and categorisation of the human sensorium. In tracing a sensory history of invisible bodies, this thesis is concerned with how such depictions connect with and contribute to constructions of the senses in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. This thesis thus makes an original contribution to knowledge by asking: What kind of history of the senses can be found in the onscreen invisible body? In doing so, this thesis engages a film theory of the senses that asks what the depiction of the invisible body – itself a delicate cultural construction that has no direct equivalent in nature – brings to a cultural understanding of the modern sensorium.

Chapter One introduces the sensualities of the invisible body in Die Nibelungen: Siegfried (1924). Chapter Two connects the imagery of The Invisible Man cycle (1933–1951) with a tendency towards sensory reconfiguration. Chapter Three addresses a Cold War phase of invisible extraterrestrials in terms of technologised sensory extension. Chapter Four identifies the late twentieth-century onscreen invisible body as representative of a reconstituted social sensorium. Finally, Chapter Five analyses sequences from The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001–2003), interpreting invisible embodiment in relation to the disorientations of both pain and intersensoriality. Through my approach, I connect the multisensory with the multidisciplinary, identifying the unsettling character of the onscreen invisible body as a consequence of its taxonomical unsettling of sensory and media boundaries.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Friday, Jonathan
Thesis advisor: Guerin, Frances
Uncontrolled keywords: cinema senses sensorium invisible invisibility body embodiment film sensory multisensory materiality intersensoriality technology identity enworldment thinking media
Subjects: N Visual Arts > N Visual arts (General). For photography, see TR
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Arts
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 05 May 2015 13:00 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 13:24 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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