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The Cinema of Walker Percy: A Film Theory Analysis of Moviegoing, Everydayness And the Search in The Moviegoer

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dc.contributor.advisor Koltun-Fromm, Ken Calas, Julien Sands 2013-06-12T13:23:51Z 2013-06-12T13:23:51Z 2013
dc.description.abstract Walker Percy’s first novel, The Moviegoer, is a story about the protagonist Binx Bolling’s search to avoid everydayness. This thesis focuses on Percy’s use of moviegoing to establish Binx as an unreliable narrator and disillusioned searcher trapped by an unawareness of how his life resembles the movies he watches. Binx exiles himself from the world and the people in it out of fear that he may be overcome by the overwhelming presence of everydayness. The consequence of his exile is that Binx loses his ability to know anything about the world, but he is unaware of how his lack of knowledge is causing his despair. He is so confident in his methods of avoidance, such as certification, repetition, and rotation that they blind him from recognizing his true despair, his powerlessness to act under the reality of everydayness. Through three initial moviegoing events Percy shows that the search, despite its aims to avoid despair, is the actual harbinger of despair; Stanley Cavell’s theory of film as philosophy helps to elucidate Percy’s use of these moviegoing events to show that Binx’s initial despair is precisely his unawareness of his despair. Binx’s search comes to a halt because of a train ride to Chicago, when he is confronted with, but accepts, the presence of everydayness. As his search falls apart and Binx learns to see and acknowledge everydayness, he gradually understands the true nature of his despair and the reason for his unhappiness-–losing the ability to act and react, and gaining only the ability to observe. Binx admits that he knows nothing but how the world is full of shit, but in his decision to marry Kate Cutrer, Binx discovers a potential future existence of happiness, void of despair. The film theory of Gilles Deleuze about the split between classical and modern cinema provides a unique insight about Percy’s writing; the novel can be read as an example of Deleuzian modern cinema, making Binx’s transition and freedom from despair sublime but indubitable. Binx is in despair because he refuses to acknowledge the everydayness of the modern cinema; he is in despair when he accepts the modern cinema because he becomes a Deleuzian pure seer who can only observe everydayness and cannot act; and finally he transcends everydayness and inhabits the world of everydayness: a sublime conversion. Percy’s theory of moviegoing is illuminated by Deleuze and Cavell’s film theories where this aspect of the novel is easily overlooked. This thesis aims to establish the importance that Percy assigns to the movies and moviegoing for understanding Binx’s eventual conversion as an embrace and an inhabitance of everydayness. Percy’s novel is not merely an example of a character’s inspired conversion; it is an example of an author’s use of moviegoing and the cinema to present a transcendental theory of everydayness and human existence.
dc.description.sponsorship Haverford College. Department of Religion
dc.language.iso eng
dc.subject.lcsh Ontology in motion pictures
dc.subject.lcsh Percy, Walker, 1916-1990 -- Criticism and interpretation
dc.subject.lcsh Percy, Walker, 1916-1990. Moviegoer
dc.subject.lcsh Motion picture audiences
dc.title The Cinema of Walker Percy: A Film Theory Analysis of Moviegoing, Everydayness And the Search in The Moviegoer
dc.type Thesis
dc.rights.access Open Access

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