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Abstract

The publication of Gilles Deleuze’s Cinema books (Cinema 1: The Movement Image, 1983, trans. 1986; Cinema 2: The Time Image, 1985. trans. 1989) effectively reinvented Henri Bergson for film and media studies. These texts claim an intuitive correspondence between Bergson’s philosophy of movement and the aesthetics of cinema; an argument posed through close readings of a canon of cinematic masterworks. This dissertation contends that Deleuze’s recovery of Bergson was limited by a conception of cinema too ahistorical for its own time. As a consequence, the Cinema books have too little to say of Bergson’s significance for a cinema reconstituted by digital media.,“On Cinema as Media” has two intertwined ambitions: to claim Bergson as a profound philosopher of media, and to offer a renewed description of media aesthetics in light of the transformations, both imagistic and experiential, effected by the coming into being of a general digital media paradigm. Its argument attends closely to the context of Bergson’s encounters with photography and film (the new media of the time), in order to situate his accounts of visual media within the wider ambit of his philosophical project. The analysis simultaneously describes technical mediation in a Bergsonian lexicon; in this seeking to demonstrate the Bergson’s value for contemporary media studies as a materialist philosopher who understands mediation, technological or otherwise, in phenomenological terms: as a form of embodied experience. ,The methodological specificity of this dissertation lies in its materialist conception of the aesthetic transformations triggered by the digital paradigm. Where contemporary media studies has been guided by Friedrich Kittler’s claim that Michel Foucault’s project lacks a serious account of technology, thus analysis turns to Foucault for a conceptual armature with which to conceptualize the scope and amplitude of technological mediation. “On Cinema as Media” locates media aesthetics in the interface between the technical image, the agential subject, and the experiential dispositif or ‘setting.’ In its widest circumference, what Foucault called the dispositif is coincident with the historical a priori; and my argument contends that the contemporary historical and technological a priori coincide in the digital dispositif. ,Such a reformulation of the terms of media aesthetics allows the dissertation to redefine cinema as a media whose ontology does not lie in a material technology, but in the phenomenology and aesthetics of movement. The argument seeks to demonstrate that the transition from an analog to a digital dispositif has allowed pre- and post-celluloid configurations of imagistic movement to become comprehensible, in a manner that enlarges the scope and genealogy that can be attributed to the aesthetics of movement. It concludes that thinking about Bergson within the framework of digital media opens up dimensions of his project wholly unavailable to analyses routed exclusively through an examination of celluloid cinema, because cinema’s reconstitution by the digital dispositif has intensified its capacity to fulfill the Bergsonian vocation claimed by Deleuze’s Cinema books.

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