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«Stony Brook University The official electronic file of this thesis or dissertation is maintained by the University Libraries on behalf of The ...»

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Stony Brook University

The official electronic file of this thesis or dissertation is maintained by the University

Libraries on behalf of The Graduate School at Stony Brook University.

© Allll Riightts Reserved by Autthor..

© A R gh s Reserved by Au hor

The Paranoiacs Who Knew Too Much: Postmodern Knowledge

and Hollywood Cinema

A Dissertation Presented


Emilia Bakola


The Graduate School

in Partial Fulfillment of the


for the Degree of

Doctor of Philosophy in Comparative Literature Stony Brook University December 2007 Copyright by Emilia Bakola Stony Brook University The Graduate School Emilia Bakola We, the dissertation committee for the above candidate for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree, hereby recommend acceptance of this dissertation.

E. Ann Kaplan, Distinguished Professor, English and Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies, Dissertation Director Krin Gabbard, Professor, Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies, Chair of the Defense Robert Harvey, Professor, Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies and European Languages John Lutterbie, Associate Professor, Theater Arts Outside Reader This dissertation is accepted by the Graduate School Lawrence Martin Dean of the Graduate School ii


of the Dissertation

The Paranoiacs Who Knew Too Much: Postmodern Knowledge And Hollywood Cinema by Emilia Bakola Doctor of Philosophy in Comparative Literature Stony Brook University This dissertation examines a specific manner in which paranoia finds expression in postwar Hollywood cinema. Paranoia, in addition to its clinical definition, finds expression as a cultural phenomenon and has also been a popular theme in postwar cinema; both trends have grown exponentially in the U.S. during the latter half of the twentieth century. The basic premise of my project is that in Hollywood cinema paranoia emerges primarily as excessive rather than distorted knowledge. What has often been understood as a form of reactionary thought is employed in a manner that reinforces rather than challenges the status quo. The male paranoiac is an infallible hero with unique cognitive abilities, and with an unrestrained desire for truth and meaning. My project

takes a unique approach to the structure and function of the paranoid style of storytelling:

–  –  –

chapter poses a theoretical question that explores the relationship paranoia holds to other nuanced theoretical concepts, such as fetishism, postmodernism, Hollywood narrative, and the female subject. Challenging paranoia’s monolithic treatment through cinematic texts that do not fit comfortably in the genre of paranoid narratives reveals, among other things, that naturalized modes of thought and cinematic storytelling are informed by and even rely on the paranoid model for their effectiveness. The function and utility of paranoid narratives in the postmodern era is also explored in relation to the function and utility of Greek myth in the fifth century BC Greece. I take the mythical figure of Oedipus as portrayed in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King to be the archetype for Hollywood’s male paranoiac. I trace the socio-political similarities between twentieth century United States and fifth century BC Greece in order to identify the political function of Greek tragedy and Hollywood cinema in their respective times.

–  –  –

Acknowledgements……………………………………………………………………....vi Chapter 1- Paranoia and the Myth of Oedipus…………………………………………...1 Chapter 2- Is Hollywood Cinema Inherently “Paranoid”? The Myth of the Male Paranoiac……………………………………………………………………………..…41 Chapter 3- Can Paranoia Exist in the Postmodern? Deconstructing the Myth of the Male Paranoiac………………………………………………………………………………...86 Chapter 4 – How to Do Conspiracy Theory With Fetishism: The Myth of the “Slain King”……………………………………………………………………………………129 Chapter 5- Polanski on Female Paranoia: Challenging Hollywood’s Female………….166 Epilogue ………………………………………………………………………………..206 Bibliography……………………………………………………………………………211

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So many people contributed to the genesis and materialization of this project. I would like to begin by thanking a few of my fellow graduate students for always being there in moments of crisis. The fruitful discussions we held, often helped me overcome instances of “writer’s block.” Monica, Lilla, Luda, thank you so much for your love and your friendship in this most challenging stage of our academic career. I will miss you.

I began thinking about my project while attending Robert Chi’s graduate seminar on Film, History, and Memory. Robert Chi has been a source of inspiration throughout my project, and I wish to offer my deepest gratitude for his ongoing encouragement, advice, and support, as well as for believing in me and my work. Sandy Petrey helped me organize my ideas at their earlier stage, by asking challenging questions, questions that guided my thought and organized my chapters. For that and so much more I offer him my deepest thanks.

I took more graduate seminars with John Lutterbie than any other faculty member at Stony Brook. John’s deep insights and expert knowledge in theater contributed significantly to the conception of my project. Robert Harvey’s knowledge of theory, literature, and film, was always something I could rely on. Robert’s attention to detail also ensured that there would be no loose ends, no issue unattended. Krin Gabbard’s support has been invaluable. His expertise in Hollywood cinema and psychoanalysis were constant sources of knowledge and information. My gratitude goes out to my advisor, E.

Ann Kaplan. Despite her busy schedule Ann was the one to give shape and form to my work. Without her sharp insights, deep knowledge, and valuable guidance this project would not have been made possible.

It would be inconceivable for any graduate student in our department not to acknowledge the support of Mary Moran-Luba. Mary’s diligence can only be matched by her good heart. She is the heart and soul of the department. Every step along the way I could always rely on Mary for advice about administrative issues which, as we know, can be time-consuming and even disruptive at times. Thank you, Mary, from the bottom of my heart!

My husband, Felix, is the reason why I first came to the U.S. I followed him to Iowa where I began my undergraduate studies, then to New York at Stony Brook. Felix always pushed me to strive for excellence, believed in my abilities, and helped me discover aspects of myself previously unknown to me. For that I will always be grateful and he will always have my deepest love and affection. My parents have also been an incredible source of strength and support. Their unconditional love inspired me to work hard even when I felt overwhelmed and unwilling to go on. This project would have been possible without them.

Chapter 1: Paranoia and the Myth of Oedipus “O riches, ruling power, skill after skill surpassing all in this life’s rivalries, how much envy you must carry with you, if, for this kingly office, which the city gave me, for I did not seek it out, Creon, my old trusted family friend, has secretly conspired to overthrow me and paid off a double-dealing quack like this, a crafty bogus priest, who can only see his own advantage, who in his special art is absolutely blind”

-Oedipus, Oedipus the King

–  –  –

Introduction Paranoia and conspiracy are signifiers that conjure up images of worlds infested with danger, corruption, destruction, deception, manipulation, thirst for power and control;

they are words that have defined twentieth-century consciousness; words we stumble upon on a daily basis. When one considers the twentieth-century historical record it is hard to imagine people not feeling paranoid, not believing in sinister forces constantly at work. Paranoia in our days has become a prevalent phenomenon; it is increasingly common in the political and social spheres to find one accusing, or, being accused of thinking and acting in a paranoid way (meaning being unreasonable, irrational, delusional). The arts, especially literature and film, have been intricate cultural agents in shaping the public’s perception about world events. From authors like Don DeLillo to filmmakers like Oliver Stone, paranoid narratives reflect a general adherence to what Michael Rogin calls “demonology,” the tendency to perceive the world through the lens of conspiracy and paranoia. 1 With reality, however, continuously surpassing fiction in scenarios of gruesome violence and devastating catastrophe, one decade’s fiction is often ironically another’s brute reality. In scholarly circles conspiracy and paranoia have also received critical attention, especially since World War II. Working primarily within the framework of a pre-existing general consensus on the meaning and function of paranoia, cultural critics such as Timothy Melley, Mark Fenster, and Patrick O’Donnell identify paranoia as the prevalent epistemology of our times. Dana Polan understands paranoia as “a historical activity” and “a social practice” 2 (13). In the latter half of the nineteenth century, clinical paranoia is studied by psychiatrists such as Kraepelin, Krafft-Ebing, and Kalhbaum. 3 In the early twentieth century, Sigmund Freud developed his own psychoanalytic theory on the nature of paranoia, and subsequent thinkers—Niederland and Santner—drawing from Freud’s work, offered additional insights. 4 Freud’s work would also immortalize Oedipus, arguably the most popular mythic character of all; his story was revived in the twentieth century not because of a renewed interest in Sophocles and the classics, but mainly because of Sigmund Freud and the birth of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic theory borrows Oedipus and transforms the mythic figure into the most important stage in the psychosexual development of the child; failing to resolve the Oedipus complex, the male was condemned to become a neurotic or a homosexual, or, in cases of total failure, a neurotic homosexual. Deleuze and Guattari, See Kathy Acker, My Mother: Demonology (Grove Press, 1994).

See Dana Polan, Power and Paranoia: History, Narrative, and the American Cinema, 1940-1950 (Columbia University Press, 1986).

See Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s Textbook of Insanity (1873), and Emil Kraepelin’s Lectures on Clinical Psychiatry, ed. Thomas Johnstone. London: Baillier, Tindall & Cox, 1906.

Psychosis and Sexual Identity: Toward a Post-Analytic View of the Schreber Case (1988) is also a valuable collection of essays on Schreber and paranoia by some of the most important contemporary thinkers, including Jean François Lyotard and Michel de Certeau.

perhaps the most (in)famous anti-Oedipalists, vociferously protest against the imperialistic figure, whose appropriation by Freud, they argue, transgressed the boundaries of psychoanalysis and literature and infiltrated into social organizations in the most oppressive ways. One has to wonder: is there anything left unsaid about Oedipus?

How is Greek myth still relevant in the twenty-first-century United States? And what does it have to do with a project about Hollywood paranoia?

This chapter sets forth an introduction to the concept of paranoia and the manner in which it will be treated in the following chapters. One of the major points in the project is that in postwar Hollywood cinema paranoia is predominantly represented as a form of excessive rather than distorted knowledge, a knowledge that is overwhelmingly male. In the new paranoid style of American arts, male characters increasingly seem to be suffering from excessive knowledge, a condition that also resonates with the unprecedented access to information we have come to enjoy 5. The story of Oedipus, as told in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, will serve as the starting point in identifying some of the patterns and recurring motifs based on which Hollywood constructs the male paranoiac. The central theme in Oedipus, namely, the noble and obsessive quest for truth, lends itself to an inquiry into contemporary representations of knowledge and knowledge production in Hollywood cinema. The figure of Oedipus as a double character—savior and destroyer, native and foreigner, villain and victim, husband and son, father and brother, king and beggar—will facilitate an examination of paranoia as a “doubling of The notion of excessive knowledge should be read in terms of over-reading signs, over-interpreting events, and in general, of infusing surplus meaning to objects, characters, events, etc.

presence.” 6 Furthermore, the dual function of excessive knowledge (the notion of knowing too much) as a blessing—with Oedipus ridding Thebes of the Sphinx by solving the riddle—and as curse—with Oedipus discovering himself behind Laius’ murder and thus being the cause of the plague—anticipates postmodern axioms vis-à-vis knowledge and information.

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