Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Degree

Summer 2015

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Film Studies

First Advisor

Paula Amad

Abstract

This dissertation investigates undersea cinema from its origins to the present. Addressing a range of documentaries, narrative fiction films, and sound recordings made undersea, this project emphasizes ocean cinema’s ties to the histories of ocean exploration, conquest, and conservation—contexts from which undersea films cannot be extricated.

For over a century, undersea films have brought the distant world of the deep up close to the eyes and ears of a broad public; they have been a major influence on popular understanding of the ocean, which today is of great environmental significance and a powerful symbol of a fragile global ecology. This project aims to show how the ocean as a cinematic site of ecological consciousness is, as a condition of its production, intimately linked to environmentally unfriendly histories of technology. The often-dazzling images of marine life shown on film can increase viewers’ sensitivity to the other forms of life with which they share the planet. At the same time, producing these images has historically relied on exploratory technologies built for the purpose of better exploiting the marine environment economically and militarily. This contradiction between films’ meanings and their conditions of possibility is not limited to ocean cinema; it characterizes a wide range of environmental films. By focusing on ocean cinema, a particularly rich case of unseen worlds, environmental consciousness, and destructive techno-scientific commitments coming together, this dissertation aims to illuminate a tension that pervades environmental cinema in general.

Public Abstract

This dissertation investigates undersea cinema from its origins to the present. Addressing a range of documentaries, narrative fiction films, and sound recordings made undersea, this project emphasizes ocean cinema’s ties to the histories of ocean exploration, conquest, and conservation—contexts from which undersea films cannot be extricated.

For over a century, undersea films have brought the distant world of the deep up close to the eyes and ears of a broad public; they have been a major influence on popular understanding of the ocean, which today is of great environmental significance and a powerful symbol of a fragile global ecology. This project aims to show how the ocean as a cinematic site of ecological consciousness is, as a condition of its production, intimately linked to environmentally unfriendly histories of technology. The often-dazzling images of marine life we see in films can increase our sensitivity to the other forms of life with which we share the planet. At the same time, producing these images has historically relied on exploratory technologies built for the purpose of better exploiting the marine environment economically and militarily. This contradiction between films’ meanings and their conditions of possibility is not limited to ocean cinema; it characterizes a wide range of environmental films. By focusing on ocean cinema, a particularly rich case of unseen worlds, environmental consciousness, and destructive techno-scientific commitments coming together, this dissertation aims to illuminate a tension that pervades environmental cinema in general.

Keywords

publicabstract

Pages

ix, 209

Bibliography

199-209

Comments

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Copyright

Copyright 2015 Jonathan Christopher Crylen

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