Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2011

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Communication Studies

First Advisor

Gronbeck, Bruce E

Second Advisor

Valentino, Russell

First Committee Member

Depew, David J

Second Committee Member

Peters, John D

Third Committee Member

Hingstman, David


This dissertation is a rhetorical study of the critical reception of the French film Hiroshima mon amour (1959; dir.: Alain Resnais; screenplay: Marguerite Duras). My main argument is that the themes of love and technology followed a dialectical progression in the critical reception of Hiroshima mon amour. They were important and politically charged in the first essays on the film at the turn of the Sixties. But they lost momentum and became more neutral due to the academization of Film Studies and to the rise of semiology that privileged linguistic abstractions. The return of the themes of love and technology in the Eighties signals the search for renewed forms of commitment. However, this commitment "through abstraction" is also predicated on forgetting. In fact, a different understanding of commitment does not allow remembering that Hiroshima mon amour was also a protest against the first French atomic test in Algeria and its colonial implications. My dissertation examines the limits of what can be said through different paradigms of criticism and commitment through the careful study of the rhetorical situation of each critical act. Jacques Derrida's twin concepts of aimance and of the peut-être guide my research. I examine how we can think Hiroshima mon amour on the background of the paradoxical communities that invented new forms of political participation in postwar France. The early debate on the representation of "mad love" in Resnais' film signaled a concern for the way in which modern technology undermined the binary oppositions between war/peace, civilian/military, and friend/enemy. The paradoxical communities that originated from this realization opened to rhetorical articulations that united people with no communal party membership. Derrida's politics of aimance carries on this reflection on the peut-être by targeting the traditional view that envisions the political as limited to the public sphere and tend to exclude women. By contrast, Hiroshima mon amour empowered women because it tapped into the dark territories of the private in order to show that modern technology had colonized the intimate and daily life. Hence, women critics could acquire a strong political voice from the oppression of the private.


Alain Resnais, film criticism, film theory, Hiroshima mon amour, Marguerite Duras, rhetorical situation


v, 330 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 323-330).


Copyright 2011 Alessandra Madella

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