Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Gary B. Madison




The central claim of the present thesis is the idea that the film experience for us is the displaced expression of an interest which is fundamentally spiritual. After offering a phenomenological typology of the film experience, the thesis argues that the common denominator of these various types is the desire to touch the wholly other, a peculiarly postmodern variant of a much older desire, the desire to transcend oneself. Postmoderm, secularized man is in fact deeply spiritual and the film experience can be shown to be an increasingly self-conscious, though still sublimated expression of this neeed to transcend the limits of the flesh. What we get in the film experience is a religious smorgasbord, rather than any particular denominational perspective. The modern rise of science and technology as increasingly dependable sources of knowledge about the world, as well as various philosophical attacks which have been levelled at our ability to know the world and ourselves, have contributed to a growing sense of free-floating subjectivity. We no longer know exactly who we are. The vacuum left by the demise of religious authority cannot be filled by scientific/objective knowledge alone. We are in need of spiritual grounding as well, and through its contribution to constructed subjectivity, cinema is ideally suited to fill the void.

McMaster University Library

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