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The Hanging Figure: On Suspense and the Films of Alfred Hitchcock [Hardcover]

Christophe Morris

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Book Description

July 30 2002 0275971368 978-0275971366

In a radical new interpretation of the works of Alfred Hitchcock, Christopher Morris argues that suspense—the fundamental component of Hitchcock's cinema—is best understood through deconstruction of the very meaning of the word, which relates to dependence or hanging. He analyzes its portrayal first in painting and sculpture and then in Hitchcock's body of work. In this iconographic tradition, hanging figures challenge the significance of human identity and rationality, and further imply that closure, or an end to suspense, is all but illusory.

This work represents the first deconstructive approach to suspense, and the first-ever survey of the iconography of the hanging figure. Hitchcock's films provide ample opportunity for such discussion, with their constant use of the tool of suspense, and Morris argues that, essentially, all of human existence is in this very state, a state embodied particularly well by the films he discusses. Drawing on the work of Jacques Derrida, Paul de Man, and J. Hillis Miller, this cross-disciplinary study of an important cinematic oeuvre establishes the advantage of a deconstructive and figurative approach to an often-studied directorial style, one that nearly embodies a genre unto itself.

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'Morris's mastery of Hitchcock scholarship and contemporary deconstructionism alike make this one of those rare books on Hitchcock that will be welcomed by critics on both sides of the aisle. Even readers who resist his provocative readings of Rope, Vertigo, and The Birds will find themselves illuminated and challenged by a rethinking of Hitchcockian suspense that is certain to make this one the most influential studies of the world's most studied filmmaker.' Thomas Leitch, Professor of English, University of Delaware; 'I have read this book with great intellectual exhilaration. It is a wonderfully original book, the best comprehensive study so far on Hitchcock....a major work of scholarship, criticism, and theory.' J. Hillis Miller, University of California; 'One's first impression is how well informed this book is-by the history of criticism and "theory" in its myriad forms, by philosophy, by linguistics, by art history, and, of course, by film studies. This intellectual breadth yields stunningly original readings of less celebrated Hitchcock films (The Lodger, Rope) along with the canonical texts (Spellbound, Vertigo, Psycho). Like Morris' working definition of suspense, the insights put forth by his study never end.' Lloyd Michaels, Editor, Film Criticism

Book Description

Adopts a figural and deconstructive approach to suspense, focusing on representations of hanging figures in the films of Alfred Hitchcock.

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