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The Stillness of SolitudeRomanticism and Contemporary American Independent Film$
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Michelle Devereaux

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474446044

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474446044.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 25 June 2021

‘An endless succession of mirrors’: Irony, Ambiguity and the Crisis of Authenticity in Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York

‘An endless succession of mirrors’: Irony, Ambiguity and the Crisis of Authenticity in Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York

Chapter:
(p.54) 2. ‘An endless succession of mirrors’: Irony, Ambiguity and the Crisis of Authenticity in Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York
Source:
The Stillness of Solitude
Author(s):

Michelle Devereaux

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474446044.003.0003

This chapter argues that Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York creates a metatextual relationship between director and protagonist through its use of Romantic irony. The film directly addresses issues of solipsism as it is told from the radically subjective viewpoint of its self-obsessed protagonist, who may or may not be descending into madness. Kaufman conjures sublime feeling in the spectator through aesthetic devices of fantastic world creation. These include the creation of mise en abyme and an engagement with Tzvetan Todorov’s fantastic ‘themes of the self’ and ‘themes of vision’, which are expressed by inexplicable narrative elements such as a continually burning house fire. Drawing on German idealism and Schlegel’s concept of Romantic irony to counteract traditional notions of mimetic realism, Kaufman portrays his film world (and the world itself) as chaotic. But whereas Kaufman’s film embraces the chaos of becoming inherent in Schlegel’s philosophy, its protagonist suffers from a complete inability to engage with life on any authentic level and subsequently fails as an artist and person.

Keywords:   Romantic irony, Charlie Kaufman, Schlegel, Todorov, mise en abyme, solipsism, fantastic world creation, Synecdoche New York

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