Tom Cuthbertson

Research

My research explores the politics of cinematic representation, considered predominantly through the lens of autobiography; I approach autobiographical filmmaking as a fundamentally political form that has the possibility of transforming the ways we think about and represent ourselves and the world around us, offering a vital platform from which to ask far-reaching questions about identity, ethics, love, attachment, belonging, intimacy, difference, loss and mortality. My doctoral thesis examines recent developments in French-language autobiographical filmmaking through close readings of the work of four contemporary experimental filmmakers from France and Belgium: Chantal Akerman, Vincent Dieutre, Boris Lehman and Agnès Varda. Although these four filmmakers pursue distinct and individual creative practices, their work is nevertheless united by a shared desire to test the boundaries of cinematic representation and to explore the particular avenues for autobiographical expression that are opened by the filmic medium. Whilst foregrounding the specificity of film, my thesis is also concerned with questions of intermediality and with the various forms of aesthetic cross-fertilisation that open the autobiographical work of the above filmmakers to influences from the other arts. In particular, I focus on how the autobiographical films of Akerman, Dieutre, Lehman and Varda respond to an increasingly prominent tendency in international visual arts practice (discernible particularly in contemporary performance art, video art and photography) to reenact events and artworks from the past. My chosen filmmakers develop precarious, fragmentary, often overtly fictionalised, reconstructions of their own autobiographical experience on screen, using bodies in the present to replay the gestures and sensations of bodies in the past. I am interested in the distinctive engagements with history, time, memory, truth and knowledge that such approaches to autobiography allow.

Publications

My latest publication is ‘In/Out: Fictionalising Autobiography in Vincent Dieutre’s Jaurès (2012)’, Studies in French Cinema, 2017.

Teaching

I am Lecturer in French at Balliol College where I teach French translation, working on literary, journalistic and theoretical texts with students across the undergraduate Modern Languages degree in French. I also teach French Film Studies to undergraduate students in Oxford’s Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages.

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