The Philosophy of Charlie Kaufman

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ISBN: 9780813176215; Paperback
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
344 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in

The Philosophy of Charlie Kaufman
Edited by David LaRocca
Contributions by Samuel A. Chambers

From the Academy Award-winning Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and Academy Award-nominated Adaptation (2002) to the cult classic Being John Malkovich (1999), screenwriter Charlie Kaufman is widely admired for his innovative, philosophically resonant films. Although he also began directing with Synecdoche, New York in 2008, most fans and critics refer to "Kaufman films" the way they would otherwise discuss works by directors such as Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, or the Coen brothers. In this respect, not only has Kaufman transformed our sense of what can take place in a film, he has also made a significant impact on our understanding of the role of the screenwriter. The Philosophy of Charlie Kaufman, edited by David LaRocca, is the first collection of essays devoted to a rigorous philosophical exploration of Kaufman's work by a team of capable and critical scholars from a wide range of disciplines. From political theorists to philosophers, classicists to theologians, professors of literature to practicing filmmakers, the contributing authors delve into the heart of Kaufman's innovative screenplays and films, offering not only original philosophical analyses but also extended reflections on the nature of film and film criticism. The paperback edition appears with a new preface by the editor.

David LaRocca has edited three books on film and media -- The Philosophy of Charlie Kaufman,  The Philosophy of War Films, and  The Philosophy of Documentary Film: Image, Sound, Fiction, Truth -- and is the author or editor of a half-dozen more volumes. He has taught philosophy and cinema, and held visiting positions at Binghamton, Cornell, Cortland, Harvard, Ithaca College, and Vanderbilt.

Book Reviews:

    "An important volume, full of insights into one of the great philosophical screenwriters of recent times, if not of all time."

-- Joshua Landy, Andrew B. Hammond Professor of French and Professor of Comparative Literature, Stanford University, and author of Philosophy as Fiction: Self, Deception, and Knowledge in Proust and How to Do Things with Fictions

    "Hollywood's brainiest screenwriter." -- Wired

    "To call Kaufman's clever, breathtaking work science fiction feels limiting, but no modern writer better charts the inner space of our anxieties and dreams better than this off-kilter chronicler." -- Vulture

    "How gratifying it is to have  The Philosophy of Charlie Kaufman available in paperback. David LaRocca, the editor of this extraordinary collection, has brought together a distinguished group of contributors from a number of disciplines -- political theorists, philosophers, classicists, theologians, professors of literature, filmmakers, and poets. The diversity of background ensures a wide range of stimulating response. Kaufman, whether working as a director or screenwriter, is undeniably an auteur, and one of the book's many achievements is to suggest how decisive and significant the artistic contribution of a screenwriter can be. The questions that propel Kaufman's fictions are overtly and demandingly philosophical, but everything Kaufman does with his existential forays is laced with wit, and extravagant mischief. LaRocca's collection also demonstrates how Kaufman's work is implicitly in dialogue with the ideas of Stanley Cavell. Kaufman's thinking about romantic relationships in terms of repetition and renewal, his preoccupation with the mystery of the film medium's ways of making and unmaking the world, and his beleaguered quest for moral perfectionism all exhibit kinship with Cavell's approach to the beautifully tumultuous human situation."

-- George Toles, Distinguished Professor and Film Chair, University of Manitoba, screenwriting partner of Guy Maddin, and author of  Paul Thomas Anderson and  A House Made of Light: Essays on the Art of Film

    "I can't think of a contemporary filmmaker who is more philosophical, and more deserving of philosophical attention, than Charlie Kaufman. Sometimes -- especially when I'm in the middle of one -- I think I'd like to spend every minute of every day watching Kaufman's wildly creative, deliriously destabilizing, profound and at times beautiful films. Sadly, that is not possible. But reading these essays may well be the next best thing. This fascinating book will help audiences grasp and appreciate the full richness of what is to be found in the work of contemporary cinema's most madcap metaphysician."

-- Troy Jollimore, Professor of Philosophy, California State University, Chico, Guggenheim fellow, and author of Love's Vision, On Loyalty, and Syllabus of Errors: Poems

    "This rich and varied collection of papers helps us to better understand Kaufman's wonderful films and explore the themes, philosophical and otherwise, that they contain. The section on the not-to-be-missed  Synecdoche, New York,  is especially rewarding. Read it and you will want to watch the film again and again."

-- C. D. C. Reeve, Delta Kappa Epsilon Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and author of Action, Contemplation, and Happiness and Blindness and Reorientation: Problems in Plato's Republic

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