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2. paths & problems in screenplay studies

Many people scoff at the idea of defending the screenplay as a form of literature.” — James F. Boyle1

Overview.

Numerous factors have contributed to the marginalization of the screenplay as an object of academic study. Those factors will be explored and challenged here. Instead of viewing these as impediments to research, we will examine each of these areas as a potential path forward.

Footnotes:

  1. Boyle, James F. Forward. The Complete Guide to Standard Script Formats, Part I: The Screenplay. By Hillis R. Cole Jr. and Judith H. Haag. North Hollywood: CMC, 2000. Pg. i.

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2.1. issues of authorship

“. . . it is language which speaks, not the author . . .” — Roland Barthes 1 I remember the moment I was first told about the existence of the auteur theory. I listened and listened as the explanation went on, and all I could think was this: ‘What’s the punch line?’” — William …

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2.2. privilege of permanence

. . . the screenplay represents a literature in flux.” — Claudia Sternberg1 2.2.1. Overview. William Goldman introduces his script for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, noting that, “There are so many versions of a screenplay, it’s difficult to know which one might be most beneficial for reprinting.”2 The fact that finality eludes us …

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2.3. narratology

Narratology is the theory of narratives, narrative texts, images, spectacles, events; cultural artifacts that ‘tell a story.’” — Mieke Bal1 2.3.1. Overview. Narratology approaches narrative as a system of working parts that can be broken apart, analyzed, and described. Its primary focus is the relationship between story and discourse (plot, narration, and focalization). As a …

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2.4. genre studies

“In short, to talk about the ‘Western’ (arbitrary definitions apart) is to appeal to a common set of meanings in our culture. From a very early age most of us have built up a picture of a ‘Western’. We feel that we know a ‘Western’ when we see one, though the edges may be rather …

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2.5. theme & ideology

“. . . the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.” — William Faulkner1 2.5.1. Overview. Why do screenwriters write what they write? This question …

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