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The Philosophy of Charlie Kaufman

edited by David LaRocca

Availablepaperback$30.00s 978-0-8131-7621-5
Availablecloth$45.00s 978-0-8131-3391-1
The Philosophy of Popular Culture
344 pages  Pubdate: 07/23/2019  6 x 9  

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), writer Charlie Kaufman is widely admired for his innovative, philosophically resonant films. Although he only recently made his directorial debut with Synecdoche, New York (2008), most fans and critics refer to “Kaufman films” the way they would otherwise discuss works by directors Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, or the Coen brothers. Not only has Kaufman transformed our sense of what can take place in a film, but he also has made a significant impact on our understanding of the role of the screenwriter.

The Philosophy of Charlie Kaufman, edited by David LaRocca, is a collection of essays devoted to a rigorous philosophical exploration of Kaufman’s work by a team of accomplished scholars from a wide range of disciplines. Including a new preface by the editor, this volume offers original philosophical analyses as well as extended reflections on the nature of film and innovative models of film criticism.

David LaRocca has edited three books on film and media—The Philosophy of Charlie KaufmanThe 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.

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

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