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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/32014

Title: 'Just Act Naturally': A Poetics of Documentary Performance
Authors: Marquis, Elizabeth
Advisor: Keil, Charlie
Department: Drama
Keywords: Documentary Film
Performance
Self-Presentation
Issue Date: 17-Jan-2012
Abstract: This dissertation formulates a poetics of performance in nonfiction film and television. Building on a large body of converging research that calls for an acknowledgment of: the constructedness of documentary texts; the performative nature of identity; and the significance of screen performance, I illustrate the way in which documentary subjects must finally be seen as creative agents who (consciously or not) play a significant role in determining the meanings, functions, and effects of the films in which they appear. A first chapter lays the groundwork for this discussion, setting out a means of understanding and investigating the documentary performer’s work. It is argued that nonfiction performance is a three-tiered process, wherein everyday performative activity (tier #1) is shaped by and often tailored to the camera (tier #2) within specific nonfiction film frameworks (tier #3). In addition to providing a flexible and generally applicable model of what the nonfiction subject’s work entails, this conceptualization suggests an appropriate means of analysing individual documentary performances, indicating the necessity of attending to the way in which twice modified everyday self-presentational tools serve as signifiers in any given nonfiction text. Subsequent chapters turn from the issue of what nonfiction performance involves to a consideration of what it accomplishes. Drawing from scholarship devoted to each of the three levels of the documentary ‘social actor’s’ work, I posit three major functions for nonfiction performance. Chapter 2 demonstrates the way in which the individuals who appear in documentaries play a significant role in the construction of ‘characters’, which, in turn, exert an indelible influence on the meaning(s) of the texts in which they figure. Chapter 3 argues that nonfiction performance helps to bolster and/or to destabilize normative understandings of identity categories such as gender, sexuality, age, ethnicity, race, class and dis/ability. Finally, the concluding chapter discusses the way in which documentary performers help to invite affective reactions from spectators, and – in so doing – contribute significantly to nonfiction texts’ ability to effectuate social change. Detailed analyses of a wide range of documentaries provide support for these contentions.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/32014
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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