Date of Award

Spring 5-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Film Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Kelli Fuery

Second Advisor

Patrick Fuery

Third Advisor

Brian Glaser


The aim of this thesis is to examine how cinema can embrace its poetic function to avoid its assimilation into preexisting hermeneutic structures, which would leave it vulnerable to myth as defined by Roland Barthes, and instead be a generative force, encouraging its viewer to engage with the full potential of the text. This mode of spectatorship is termed the “amorous distance,” which Barthes describes as his simultaneous fascination with the film and that which exceeds it. The amorous distance finds further articulation through the work of Roman Jakobson and Julia Kristeva. Jakobson’s schema of six language functions describes the poetic function as that which orients a message toward itself, highlighting its own signifying status to bring attention to the process through which it acquires meaning. Kristeva’s distinction between the Semiotic and Symbolic modes illuminates the scope of that process, the former mode referring to the preverbal bringing together of nonsignifying materials into meaning connection, and the latter to the solidification of those materials into an exclusive unity. By synthesizing Barthes, Jakobson, and Kristeva, this thesis argues that the poetic function of cinema puts the viewer at an amorous distance whereby they actively engage with the signifying process in its full involvement of the Semiotic and Symbolic modes. This argument is supported through a close reading of several films: the experimental short film “Psalm II: Walking Distance” (1999), the silent test film “Monkeyshines No. 1” (1890), and the narrative feature films 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (1994) and Code Unknown (2000).

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.