Date of Degree

9-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Liberal Studies

Advisor

Giancarlo Lombardi

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Film and Media Studies | Film Production | Visual Studies

Keywords

Jim Steranko, Francis Ford Coppola, Alain Resnais, Shadow House, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Bram Stoker's Dracula

Abstract

This thesis analyzes the work of narrative artist James Steranko on three finished films: the short AFI film Shadow House, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Bram Stoker's Dracula, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It demonstrates how Steranko's efforts on all of these projects are consistent with the overriding concerns of his art, yet it also examines his conflicting impulses, on the one hand to initiate progressive narrative structure and visualization, and on the other to support socially conservative, patriarchal values. Steranko is among the first American comic book auteurs and he takes an uncompromising autonomic stance in that medium, but nonetheless collaborates effectively with mainstream film directors. He creates paintings to establish characters, settings and mood and he works out action sequences in storyboards. Through a close examination of critical and mass media texts, personal interviews and other materials, this paper identifies the socially problematic areas in the artist’s work and explores his progressive creative impulse to expose the underlying conflicts of his creative process. This essay examines valorized colonialist clichés in the successful Raiders of the Lost Ark and it shows how Steranko's narrative devices in Bram Stoker’s Dracula reinvent tired horror tropes with transgressive sexuality, but also hold retrograde sexism. In further support of my discussion, I detail several unfinished projects, including an unproduced film about the Marquis De Sade with European director Alain Resnais and Coppola's abandoned works, Pinocchio and Megalopolis. These further illuminate the conceptual flexibility of Steranko's working process and his ambiguous and disconcerting ethical and aesthetic narrative choices.

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