Student Services Overview

DATE: Saturday, April 26, 2014
TIME: 2:00 p.m
PLACE: Studio, Lambert Road campus
CANDIDATE: Christopher Lee Miller
DISSERTATION TITLE: "The Illustrated Dark: Cinema, Soul, and Shadows"
CHAIR: Dr. Glen Slater
READER: Dr. John Izod

Miller, C. (2014). The Illustrated Dark: Cinema, Soul, and Shadows (Doctoral dissertation, Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2014)


The historical co-arising of cinema and depth psychology at the end of the nineteenth century has received little attention in academic discourse. While the psychoanalytic theory of Freud has been applied both to the analysis of cinema as technological apparatus and to the interpretation of individual films, the analytical psychology of Jung also has been applied to cinema and depth psychology as phenomena which emerged in response to specific historical considerations. Two such considerations associated with modernity are the decline of spiritual or religious meaning in the lives of individuals and the related alienation of individuals and societies from nature.

This theoretical dissertation explores several ways in which cinema and depth psychology reconnect individuals and collectives with a meaningful embodied existence. In the process the dissertation argues that a metaphorical return to Plato’s allegorical cave is underway. If Plato’s cave signifies a state of unconsciousness which individuals must leave for enlightenment, then the cinema-as-cave and therapist’s office-as-cave facilitate a return to and re-experiencing of the energies of the unconscious. In addition to the more Platonic and post-Enlightenment light of reason, such re-experiencing relies on what alchemists refer to as the lumen naturae, or light of nature, and sensus naturae, or sense of nature.

Amplification of several images from Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo reveals a psycho-historical continuum along which ancient cave paintings and modern cinema are positioned on either side of Plato’s cave. The emphasis placed on symbols, images, and metaphorical processes by Jungian and Post-Jungian film theorists demonstrates that cinema affords a reconnection to levels of the psyche more commonly and collectively experienced in antiquity. In this way, films operate as individual and collective dreams and thereby connect the cinematic dreamer to a source of wisdom different from that which dominates waking consciousness. The dissertation refers to this often spiritual or religious reconnection to different levels of the psyche as deep realism.


Please note: All oral defense attendees must shuttle to the Lambert Road campus from the Best Western Hotel in Carpinteria. Parking on campus is not available.