Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Kirsten Thompson


Since cinema's inception, there has been much disagreement among film theorists about the role of movement in cinema's ontology. For example, while Rudolf Arnheim has argued that motion is a sine qua non of cinema, Roland Barthes has insisted that motion is not as central to cinema's ontology as duration, an experiential "unfolding." In this dissertation, I argue--following Barthes--that movement is merely a contingent, not a necessary, condition of cinema. I further suggest that the very enterprise of prescribing necessary conditions of cinema is myopic, reductive, and reactionary.

In supporting these claims, I interrogate the cinema of stasis, a modality of avant-garde films which feature little or no movement. By foregrounding stillness, these films often blur the lines between cinema and other art forms, including photography, painting, and literature. Giving especially close attention to films by Andy Warhol, Fluxus, Michael Snow, and Derek Jarman, I explore the aesthetic and affective valences of cinematic stasis, while drawing attention to the numerous ways that static films broaden our conception of what films can be and do.