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an upcoming book project about don hertzfeldt

At Boston Univesrity, I wrote an MFA thesis called “NOW IS THE ENVY OF ALL OF THE DEAD,” mostly in an effort to investigate consciousness, temporality, and death in the films of experimental animator Don Hertzfeldt. Soon I hope to revise the project and expand it into a book. More details on that to come.

In the meantime, you can watch some of Hertzfeldt’s films on Vimeo, or on YouTube, or on Blu-Ray, and you can read my original thesis here:

thesis Abstract:

This thesis is a primer on the experimental independent animator Don Hertzfeldt, whose filmography—described by one critic as “a singular universe of stick figures in crisis”—has for more than two decades been engaging some of the larger questions of post-millennial existence, particularly with regard to consciousness, temporality, and death. First, I will briefly introduce who Hertzfeldt is as an auteur (where he comes from, where his primary interests lie, and what his impact has been); second, I will provide an overview of the historical context in which his oeuvre should be placed (i.e. the history of animation and of experimental cinema); third, I will closely analyze his work, examining questions of style and narrative, starting from his student films and continuing to his more recent films; and fourth, I will explore some of the philosophical implications of recurring Hertzfeldtian motifs and themes (particularly with regard to consciousness, temporality, and death) before concluding.

thesis Contents:

  • INTRODUCTION

    • Who is Don Hertzfeldt?

    • Don Hertzfeldt’s Filmography

    • The State of the Research

    • A Brief Outline

  • CHAPTER ONE: MEETING DON HERTZFELDT

    • Biographical Background and Career Summary

    • Hertzfeldt’s Philosophy

    • Hertzfeldt’s Impact

  • CHAPTER TWO: DON HERTZFELDT IN HISTORICAL CONTEXT

    • Animation

      • The Phantasmagoric Roots of Cinematic Animation

      • Gertie and Other Pioneers

      • Mickey Mouse and Homer Simpson

      • Other Historical Influences

    • Experimental Film and the Avant-Garde

      • Dada

      • The City Symphony

      • Recent Experimental Film and Media Influences

  • CHAPTER THREE: THE FILMS OF DON HERTZFELDT

    • The Student Films (1995–1998)

      • Ah, L’Amour

      • Genre

      • Lily and Jim

      • Billy’s Balloon

    • The Short Films (2000–2014)

      • Rejected

      • The Animation Show

      • The Meaning of Life

      • Wisdom Teeth

      • Clown in the Dumps

    • Feature Filmmaking (2006–2012)

      • It’s Such a Beautiful Day

    • The Episodic Shorts (2015–2017)

      • World of Tomorrow and The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts

  • CHAPTER FOUR: UNDERSTANDING DON HERTZFELDT

    • Hertzfeldt on Consciousness

      • “Being-as-being”

      • “Being-as-being-heard”

      • “Being-as-being-with”

    • Hertzfeldt on Temporality

      • The Chronological and Kairological Arrow(s) of Time

      • An Alternative Model: Eisensteinian “Plasmaticness”

      • Hertzfeldtian Memory as Artifact

    • Hertzfeldt on Death

      • Death and the Inevitability of “Waste”

      • Death, Fear, and Pride

      • “Don’t Forget to Die!”

      • Grieving the Dead

  • CONCLUSION

    • Directions for Future Research

    • Implications