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Auteur Theory

Page history last edited by Daniel M 8 years, 7 months ago

Auteur theory is an in-depth, analytic approach to studying comics. It is essentially an application of auteur film theory, which holds to the idea of one contributor (out of many involved) as the main author (in French, auteur) of a work. Auteur film theory originated with Francois Truffaut and has been utilized by a variety of scholars in different fields; a notable use of auteur theory in comics studies is the essay "Auteur Criticism: The Re-Visionary Works of Alan Moore" by Matthew J. Smith.

 

Background

 

In 1954, Francois Truffaut wrote an article in the film journal Cahiers du Cinema called "Une Certaine Tendance du Cinema Francaise" (a certain tendency of French cinema). The article was mainly a reaction to what was seen by many writers in Cahiers du Cinema as overly bland and simplistic "films of quality" being made by post-World War II France, and the culture behind it. According to Truffaut, these films were predominantly the works of screenwriters (most performing novel adaptations), and directors merely added actors and scenes to the script's words without much input. Comparing this to better French directors like Jean Renoir, Jacques Tati, and Robert Bresson, Truffaut put forward that a "good" director is one who is primary control of the content of the film; thus, the best (or at least, most consistently interesting) films are those in which the director asserts himself as the primary author of the film, by visual staples, changes of script to flow better, or simply filming his own created work. In this way, though a film has many contributors involved throughout the complicated process, the director's overall control and manipulation of the project to final product makes him the prominent "author" of the work.

 

Underlying Assumptions

 

Smith outlines three major assumptions: that the works regarded contain a certain superior talent or even genius that breaks apart from more traditional examples of the medium; that the analysis of a work under auteur theory is a particularly close reading of the work, and that such close scrutiny can indicate more depth; and that the critic using auteur theory forms an argument for his view of the work by producing evidence and examples in his analysis.

 

 

Objects of Study

 

Since auteur theory in regard to film is already fairly specific, an auteur theory application to comics tends to follow the same rules. Not every comic can successfully be enhanced by auteur theory; rather, scholars tend to look for creators who place visible and consistent stamps in their work, which give a sense that the work is being influenced strongly by the introduction of such stamps. Notable examples are the political commentary and anarchist themes of Alan Moore and the cosmic technology and unique art style of Jack Kirby.

 

Methods of Analysis

 

Of most importance is to identify those tropes that define the creator as an auteur and appear regularly in many of his or her works. After these tropes are identified and explained, the scholar can begin to explain why those tropes are being implemented and how they change individual works by the author, as well as how they create a representative image of the auteur. Another technique is to utilize such common traits to explain certain aspects of the auteur's personal worldview; one example would be Fletcher Hanks, whose violent and Draconian justice is indicative of the creator's troubled personal life.

 

 

References 

 

  1. Truffaut, Francois. "Une Certaine Tendance du Cinema Francaise." Cahiers du Cinema, 1954.
  2. Smith, Matthew J. "Auteur Criticism: The Re-Visionary Works of Alan Moore." Critical Approaches to Comics: Theories and Methods. New York: Routledge, 2012. 

 

Further Reading

 

 

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