A continuation of myth the cinematic representation of mythic American innocence in Bernardo Bertolucci's "Last tango in Paris" and "The dreamers" /

by Colangelo, Joanna.

Abstract (Summary)
Carlo Celli, Advisor The following thesis aims to track the evolution and application of certain fundamental American cultural mythologies across international borders. While the bulk of my discussion will focus on the cycle of mythic American innocence, I will pay fair attention to the sub-myths which likewise play vital roles in composing the broad myth of American innocence in relation to understanding American identities – specifically, the myth of the Virgin West (or America-as-Eden), the yeoman farmer and individualism. When discussing the foundation of cultural American mythologies, I draw specifically from the traditional myth-symbol writers in American Studies. Those works which I reference are: Henry Nash Smith’s, Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth, Leo Marx’s, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America and R.W.B. Lewis’s, The American Adam: Innocence, Tragedy, and Tradition in the Nineteenth Century. I focus much of my discussion on the applicability of the myth of innocence, rather than the validity of the actual myth throughout history. In this sense, I follow the myth as a cycle of innocence lost and regained in American culture – as an ideal which can never truly reach its conclusion for as long as America is invested in two broad definitions of innocence: the American Adam and the Noble Savage. By considering “innocence” as both naïve and pure (in the sense of Adam) and violent and primitive (in the sense of the Noble Savage), I propose that the myth of American innocence finds its timelessness in its cultural malleability. That is, as long as the myth continues to evolve with cultural and societal advances, its relevance will be omnipresent. However, in order iii to widen the field of myth-symbol scholarship in American Studies, I have opted to filter the myth of innocence through an international lens of Italian cinema. After establishing an understanding of mythology in American culture, I dedicate the bulk of my thesis to tracing the myth of innocence through Bernardo Bertolucci’s films from 1972 – 2003, paying specific attention to Last Tango in Paris and The Dreamers. While discussing the initial impression of American identity in post-World War II Italy, I conclude that it was through traditional American literature and cinema that Italians formed a sense of Americanism not wholly different from national American identities. However, by exploring Bertolucci’s depiction of Americanism through his films, I ultimately conclude that the application of American innocence, while certainly colored by an international perspective, nonetheless does reflect a cycle of the American Adam and the Noble Savage in much the same way that American culture reinforces the same mythic cycle. I conclude that this international mythological approach to America as either Adam or Noble Savage is contingent upon America’s political, social and economic positioning in the world community. iv
Bibliographical Information:


School:Bowling Green State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:bertolucci bernardo myth in motion pictures


Date of Publication:

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