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This is one of my film studies papers. It is a development of themes in my book The American Cinema of Excess and starts, like the book, with the moment I walked out of a screening of Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs in 1971 because I didn't want to watch the rape scene. It marked the beginning of many decades of reflection on the ethics of film.

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This paper draws on Aristotle’s concept of the “terrible” in tragedy to develop a framework for selecting films that are “serious-for-philosophy”, i.e. films that do philosophy in some sense, as opposed to films which largely defy philosophical interpretation and embody only Aristotle’s “monstrous”. The framework is extended using ideas from Hegel and Derrida along with others. It is suggested that the Greek “polis” is a key concept in distinguishing dramas that are properly “terrible” from those that embody only a personal moral order.

Aristotle’s ‘terrible’ and the cinema of excess

Keywords: cinema, Aristotle, Poetics, philosophy, Macbeth.

First published: Stochastic Press

Year: 2018, no of words: 7992