Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Humanities and Cultural Studies

Major Professor

Scott Ferguson


Chilean History, Essay, Film, Metaphor, Trauma Theory


This work situates Patricio Guzmàn's Nostalgia for the Light in the broader field of essay documentary film and unveils it as a locus of discursive resistance and the generative crux of diverse conventionally isolated academic dialogues. In doing so, it addresses the challenging and controversial questions of historical meaning-making, remembrance and oblivion, melancholia and mourning. My thesis also endeavors to detect the dynamic and anxiety-inducing threshold between singularity and collectivity, and the human and the cosmic. I lay the historically unprecedented common ground for trauma theory and the essayistic comportment and argue that bearing the clash of time planes, paradoxicality, ambiguity, and aporias at its heart, the essayistic endeavor simulates the ontology of trauma itself. In my theorization, both operate via the originary metaphorical overleaping of matter between physical and metaphysical spheres, conscious and unconscious themes. These figurative transferences creatively transgress registers, genres, sharply-contoured discourses, and translate between the multiple surfaces of human existence and experience. I propose that the essayistic meandering of moving along residues and fissures opens up a more ethical approach to trauma. Such a disposition diverges from the positivist certitude of polarizing, moralizing, and sublimating narratives which inevitably lead to foreclosure. Filtering my arguments through the film's aestheticization of absence, I offer an ethical and responsible stance toward trauma and reveal its affective force as the substrate of our intricate relations to the other and our organic and non-organic environment.