Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Liberal Arts (M.L.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Humanities and Cultural Studies

Major Professor

Amy Rust, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Scott Ferguson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Maria Cizmic, Ph.D.


Abstraction, Analog, Digital, Sensation


This thesis juxtaposes the unexpectedly parallel careers of the filmmakers George Lucas and Terrence Malick. Both popularly and academically, Lucas and Malick are typically conceived as divergent practitioners and are framed in oppositional terms. The goal of this thesis is – in part – to break down this oppositional understanding of Lucas and Malick as filmmakers. This traditional understanding of Malick and Lucas collapses when we consider their respective relationships to sensation and abstraction. Affirmations of sensation and Malick abound, as do critiques of abstraction and Lucas – all the while it is Malick who is aligned with abstraction and Lucas with sensation. To make sense of these contradictions and propose an alternative to understandings based on binary oppositions, I turn to the phenomenological philosopher and theorist Maurice Merleau-Ponty. I extend Merleau-Ponty’s idea of the “in-visible” to voice – specifically voice as it is articulated in the films of Lucas and Malick. Lucas and Malick both articulate concerns about bodily confinement and feelings of alienation and aesthetically foreground in-visible voice in response to that confinement and alienation. However, this project also identifies a key difference between how Lucas and Malick deploy in-visible voice in their films. Lucas articulates escape as the answer to societal problems while Malick argues in his films that only by recognizing the entangled relationality between all living things can we begin to address societal issues such as feelings of confinement, isolation, and alienation.