Is This Sparta? Allegory, Analogy, and Warfare in the Post-9/11 Ancient World Epic Film
Davies, Christopher Owen Graham
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
The thesis will be published
This thesis examines the depiction of warfare in post-9/11 ancient world epics and assesses the extent to which these films engage with contemporary events by means of allegory and analogy. Inspired by scholarship on allegorical and analogous interpretations of 1950s-60s ancient world epics, I explore how the current cycle engages with the American socio-political landscape in the wake of 9/11, with particular emphasis on the War on Terror and ensuing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. I chart the genre’s evolution in relation to the combat film, and examine how the current cycle of ancient world epics integrates the tropes of other genres into its portrayal of warfare, invasion, occupation and imperialism. Within this context, I explore the recurrent motif of the father-son dynamic, and assess how its use in combat films corresponds to that in ancient world epics. I also discuss how this motif was employed in 1980s Vietnam War films, and what its use in these modern epics suggests about the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Furthermore, I discuss the use of the unreliable narrator to engage with wider debates on the value of historical films compared to written history. The aim of this study is to demonstrate that the ancient world epic is a malleable construct with which filmmakers can engage with the present while depicting the past. I build on existing studies of the ancient world in cinema, contributing new understanding of the current cycle’s relationship to its predecessors, to other genres, and to post-9/11 American society. In so doing this thesis contributes to notions of film as art, as industry, and as history, and how they intersect in cinematic depictions of the ancient world.
PhD in Film