The Philosophy of Martin Scorsese

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Academy Award—winning director Martin Scorsese is one of the most significant American filmmakers in the history of cinema. Although best known for his movies about gangsters and violence, such as Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Casino, and Taxi Driver, Scorsese has addressed a much wider range of themes and topics in the four decades of his career. In The Philosophy of Martin Scorsese, an impressive cast of contributors explores the complex themes and philosophical underpinnings of Martin Scorsese's films. The essays concerning Scorsese's films about crime and violence investigate the nature of friendship, the ethics of vigilantism, and the nature of unhappiness. The authors delve deeply into the minds of Scorsese's tortured characters and explore how the men and women he depicts grapple with moral codes and their emotions. Several of the essays explore specific themes in individual films. The authors describe how Scorsese addresses the nuances of social mores and values in The Age of Innocence, the nature of temptation and self-sacrifice in The Last Temptation of Christ and Bringing Out the Dead, and the complexities of innovation and ambition in The Aviator. Other chapters in the collection examine larger philosophical questions. In a world where everything can be interpreted as meaningful, Scorsese at times uses his films to teach audiences about the meaning in life beyond the everyday world depicted in the cinema. For example, his films touching on religious subjects, such as Kundun and The Last Temptation of Christ, allow the director to explore spiritualism and peaceful ways of responding to the chaos in the world.Filled with penetrating insights on Scorsese's body of work, The Philosophy of Martin Scorsese shows the director engaging with many of the most basic questions about our humanity and how we relate to one another in a complex world.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Ethics, aesthetics, film theory, and popular culture all meet in this new collection, which sheds new light on all aspects of Scorsese's work. This much-awaited edition brings alive philosophical themes in Scorsese's films that both the novice and the expert can appreciate. The contributors manage to be accessible and scholarly at the same time." —John Davenport, associate professor of philosophy and Magis Fellow, Fordham Univ" —

"Examines Scorsese's films in a distinctive and refreshing departure from traditional criticism. What emerges is both a sense of the ethical core of a filmmaker and the realization that Scorsese's insight into the human condition remains constant and penetrating." —Library Journal" —

"Conard has compiled another jargon-free and entertaining collection of essays that clearly and concisely define traditional philosophical thought — this time through the lens of Scorsese's films.... Be the reader a Scorsese enthusiast or a philosophy student, this collection serves as an excellent interdisciplinary resource." — A.F. Winstead, CHOICE" —

"This collection will be particularly valuable to philosophy scholars interested in ethics as well as film and cultural critics." —Matthew Schultz, Film Criticism" —

Library Journal

The greatest filmmakers do not simply tell stories, they create a multifaceted experience that requests as well as demands further inquiry. Martin Scorsese has crafted some of the most important films of our time, and this entry in the "Philosophy of Popular Culture" edited by Conard (philosophy, Marymount Manhattan Coll.) series examines his films in a distinctive and refreshing departure from traditional criticism, as it presents an analytical yet highly accessible investigation of the director's underlying themes and philosophical insights. The 13 essays collected here were written by philosophy professors with extensive backgrounds in cultural or film analysis and cover all periods of Scorsese's work, from films as diverse as Taxi Driver, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Aviator, and Kundun. What emerges is both a sense of the ethical core of a filmmaker and the realization that Scorsese's insight into the human condition remains constant and penetrating, regardless of the subject matter through which he crafts his vision. A welcome addition to any film section, this book is recommended for academic and large public libraries.
—Peter Thornell

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813192185
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 11/15/2010
  • Series: The Philosophy of Popular Culture
  • Edition description: Updated
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark T. Conard, assistant professor of philosophy at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City, is the editor or coeditor of many books, including The Philosophy of Film Noir and The Philosophy of Neo-Noir.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Part 1 Authenticity, Flourishing, and the Good Life

No Safe Haven: Casino, Friendship, and Egoism Steven M. Sanders 7

God's Lonely Man: Taxi Driver and the Ethics of Vigilantism Aeon J. Skoble 23

Goodfellas, Gyges, and the Good Life Dean A. Kowalski 31

Mean Streets: Beatitude, Flourishing, and Unhappiness Mark T. Conard 53

Part 2 Rationality, Criminality, and the Emotions

The Cinema of Madness: Friedrich Nietzsche and the Films of Martin Scorsese Jerold J. Abrams 75

The Age of Innocence: Social Semiotics, Desire, and Constraint Deborah Knight 93

After Hours: Scorsese on Absurdity Jennifer L. McMahon 109

The Pupkin Gambit: Rationality and Irrationality in The King of Comedy Richard Greene 129

Part 3 Vision, Salvation, and the Transcendental

The Last Temptation of Christ and Bringing Out the Dead: Scorsese's Reluctant Saviors Karen D. Hoffman 141

Flying Solo: The Aviator and Libertarian Philosophy Paul A. Cantor 165

Art, Sex, and Time in Scorsese's After Hours Richard Gilmore 189

The Ethical Underpinnings of Kundun Judith Barad 211

Scorsese and the Transcendental R. Barton Palmer 231

The American Gangster Is Dead: Incarnate Emptiness in Martin Scorsese's The Departed Aga Skrodzka-Bates 247

Contributors 263

Index 267

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