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“How Can [We] Not Know?” Blade Runner as Cinematic Landmark in Critical Thought

The Challenge of Progress

ISBN: 978-1-78714-572-6, eISBN: 978-1-78714-571-9

Publication date: 26 November 2019


Ridley Scott’s 1982 cinematic production of Blade Runner, based loosely on a 1968 story by Philip Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), is read within a general context of critical theory, the purpose being twofold: first, to highlight the film’s fit with, and within, several issues that have been important to critical theory and, second, to explore some questions, criticisms, and extensions of those issues – the dialectic of identity/difference most crucially – by speculations within and on the film’s text. The exploration is similar in approach to studies of specific films within the context of issues of social, cultural, and political theory conducted by the late Stanley Cavell. Interrogations of dimensions of scenarios and sequences of plotline, conceptual pursuit of some implications, and assessments of the realism at work in cinematic format are combined with mainly descriptive evaluations of character portrayals and dynamics as these relate to specified thematics of the identity/difference dialectic. The film puts in relief evolving meanings of prosthetics – which is to say changes in the practical as well as conceptual-semantic boundaries of “human being”: what counts as “same” versus “other”? “domestic” versus “foreign”? “integrity” versus “dissolution”? “safety” versus “danger”? And how do those polarities, understood within a unity-of-opposites dialectic, change, as human beings are confronted more and more stressfully by their own reproductions of “environment” – that is, the perspectival device of “what is ‘text’ and what is context’?” – and variations of that device by direct and indirect effects of human actions, as those actions have unfolded within recursive sequences of prior versions of perspectival device, a device repeatedly engaged, albeit primarily and mainly implicitly, as a “prosthetic that could not be a prosthetic.”



Hazelrigg, L. (2019), "“How Can [We] Not Know?” Blade Runner as Cinematic Landmark in Critical Thought ", The Challenge of Progress (Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Vol. 36), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 111-132.



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