Film and Theatre

Edinburgh Film Seminar: James MacDowell

It has often been claimed that pictures in general, and films in particular, might find it difficult to be ironic. Sometimes this claim is grounded in the nature of pictorial representation, and sometimes in the nature of ‘classical’ narrative filmmaking. This paper will challenge both arguments by exploring the surprisingly under-explored issue of how fiction films might create irony. It seems reasonable to assume that, in order to be thought of as ‘being ironic’, a film must actually communicate ironically – rather than, that is, merely depict an ironic situation. This talk, however, will offer some reasons for doubting that this distinction can always be rigidly maintained, in any medium. Secondly, it will propose that fiction filmmaking – in even its most ‘classical’ guises – routinely blurs the lines between these phenomena. Finally, it will touch on what is involved in interpreting irony, asking: does believing in the possibility of filmic irony necessarily commit us to some form of intentionalism?


James MacDowell is Associate Professor in Film Studies at the University of Warwick. He is the author of Happy Endings in Hollywood Cinema (2013) and Irony in Film (2016). He sits on the editorial board of Movie: A Journal of Film Criticism.

Film reel
Nov 06 2018 -

Edinburgh Film Seminar: James MacDowell

'On the Nature of Irony in Films'. A free seminar by guest speaker, Dr James MacDowell (University of Warwick).

David Hume Tower
George Square