Barbara Magele: Star Wars as an American Epic

In my dissertation I will explore Star Wars, especially Star Wars IV: A New Hope (1977) and Star Wars III: The Revenge of the Sith (2005), as an American Epic.

I will be exploring the Blockbuster by using Campbell’s and Propp’s studies on myth and folktale as a basis, accepting the discourse status quo, attempting not to post classify in any way. Besides, I will provide a framework to talk about the filmic illusion (the gaze, suture, side-of-two-shots, etc.) by the help of film studies and psychoanalysis (Mulvey, Silverman, Chow, Hall, Metz, etc.).

However, one cannot help but recognize that a considerable number of Hollywood Blockbusters have used the powerful structure of myth to grind American ideology, identity and identification.

Although structural parallels between old fashioned myths and Hollywood films are indisputable, they are especially strong when it comes to Blockbusters such as Star Wars, The Matrix, Batman, Die Hard, Terminator, etc., which is why I will be looking at – in comparison to Star Wars – the structurally most similar Blockbuster: The Matrix.

Fact is: both in the case of Star Wars and The Matrix both discourse and story, especially, when it comes to their heroes, follow indisputably similar characteristics. This poses the question: Are these characteristics truthfully American?

Consequently, what I will do in my dissertation is to provide a framework that will settle the question of the American Epic, while at the same time I will apply Rushing’s, Voytilla’s (both derived from film) as well as Galipeau’s (derived from Jungian psychology) terminology to extract likely American Epics, and hence extract conceptual constructs such as ideology, identity and identifications from Star Wars by following both a horizontal and vertical approach, eventually answering the question: Does Star Wars foster or (surprisingly) criticize the American character?

(University of Graz)