Mr Timothy Hughes

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Research interests

My research aims to define a distinctively American notion of authenticity and use this concept to explain the development of the western genre since the Hollywood Renaissance period. American Authenticity, a current of political philosophy and aesthetics, might be broadly characterised as a kind of nostalgic utopianism and modernism which has long been associated with the American West. My research stresses the importance of western films in articulating this concept, placing the genre within longstanding intellectual and artistic traditions that stretch back at least as far as the early nineteenth century, and understanding its relation to specific contemporary social and cultural contexts.

I am initially focussing on the New Left and the wider sixties counterculture as a period of concerted investment in notions of authenticity in American culture and a creative and diverse era in western filmmaking. I will then consider the ways in which ideas of authenticity have changed in the theorisation of postmodernity and the challenges posed by digital media, rethinking the role of the western – a genre commonly perceived as anachronistic or altogether obsolete -  as a repository for older notions of authenticity. I am particularly interested in much maligned films like The Last Movie (1971) and Heaven’s Gate (1980) alongside more well regarded films by Arthur Penn, Robert Altman and Clint Eastwood, and recent titles like The Assassination of Jesse James (2007). My research argues for a less rigidly structural, more experiential and phenomenological study of genre, and therefore includes modern westerns like The Electric Horseman (1979) and avant-garde films by James Benning as examples of the genre.


My Master’s thesis titled ‘Strangers on Horseback’ interpreted the experiences of anti-fascist émigrés in 1940s and 1950s Hollywood through westerns by Fritz Lang, Andre de Toth and Jacques Tourneur. My other research interests include the New German Cinema, photography and photographers in cinema, and theories of ontologies of film and digital media.  


I have lead seminars in Critical Theory and Textual analysis and have lectured on Classical Narrative, Point of View and Adaptation for Introduction to Narrative. Between 2012 and 2015 I taught seminars on Post-Classical Hollywood. In 2016 I taught a graduate course on Holocaust Film and Television.

Other work

Conference papers:


Invited speaker, 'Meek's Cutoff: Screening and Discussion', InsideArts: Festival of the Arts and Humanities, Bristol University, 18th Novermber 2015

'Arenas of Authenticity: Junior Bonner (1972) and the Tragic Dialectics of the Modern Western', University of Leeds, 24th March 2015

'"The Unheightened Moment": Kelly Reichardt's Meek's Cutoff (2011) and the Ontological Project of the Experimental Western', University of Leeds, 18th June 2014

“Looking for America: The Politics and Aesthetics of Authenticity in Hollywood Renaissance Westerns” BAAS conference, Exeter University, April 18-21 2013

“The Presence of Western Past: Constructing American Authenticity from Thoreau to the White City" University of Nottingham, December 13th 2012

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