American Culture Studies Ph.D. Dissertations


John Dewey and Documentary Narrative

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Culture Studies/Communication

First Advisor

Don Callen


This dissertation takes full advantage of the use of video clips as part of the presentation. My work is a combination of traditional scholarship and a visual account concerning the construction of the different narratives in my films. It also contains interviews with other filmmakers about narrative construction in their films. My aim is to show how a new mode of representation in the documentary film, with ties to the theories of John Dewey and his view of art in experience, has developed throughout the past several years. This process is tied to John Dewey's idea of the concerned citizen in a democracy and his belief in the idea of art based in the concept of experience. The examination of my films will use video illustrations, which will allow the dissertation to provide a visual commentary on the thought process of a filmmaker. This will give the dissertation a self-reflexive quality that is part of a long tradition of scholarship by documentary filmmakers. I include, as part of the dissertation, a newly edited version of an updated film and a sample from a new film that I have begun to produce. The interview sections with other filmmakers provide us with a glimpse into their thought process as these filmmakers discuss narrative construction in their documentary films. This section will establish the links between John Dewey's thoughts on the process of inquiry and the development of a documentary film. I also will reveal how Dewey's view of art provides filmmakers, scholars, and students with a fresh look into the construction of the documentary film and the idea of art in experience.