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Hallucination as epistemology: critiquing the visual in Ken Burns' The West

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This essay argues that Ken Burns' epic film, The West (1996), enables a critique of viewing images as hallucination and speaks to the impossibility of representing history through images and narration via traditional documentary forms. This epistemology, in turn, enables viewers to look past the traumatic narrative that the film ostensibly presents. The film's treatment of trauma, photographs, and history makes the catharsis of guilt and moment of redemption unnecessary, thereby exonerating the viewer from potential culpability.
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Keywords: Hallucination; History; Photograph; Trauma; Visual Rhetoric

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-09-01

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