‘English, motherfucker, do you speak it?’ Pulp Fiction and the Future of Film-Philosophy
Cardiff University, School of Journalism, Media and Culture, GB
Kyle Barrowman received his PhD from the School of Journalism, Media and Culture at Cardiff University. In addition to his work on the philosophy of Ayn Rand and the possibilities of an Objectivist aesthetics of cinema, his research focuses on issues of philosophy and aesthetics throughout the history of film.
In recent years, film scholars have been increasingly preoccupied with questions as to how films can ‘be’ or ‘do’ or ‘be used for’ philosophy. From the ‘be used for’ position, films are seen as mere examples or jumping-off points to philosophy ‘proper’; from the ‘be’ position, films are seen as philosophy, as simply another form of philosophical argumentation; and from the ‘do’ position, films are seen as examples or illustrations of preexisting philosophical positions/protocols. In this essay, I will operate primarily from the ‘do’ position and explore how Quentin Tarantino ‘does’ ordinary language philosophy. Renowned for his innovative and influential dialogue, I intend to shine a light on a neglected aspect of Tarantino’s writing style and examine, with reference to the work of ordinary language philosophers such as Ludwig Wittgenstein, J.L. Austin, and Stanley Cavell, the argumentative protocols discernible in Pulp Fiction (1994). More specifically, I will analyze the famous ‘foot massage argument’, utilizing such concepts as ‘projective imagination’ and ‘explaining the syntactics’ versus ‘demonstrating the semantics’, in the hopes of indicating the fecundity of the continued study of Tarantino’s justly famous dialogue. I also intend to broaden my investigation to consider, in light of responses to this material during the IFVCR Network conference and in light of current discussions within film studies, the disciplinary implications vis-à-vis film-philosophy of conducting such ordinary language investigations of dialogue and communication in film.