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'The Man of the Hour': Hawthorn(e), 'Nebraska' and Haunting

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

Article number53
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>17/04/2019
Issue number2
Number of pages14
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Abstract: This paper provides a close reading and critical unfolding of central themes and motifs in Alexander Payne’s acclaimed 2013 comic ‘road movie’ Nebraska. It focuses on three key issues: (1) the symbolic significance of hawthorn as a threshold between different worlds (Hawthorne, Nebraska being the former hometown to which father and son make a detour); (2) the notion of ‘haunting’ in relation both to ‘importuning’ memories besetting the central characters and to particular sites of remembrance to which they return; and, (3) how the film’s pervasive mood of melancholy is subject to repeated interruption and punctuation by comic utterances and put-downs. In presenting us with a reluctant ‘gathering of ghosts’, a veritable phantasmagoria, the film articulates a particular sense of nostalgia, of a ‘homesickness’ understood here not in the conventional meaning of a longing to return to a forsaken ‘home’, but rather as a weariness and wariness at the prospect of revisiting familiar haunts and reviving old spirits.
Keywords: memory; film; dreamworlds; arcades; ghosts; haunting