Date of Award

Spring 6-4-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)



First Advisor

Laine Rettmer

Second Advisor

Brian Ulrich

Third Advisor

Maya Krinsky


“Bewildering Narrative” outlines three videos, Denouement, Happy Endings (2021), and Drowning the Muse. These works critique the climactic narrative form using formal breaks in digital media to push viewers’ perceptions of storytelling into a place of bewilderment. To do so, I treat narrative conventions of continuity, character, and climax as mechanisms that articulate heterosexual desires and expectations. The videos visually, textually, and auditorily rupture this phallocentric organization of narrative storytelling. These interventions take the form of poetic fragmentation, repetition, and displaced exposition where the narrative disorients the viewers’ attention rather than determining and regulating it. Editing plays a key role in my practice, as a methodology by which cinematic styles of jump cuts, on-screen text, and still images can refuse the arc structure of traditional cinema. These editing conventions in conjunction with surrealist texts generate a sense of bewilderment for the viewer, which theorist Jack Halberstam defines as “an immersive sense of being lost or standing outside of a system of knowing” (Halberstam 66). Each video uses distancing techniques that resist formal character development, rising/falling actions, or an inciting incident that would traditionally lead to a denouement. By reorienting how Western culture unconsciously espouses and engenders heteropatriarchal norms, the videos gesture toward alternative encounters with cinema that somatically and affectively queer desire. I draw on the writing of queer theorists Jack Halberstam and Sara Ahmed and of the speculative fiction authors Ursula K. Le Guin and Anne Bogart to situate my practice. I consider these works through a framework of gender studies, narrative theory, and postmodern literature. These writers, along with several artists, contextualize the formal aspects of the videos and my practice generally in the larger landscape of visual media. By queering the site/sight of our socialization–language exchange, literature, and cinema–these videos bewilder the stability of 5 Western semiotics, exposing the constructed nature of narrative rigidity and contemporary social formulations alike.


View exhibition online: Ali Newhard, Bewildering Narrative

Included in

Photography Commons



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