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Cross-Disciplinary Panel Revisits Kubrick’s Film 2001: Space Odyssey

SLU-Madrid professors from four humanities and social science departments collaborated in a cross-disciplinary panel to analyze one of the 20th century’s signature films, Stanley Kubrick’s film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The analysis centered on the opening 15 minutes, a film-within-a-film: “The Dawn of [Hu]Man.” Designed as a celebration of cross-disciplinary examination of a widely known film text, the event was particularly timely given the film’s 50th anniversary this year.

Communication program director Brian M. Goss, Ph.D., opened the panel by presenting backstory on the film and its auteur elements as a Kubrick film. Fine and performing arts program director Cary Barney  followed by elaborating the film’s deeply-inscribed tension between the arts and baser instincts toward violence.

Next, Mary Prendergast, Ph.D. , humanities program director and anthropology professor, noted the film’s departure from what is known about human pre-history while placing the text within politically-resonant, contemporaneous discourses on human origins. Going further into context, philosophy professor John Welch, Ph.D., completed the cross-disciplinary trajectory by relating the themes of the film to the evolution of Darwinian theories of evolution.

The event had been scheduled for 90 minutes, late on a Thursday; however, the audience of students and faculty stayed on far longer to pose questions and continue the conversation. The event served to demonstrate that cross-disciplinarity is not just a buzzword or a rumor at SLU-Madrid, but is an organic and quotidian practice.