Foreign Languages & Literatures ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 4-14-2017


This thesis undertakes the examination of how and why children often figure prominently in films about war. Rather than accept the common argument that innocence is what makes children compelling as victims and objects of observation, this thesis argues that children in war films subvert dominant narratives about war and victimhood by asking questions that pierce through accepted narratives, revealing the child as an agent in possession of an adult knowledge that seems to run contrary to attempts to display the child as a naive innocent. The children in the three movies under examination-- The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) by Victor Erice, Grave of the Fireflies (1988) by Isao Takahata, and Beasts of No Nation (2015) by Cary Fukunaga-- appear in configurations of a Narrator (usually the older child) who articulates familiar experiences of war, a Mute (usually the younger child) whose silences and questions shatter the Narrator's narrative, and the Familiar, an object or figure that exists within the filmic world as well as the world of the viewer, carrying different significances in each as the principal subject of the Mute's disruptive question(s).


children, film, psychoanalysis, war, theory

Document Type




Degree Name

Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures

First Committee Member (Chair)

Rajeshwari Vallury

Second Committee Member

Susanne Baackmann

Third Committee Member

Adrian Johnston