Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Robert Johnston (Director)

Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


The politique des auteurs was, from the period 1968 through 1973, the dominant methodology in cinematic criticism. It was tentatively formulated by Francois Truffaut in 1954 and greatly expanded upon by Andrew Sarris in 1962. Briefly, the “auteur theory” (as it is known in English speaking countries.) contends that aesthetically important films are the product of an auteur--an equivalent term to author in a work of literature or composer as opposed to conductor in a musical composition--and that that auteur is usually the film’s director. The quality of the film under scrutiny is directly related to the ability of that auteur to express his personality on film, his technical expertise, the relation of the film to the auteur's entire oeuvre, and to the tensions between the artist's accomplishments and the circumstances under which he had to work. This thesis is an exploration into and an assessment of the successes and failures of the “auteur theory” as employed by Sarris and those who were influenced by his thought. It concludes with the author's speculation about the future of auteurism as it relates to new cinematic methodologies (specifically genre criticism and structuralism) which are becoming more and more common.


American Film Studies | American Studies