Philosophy in Dead Poets Society

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The movie, Dead Poets Society directed by Peter Weir is set in an American private school during a time of romanticism in the first half of the twentieth century. Dead Poet’s Society negotiates the transition of poetry and life as an unconventional English teacher encourages a group of private school boys to seize the day. The boys intimidate the teachers youth by reforming the dead poet’s society and getting in touch with romanticism and their true inner life. However a fathers controlling nature pushes Neil Perry to his limits as the stress of all work and no play takes its toll. It is this scene where Neil sacrifices himself that has greatest impact and adds overall effectiveness to the movie. This is the scene where an immense change in mood and feel are exposed through the use of signs and symbols. Using analytical devices such as camera angles, lighting, music and props it is possible to deconstruct and make significance of how certain analytical devices help add meaning and overall effectiveness to the movie. These include lighting, camera angles and music. How they add effectiveness and support to the movie will be examined throughout this analytical essay. It is at the start of the scene where Mrs Perry is


Disclaimer: I am choosing to use Britannica and Webster in order define the terminology used on my pages. While to truly understand romanticism, you need to experience it, for the purposes of clarity, these definitions are to aid in expressing the fullness of 19th C. romantic thought, which includes so much more than the modern definition of “romantic,” which many people limit to being in a relationship or thinking solely of love, candy, flowers, sex, etc. I also wanted to define realism, so that people could see that I am using the terms as opposites.

Britanica Online defines Romanticism as:

“Romanticism emphasized the individual, the subjective, the irrational, the imaginative, the personal, the spontaneous, the emotional, the visionary, and the transcendental.”

“was marked by emphasis on originality and
individuality, personal emotional expression, and freedom and experimentation of form.”
Webster defines Romanticism as:

consisting of or resembling a romance
having no basis in fact : IMAGINARY

impractical in conception or plan : VISIONARY

(a) marked by the imaginative or emotional appeal of what is heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious, or idealized

(b) often capitalized of, relating to, or having the
characteristics of romanticism

(c) of or relating to music of the 19th century
characterized by an emphasis on subjective emotional qualities and freedom of form; also of or relating to a composer of this music
a : having an inclination for romance : responsive to the appeal of what is idealized, heroic, or adventurous”
Realism from Britannica Online:

“Realism rejects imaginative idealization in
favour of a close observation of outward appearances.”

“Realism…usually stemmed
either from artists’ desire to present more honest, searching, and unidealized views of everyday life or from their attempts to use art as a vehicle for social and political criticism.”

“Realism’s emphasis on detachment, objectivity, and
accurate observation, its lucid but restrained criticism of social environment and mores, and the humane understanding that underlay its moral judgments…”
Realism from Webster:

concern for fact or reality and rejection of the impractical and visionary

(a) a doctrine that universals exist outside the mind; specifically : the conception that an abstract term names an independent and unitary reality

(b) the conception that objects of sense perception or cognition exist independently of the mind — compare Nominalism

fidelity in art and literature to nature or to real life and to accurate representation without idealization

Terms Used in this Discussion:
The opposite of romanticism in this movie is realism. Instead...
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