Consciousness and Complexity in “Waking Life”

Teresa Dobson, Tammy Iftody


Richard Linklater’s film, “Waking Life,” is a visually and philosophically surreal journey exploring theories of consciousness. Since its release in 2001, the film has developed something of a cult following online, in part because of its unusual animation technique and in part because of its philosophical content. From our perspective as humanities educators with an interest in teaching and engagement with literary art forms across a variety of media, this film offers rich material for discussion both within and beyond formal educational settings. In this paper, we remark upon the unusual animation technique and then examine the film from a complexivist perspective with a view to providing an example of how complexity theory might inform teaching and engagement with literary art, be it textual, visual, or any combination thereof.

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