ABSTRACT:

In this article I argue that, thanks to its experimental structure that capitalizes on the innate human ability of cognitive blending (Fauconnier and Turner), Todd Haynes's biographical movie I'm Not There (2007) manages to convey a fluid, performative, and anti-essentialist view of personal identity. While the article focuses on the analysis of I'm Not There as conceptual network and on the resulting emergence of Bob Dylan's representation as a blend, it also advances some observations around the notion of identity fostered by the movie. The solution adopted in I'm Not There particularly prompts a comparison with Ricoeur's notion of narrative identity: while Ricoeur theorizes personal identity by resorting to plot as model of temporal and causal continuity, Haynes's operation, by contrast, uses narrative to disrupt temporality and question the assumption that personal identity should be necessarily grounded in coherence. Without being a challenge to Ricoeur, Haynes's use of cognitive blending offers nevertheless an alternative way of making sense of identity, which particularly resonates with political (rather than philosophical) views of selfhood that distance themselves from a concept of identity as “natural” or “authentic.”

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