Casting Allusions

  • Jason Holt Acadia University
Keywords: allusion, casting, aesthetic value


The modest philosophical literature on allusion focuses on descriptive issues concerning literary examples, and thus tends to neglect both allusions in other media and normative concerns about allusions in general. In this paper I will help fill both gaps through an analysis of three different cases of what I call casting allusions, which depend on the audience’s recognition that a certain cast member was also in the cast of a different work. These cases vary greatly in aesthetic merit, and this is best explained via two dimensions of allusive value: richness (given the medium) and dynamic engagement. All else being equal, an allusion will be more aesthetically pleasing when it relies on a wider variety of medium-relevant channels or prompts less passive, more evolving audience response. Such an account finds further support in elaborate cinematic examples, such as the tapestry of allusions to Bruce Lee in the Kill Bill films.


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