Understanding Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (Book)

Representation and Interpretation

Edited by James Fenwick

An exploration of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey that combines ‘new’ empirical approaches with ‘old’ formalist approaches. This provides a broader understanding of how Kubrick’s methods as a director and auteur were developed to produce a unique aesthetic creation that is still years ahead in its design, vision and philosophical structure.


Scholars have been studying the films of Stanley Kubrick for decades. This book, however, breaks new ground by bringing together recent empirical approaches to Kubrick with earlier formalist approaches to arrive at a broader understanding of the ways in which Kubrick’s methods were developed to create the unique aesthetic creation that is 2001: A Space Odyssey. More than 50 years after its release, contributors explore the film’s still striking design, vision and philosophical structure, offering new insights and analyses that will give even dedicated Kubrick fans new ways of thinking about the director and his masterpiece.

James Fenwick is a senior lecturer in media and communications at Sheffield Hallam University.

Introduction: Forging new perspectives
James Fenwick
Part One: Narrative and Adaptation
Chapter One: ‘God, it’ll be hard topping the H-bomb’: Kubrick’s search for a new obsession in the path from Dr. Strangelove to 2001: A Space Odyssey
Simone Odino
Chapter Two: 2001: A Space Odyssey: A transcendental trans-locution
Suparno Banerjee
Chapter Three: Four-colour Kubrick: Jack Kirby’s 2001: A Space Odyssey as adaptation and extension
Dru Jeffries
Part Two: Performance
Chapter Four: Performing the man-ape in ‘The Dawn of Man’: Daniel Richter and The American Mime Theatre
James Fenwick
Chapter Five: Life functions terminated: Actors’ performances and the aesthetics of distanced subjectivity in 2001: A Space Odyssey
Vincent Jaunas
Part Three: Technology
Chapter Six: From technical to cinematographic objects in 2001: A Space Odyssey
Antoine Balga-Prévost
Chapter Seven: Homo machinus: Kubrick’s two HALs and the evolution of Chapter Seven: Homo machinus: Kubrick’s two HALs and the evolution of monstrous machines
Cynthia J. Miller and A. Bowdoin Van Riper
Part Four: Masculinity and the Astronaut
Chapter Eight: Clarke and Kubrick’s 2001: A queer odyssey
Dominic Janes
Chapter Nine: ‘But as to whether or not he has feelings is something I don’t think anyone can truthfully answer’: The image of the astronaut in 2001: A Space Odyssey and its lasting impact
Nils Daniel Peiler
Part Five: Visual Spectacle
Chapter Ten: Negative/Positive: Metaphors of photography in 2001: A Space Odyssey
Caterina Martino
Chapter Eleven: The sublime in 2001: A Space Odyssey
Rachel Walisko
Part Six: Production
Chapter Twelve: 2001: A comprehensive chronology
Filippo Ulivieri

'Understanding Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey: Representation and Interpretation is primarily recommended for covering a variety of approaches, and so soon after the film’s fiftieth anniversary celebration and recent 4K Ultra HD home video release, fresh approaches to this masterpiece are needed now as much as ever.'

Zachary Ingle, The Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television

'A valuable contribution [...] Fenwick's Understanding Kubrick's 2001 builds a bridge between older methodologies and interpretations of the film and new methods and research [...] Rich with original analyses and information [...] Even 50 years later, there is more to uncover about 2001 and Stanley Kubrick.'

Troy Michael Bordun, Science Fiction Studies
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