The Po-Mo Puritan

Lynch follows themes found throughout American fiction, especially that with a Puritanical background:

He follows an intrinsically American moralistic obsession with the ideas of innate depravity (13).

Lynch’s villains… are drawn from the same archetypes that populate American fiction (13).

… effigies of anomie, incubi of chaos, are particularly American demons (14).

American national identity: that of the individual battling not only the wilderness — nature itself — but the sundry demonic and heathen creatures as well (14).

Two American dream myths:

  1. Old Testament: paradise lost
  2. New Testament: new American paradise

In other words, American writers and critics seem inherently preoccupied with guilt, sin, and redemption (15).

Is it Americans or Western (i.e. Christian) writers/critics?

… All of these themes place Lynch into the American Gothic lineage of artists. Johnson notes that John Alexander, in The Films of David Lynch, makes the same conclusion.

Regarding the ideas of cynicism and irony in Lynch’s films:

nostalgia is never ironic for Lynch (15).

The trouble is, Lynch believes in the cliché. His irony, in practice, seems more like self-defense (17).


equated the growth of the nation with the realization of a virtuous national character (16).

a view to improving the moral character of the individual, and to reflecting thereby a virtuous nation protected, if not by God, then by sound moral reasoning and self-righteousness (16).

establishing a normative value against which a convenient “other” could be constructed (17).

identifying “good” as “not that” (17).

On religion and the good/evil split:

evil was not a feature of reality, but a lack of goodness. The more good a thing has, the more real it is. God being all good, was most real (18).

John Calvin, whose concept of Christianity relied on the inherent depravity of man (18).

Calvin also taught that worldly success was a sign of God’s approval, poverty a sign of God’s disfavor (18).

On the American Romantics (aka American Gothics)

embrace a darker vision of man’s relationship with himself and the world (18).

[The authors are] men seeking truth in the dark crevices between the material world and the imagination (19).

In Lynch’s movies:

[Lynch’s characters] are forced to rely on their intuition more than their reason, frequently surrendering themselves to inexplicable forces beyond their conscious control (19).

guilt results from their imagination acting to remove them from the immediacy of perception (20).

Lynch deliberately blurs the binary distinction between dreams and reality, hesitating to separate too distinctly the conscious and unconscious minds (21).

He subverts expectations, allowing dream logic to leak seamlessly into the surface story. Narrative information — the string of events and images that shape the storyline — often ends up performing the theme instead of representing it. His films, in this sense, do not stand for another meaning but become the meaning: the narrative sequence does not transcend itself (21).

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