Books and Films that deal with Paradox

Hi Alex,

I’m excited that you’ve selected Paradox as a focussing point for your theme study. I’ll include here some initial ideas for texts, plays, films and other media, and add to it over time.

(Remember you can access the official outline and examples of prior students’ work here:

  1. Catch 22 – Cleverly suggested by your mum and a great starting point for developing your ideas about paradox
  2. Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut – A text that also explores the possibilities of a non-linear narrative structure,
  3. Many of Phillip K Dick’s Novels and Short stories – it’s amazing how many of these have been turned into films in the last decade
  4. Donnie Darko – A highly original film involving a central paradox, set in 1986, involving a troubled 16 year old and a life-sized rabbit
  5. Hamlet – One of Shakespeare’s most famous Anti-Heroes, Hamlet is faced with choices that implicate the fate of the future of the state of Denmark
  6. Minority Report – (one of the aforementioned films based on a Phillip K Dick short story
  7. Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Caroll – is worth reading as an investigation from a more adult point of view into the presentation of paradoxes (remember a paradox can moral as well as metaphysical)
  8. Dreamquake Duet by Elizabeth Knox – Ostensibly ‘teenage’ fiction, however, I read these books as an adult and loved them. Very complex underlying premise that is revealed slowly and artfully
  9. Any novel by William Gibson – Who, in his novel “Nuromancer” established such neologisms as “cyberspace” and “the matrix”
  10. The Matrix – Film
  11. Event Horizon – Horror Film
  12. The entire 30 series of Doctor Who – Though there are some episodes that deal directly with paradox (in terms of time). Let me know if you want to know more about that)

I also recommend that you source, perhaps from a library, a text about one of the early philosophers (perhaps Plato) and read their thinking about the nature of Paradox, or alternatively explore writing about one of the famous philosophical paradoxes. There are also mathematical paradoxes. It would be outstanding if you felt like reading some Bertrand Russell – though the only time I did was because my maths teacher used to read from his work in our Maths classes.



3 Responses to “Books and Films that deal with Paradox”

  1. Lesley February 12, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    Chris, thanks for that list which has triggered me to do some thinking as well! I’ve uncovered some ideas and would welome your views on them:

    – Animal Farm – all men are equal but some more equal than others
    – Don Quixote – will have to see how readable this is in translation though the story is very funny
    – G K Chesterton – bit dated probably but apparently a master of paradox and worte a series of short stories about a priest detective Father Brown. I don’t have any experience of reading his stuff
    – Oscar WIlde – some great lines which are paradoxes, were his themes paradoxical?
    – and of course the old classic the Bible with its virgin births and the ultimate paradox of having to die to get eternal life!

    I think those should keep him going a while! Am off to source a few for him to take with him on the Scout trip over half term.

    Thanks very much for the list and keep the ideas flowing!

  2. Christopher Waugh February 13, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    The more you think about it, the more our lives seem to consist of a string of unreconcilable paradoxes – those inherent in the Bible are tremendous. The complexity of the idea of free will vs fate should be enough to keep Alex thinking for a while.

    I’ll keep adding texts as I think of them. I love the idea of exploring the paradoxical irony of plays like The Importance of Being Earnest. Let’s let Alex give us a steer on which domain of paradox most interests him and we can direct our recommendations that way.

    I’ll keep adding to this list as I think of texts – also, I suggest you both have a look at Jonas Kalvis’ written report from his Theme Study last year. It demonstrates what is possible for a student who really gets engaged with his subject:



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