Cinema and Media Studies 2001: A Space Odyssey
by
Nathan Abrams
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0309

Introduction

The film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is regarded as one of the greatest science fiction movies ever made. It occupies number one on the American Film Institute’s top ten science fiction films and fifteenth place overall in its top one hundred movies list. Its revolutionary storyline and techniques mean that it continues to inspire filmmakers today. Lines and scenes from the movie have become legendary and are regularly quoted in film, television, and popular culture. But while all of Kubrick’s films were complex and multilayered, compounded by his customary refusal to explain his intentions, 2001 is perhaps the most complex, multilayered, and enigmatic of all. As with all his films, it requires multiple viewings to unlock its secrets. This complexity has led to an ever-expanding scholarly literature on 2001 all detailing new interpretations. Books and articles range from production and reception histories to intricate analyses. Additional resources are available in the separate Oxford Bibliographies article in Cinema and Media Studies “Stanley Kubrick”; please cross-check. They have not been repeated here.

General Reference Works on Stanley Kubrick

Phillips and Hill 2002 provides encyclopedia entries on all of Kubrick’s work, including 2001 while Phillips 2001 is a compendium of interviews.

  • Phillips, Gene D., ed. Stanley Kubrick: Interviews. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2001.

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    Contains interviews with Kubrick of relevance to 2001 by Jeremy Bernstein, Playboy, Maurice Rapf, and Joseph Gelmis. An invaluable resource to hear from the mouth of a frustratingly uncommunicative director.

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  • Phillips, Gene D., and Rodney Hill. The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. New York: Facts On File, 2002.

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    This one-volume reference book, laid out like an encyclopedia, contains many entries and references to the personnel who worked on 2001 as well as a discussion of the film itself. It is nonscholarly, frustratingly brief at times, but a very useful place to start.

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Biographies of Kubrick

There are two full-length biographies of Stanley Kubrick, Baxter 1997 and LoBrutto 1999, which contain useful background information on the making of 2001; however, neither benefit from access to the Stanley Kubrick Archive at the University of Arts in London and both relied heavily on interviews.

  • Baxter, John. Stanley Kubrick: A Biography. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1997.

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    This biography is more populist in tone and while it provides interesting insights into 2001 (e.g., the Nazi memorabilia Andrew Birkin discovered while filming in Namibia) it tends to take a negative approach to Kubrick.

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  • LoBrutto, Vincent. Stanley Kubrick: A Biography. New York: Da Capo, 1999.

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    This tome is impressively researched. LoBrutto seemingly spoke to everyone connected with Kubrick and delved into his history. It provides excellent background information to the production of 2001. First published in 1997 (New York: D. I. Fine).

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Memoirs

Citations include first-person accounts by those who worked on the film, including the screenwriter Clarke 1973) and actors Lockwood 2001 and Richter 2002.

Archival Collections

These items are based on primary source materials relating to the film that have only now become accessible through the Stanley Kubrick Archive at the University of Arts in London. Agel 1970 and Schwam 2000 are both repositories of primary source information. Bizony 2000 and Bizony 2014 focus on the making of the film with a particular stress on the science. Castle 2005 is a compendium of archival materials, stills, essays, and interviews. Frayling 2015 focuses on the design contribution of Harry Lange, while Frewin 2005 comprises the interviews for the film’s abandoned prologue.

  • Agel, Jerome, ed. The Making of Kubrick’s 2001. New York: New American Library, 1970.

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    Not presented in the usual fashion, this compendium provides great information, reviews, quotes, illustrations (including the famous Mad magazine parody of the film), and further miscellany.

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  • Bizony, Piers. 2001: Filming the Future. London: Aurum, 2000.

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    This nonacademic book provides a wealth of useful detail and illustrations detailing the making of the film.

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  • Bizony, Piers. The Making of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Cologne: Taschen, 2014.

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    Following up on his 2000 publication, this similarly nonacademic book includes nine essays by Bizony, interspersed with scores of images. Shaped like the monolith, the book’s extremely handsome design frustratingly also makes it somewhat annoying to read.

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  • Castle, Alison, ed. The Stanley Kubrick Archives. Cologne: Taschen, 2005.

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    There are beautiful reproductions of stills from 2001 in the book’s first section, followed by a critical section with essays by Carolyn Geduld, erstwhile Kubrick assistant Anthony Frewin, Herb A. Lightman, Gene D. Phillips, Margert Stackhouse. Kubrick’s long interview with Playboy is included, and the whole latter section is illustrated with photographs of production materials, props, scripts, on-set stills, and the like. It is an invaluable resource.

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  • Frayling, Christopher. The 2001 File: Harry Lange and the Design of the Landmark Science Fiction Film. London: Reel Art, 2015..

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    Another handsome edition, with many fine illustrations, but this time focusing on the production design of Harry Lange. It includes many yet unseen reproductions of thumbnail sketches, drawings, blueprints, and photographs of the various spacecraft seen in the film from the designer’s personal collection. A long essay by Sir Christopher Frayling outlining the film’s development prefaces the book.

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  • Frewin, Anthony, ed. Are We Alone? The Stanley Kubrick Extraterrestrial Intelligence Interviews. London: Elliott & Thompson, 2005.

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    An edited collection of the transcripts of the interviews with scientists, theologians, and others conducted for the original but abandoned prologue to the film.

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  • Schwam, Stephanie, ed. The Making of 2000: A Space Odyssey. New York: Modern Library, 2000.

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    A useful collection of primary sources, including interviews, reviews, and other excerpts, from Kubrick and others involved in making the film (Arthur C. Clarke, Herb Lightman).

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Novelization

Unusually for a Kubrick film (although this occurred with Dr. Strangelove [1964]), a novel emerged out of the screenwriting process based on two of Clarke’s earlier publications: “The Sentinel,” written in 1948 and first published in 1951 as “Sentinel of Eternity,” and Childhood’s End (1953). All of Kubrick’s films from The Killing (1956) onward were adaptations of short stories, novellas, or novels. Clarke 1968 is the novel developed by Clarke and Kubrick while writing the screenplay.

  • Clarke, Arthur C. 2001: A Space Odyssey. New York: New American Library, 1968.

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    This novelized treatment of the film is billed as “based on a screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke.” It developed out of an unusual screenwriting process, as Kubrick and Clarke collaborated on this novel while simultaneously working on the film’s screenplay. There is some debate as to how far it represents Kubrick’s “true” intentions and, hence, whether it helps to explain the film (or not). See Frewin 2010 (cited under the Making of the Film).

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General Books on Kubrick Which Include Material on 2001

Most of the books on Stanley Kubrick include some consideration of 2001. Works cited here are the highlights of those key academic books that include material on 2001 as part of a general consideration of Kubrick’s oeuvre, slanted toward the newer texts. For a more comprehensive overview of the general titles, see also the Oxford Bibliographies article in Cinema and Media Studies “Stanley Kubrick”. Abrams 2018 focuses on the ethnic and intellectual dimension of 2001. Cocks 2004 also emphasizes Kubrick’s Jewishness and the ways in which it can be seen to engage with the Holocaust. Ciment 2001 provides a critical and personal take on Kubrick. Kagan 2000 is a useful primer but dated. Kuberski 2014 presents a thematic rather than chronological take on Kubrick’s films. Pezzotta 2013 focuses on adaptation, while Rice 2008 explores Kubrick’s humanism. Walker, et al. 1999 provides a personal take combined with a visual and stylistic analysis. Finally, Webster 2011 is heavily indebted to critical and cultural theory.

  • Abrams, Nathan. Stanley Kubrick: New York Jewish Intellectual. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2018.

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    The first book to consider Kubrick as a New York Jewish intellectual, it is based on extensive research into the director’s own and other archives. It builds upon Cocks 2004 to reconsider 2001 as Kubrick’s “religious turn,” and it produces a Kabbalistic reading of the movie.

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  • Ciment, Michel. Kubrick: The Definitive Edition. Translated by Gilbert Adair and Robert Bononno. New York: Faber and Faber, 2001.

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    Ciment was one of the few writers with access to Kubrick over the years so his take on 2001 is worth reading for both his interpretation of the film and also his knowledge of the director. The book also includes interviews with Kubrick and other collaborators.

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  • Cocks, Geoffrey. The Wolf at the Door: Stanley Kubrick, History, and the Holocaust. New York: Peter Lang, 2004.

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    While focusing on The Shining, Cocks provides detailed historical cultural and background to Kubrick and hence 2001. He was one the first to locate Kubrick in his cultural milieu and to do archival work on Kubrick. His brief section on 2001 emphasizes Kubrick’s Jewishness and the ways in which it can be seen to engage with the Holocaust.

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  • Kagan, Norman. The Cinema of Stanley Kubrick. 3d ed. New York: Continuum, 2000.

    DOI: 10.5040/9781501340277Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    One of the first book-length studies of Kubrick’s films (first published in 1972), Kagan provides a plot summary and thematic analyses of 2001. Frustratingly riddled with errors and typos.

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  • Kuberski, Philip. Kubrick’s Total Cinema: Philosophical Themes and Formal Qualities. New York: Bloomsbury, 2014.

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    This book is a rare creature, one that considers Kubrick’s output thematically rather than film by film. There is no individual chapter on 2001 and one must read the whole book to glean its insights. Themes include thinking, corporeality, time, war, light, Eros, music, technology, speech, poesies, and transcendence.

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  • Pezzotta, Elisa. Stanley Kubrick: Adapting the Sublime. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2013.

    DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781617038938.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Pezzotta seeks to challenge traditional adaptation studies that focus on the literary. Her aim is to discover the stylistic devices that characterize 2001.

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  • Rice, Julian. Kubrick’s Hope. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2008.

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    Rice draws a moderate distinction between the optimistic interpretations found in 2001 and the pessimistic connotations expressed in Kubrick’s other works, which highlight his enthusiasm regarding spiritual influences and evolutionary exploration. Furthermore, he argues that Kubrick’s intention was to satisfy philosophical appetites by stimulating mythological and religious notions, thus encouraging an affiliation among science, philosophy, spirituality, and ambiguity.

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  • Walker, Alexander, Sybil Taylor, and Ulrich Ruchti. Stanley Kubrick, Director. Rev. and expanded ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 1999.

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    Walker was one of three critics close to Kubrick, along with Ciment and Phillips so he, too, is worth reading for his insights. This edition, a revision of the original 1971 publication, also provides a visual and thematic filmic analysis.

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  • Webster, Patrick. Love and Death in Kubrick: A Critical Study of the films from Lolita to Eyes Wide Shut. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011.

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    Webster combines film analysis with critical and cultural theory to read 2001. Some of his observations are surprisingly astute. Extensively referenced, it provides additional detail in its appendix on the film.

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Books on 2001

Benson 2018 is probably the definitive account of the making of 2001 to date, while Chion 2001 is a more analytical and textual take. Fenwick 2018 is a brand-new collection of essays on aspects of the film complementing the earlier collection Kolker 2006. Frinzi 2017 is a personal exploration. Geduld 1973 may be dated but is an excellent primer. Although slim, Krämer 2010 is based on extensive archival research. Stork 1997 focuses on HAL and his legacy in computer science and artificial intelligence. And Wheat 2000 explore, in detail, three different allegories in the film.

  • Benson, Michael. Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018.

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    This accessibly written book is based on archival research and scores of interviews conducted over many years. It is a very detailed account of the making of the film and will probably be the definitive version.

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  • Chion, Michel. Kubrick’s Cinema Odyssey. Translated by Claudia Gorbman. London: British Film Institute, 2001.

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    Chion explores the origins of 2001, locating it in its historical, cultural, and cinematic context, as well as that of Kubrick’s career. The rest of the book is devoted to a close textual reading of the film, closing with a chapter on 2001 and Kubrick’s final film, Eyes Wide Shut (1999).

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  • Fenwick, James, ed. Understanding Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey; Representation and Interpretation. Bristol, UK: Intellect, 2018.

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    This edited collection seeks to bridge the gap between the “new” (i.e., archival) and the “old” (interpretative) studies of 2001. Chapters focus on aesthetics, performance, technological design, philosophical discourse, genre, and authorial agency.

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  • Frinzi, Joe R. Kubrick’s Monolith: The Art and Mystery of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2017.

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    A work that explores the film from a personal perspective, covering such topics as the art of the monoliths, the film’s representation of science and technology, the soundtrack, its influence on cinema, and its legacy.

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  • Geduld, Carolyn. Filmguide to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973.

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    One of the older book-length studies of the film, but it still has much to offer.

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  • Kolker, Robert, ed. Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey: New Essays. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    Surprisingly, until recently, the only edited collection of academic essays on 2001. It analyzes the film from multiple points of view, including its critical reception (R. Burton Palmer), auteurism and science fiction (James Gilbert), gravity—in both senses of the word (J. P. Telotte)—use of space (Stephen Mamber), gender (Barry Grant), brain science (Marcia Landy), the history of computer science, specifically artificial intelligence (Michael Mateas), the film’s subsurface violence and disorder (Susan White), and fairy tales (George Toles).

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  • Krämer, Peter. 2001: A Space Odyssey. London: British Film Institute, 2010.

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    Krämer approaches the film as a historian. In this brief book, he locates 2001 in its historical and filmic context, before offering an interpretative, critical, and detailed narrative description of the film. He grounds his analysis heavily in archival material and offers a precise chronology of the production and the film’s initial critical reception, before closing with the film’s lasting impact and influence.

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  • Stork, David G. ed. HAL’s Legacy: 2001’s Computer as Dream and Reality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997.

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    This edited collection reflects upon the relationship between 2001 and scientific fact, with a particular emphasis on HAL, computing, and artificial intelligence. It includes a foreword by Arthur C. Clarke as well as an interview with Marvin Minsky, who advised Kubrick on the film.

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  • Wheat, Leonard F. Kubrick’s 2001: A Triple Allegory. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2000.

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    Explores 2001 from the perspective of three different allegories: the myth of Odysseus, man-machine symbiosis, and the legend of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra.

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Chapters on 2001

Chapters on 2001 in anthologies not specifically devoted to the film are also in evidence. Booker 2006 suggests the film is both optimistic and pessimistic but also utopian. Freedman 2002 argues for the transformative impact of 2001 on the genre. Griffith 1997 focuses on its initial critical reception. Krämer 2015 explores its marketing and audience demographics and how the film appealed to children and countercultural youth. Krämer 2016 discusses 2001 in relation to Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). Peldszus 2015 explores the hardware developed by Kubrick’s team in cooperation with the aerospace industry, while Poole 2015 focuses on the importance and development of “The Dawn of Man” sequence. Westfahl 2011 explores the movie’s sequels.

  • Booker, M. Keith. “2001: A Space Odyssey.” In Alternate Americas: Science Fiction Film and American Culture. Edited by M. Keith Booker, 75–95. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2006.

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    Provides a brief overview of the film and its sources, followed by a consideration of the movie as art, including its reception. It suggests the film is both optimistic and pessimistic but also utopian. Booker concludes with a discussion of the film’s legacy.

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  • Freedman, Carl. “On Kubrick’s 2001: Form and Ideology in Science Fiction Cinema.” In The Incomplete Projects: Marxism, Modernity, and the Politics of Culture. Edited by Carl Freedman, 91–112. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2002.

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    An update of Freedman 1998 (cited under Interpretative Articles), this piece argues that Kubrick reinvents science fiction more radically than any other genre but questions whether a truly science-fictional cinema is even possible. In so doing, the very film that incontestably fixed science fiction as a film genre is the one that questions its very authenticity.

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  • Griffith, James John. “Back Where We Started: 2001: A Space Odyssey.” In Adaptations as Imitations: Films from Novels. Edited by James John Griffith, 192–226. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1997.

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    Discusses the history of 2001 and the criticism attached to its initial release. Primarily, the discussion centers on the corporeal differences and emotional translation of the source material, in an effort to create a faithful adaptation.

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  • Krämer, Peter. “‘A film specially suitable for children’: The Marketing and Reception of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).” In Family Films in Global Cinema: The World Beyond Disney. Edited by Noel Brown and Bruce Babington, 37–52. London: I. B. Tauris, 2015.

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    In this chapter, Krämer expands on his previously published ideas regarding the influence and artfulness of 2001 by exploring its marketing and audience demographics. Specifically, he focuses on how the creative and imaginative themes of space travel and psychedelic imagery are highly suited to children and countercultural youth. He concludes that 2001 can function as a family film, while also appealing to academics, thus raising questions concerning publicity, reviews, and ratings.

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  • Krämer, Peter. “The Legacy of Dr. Strangelove: Stanley Kubrick, Science Fiction, and the Future of Humanity.” In The Apocalypse in Film: Dystopias, Disasters, and Other Visions about the End of the World. Edited by Karen Ritzenhoff and A. Krewani, 45–60. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.

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    Discusses the social and cinematic impact of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) and how contemporary audiences act in response to nuclear war and global disasters. 2001 is also discussed in relation to Dr. Strangelove, evaluating both the optimistic and the pessimistic outlooks, influence on the industry, and the allegoric nature of the films, which reflects wider issues in the real world.

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  • Peldszus, Regina. “Speculative Systems: Kubrick’s Interaction with the Aerospace Industry during the Production of 2001.” In Stanley Kubrick: New Perspectives. Edited by Tatana Ljujic, Peter Krämer, and Richard Daniels, 198–217. London: Black Dog, 2015.

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    Based on research in the Stanley Kubrick Archive, this chapter explores the hardware developed by Kubrick’s team in cooperation with the aerospace industry, and what this knowledge exchange means for understanding the film’s position in the history of space systems design.

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  • Poole, Robert. “2001: A Space Odyssey and ‘The Dawn of Man’.” In Stanley Kubrick: New Perspectives. Edited by Tatana Ljujic, Peter Krämer, and Richard Daniels, 174–197. London: Black Dog, 2015.

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    Based on research in the Stanley Kubrick Archive, Poole argues that “The Dawn of Man” sequence is the “skeleton key” to understanding 2001. He explores theories of human evolution current in the 1960s and how they made their way into the novel, screenplay, and production.

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  • Westfahl, Gary. “The Endless Odyssey: The 2001 Saga and Its Inability to Predict Humanity’s Future.” In Science Fiction and the Prediction of the Future: Essays on Foresight and Fallacy. Edited by Gary Westfahl, Wong Kin Yuen, and Amy Kit-Sze Chan, 135–170. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011.

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    Explores the various sequels to 2001: A Space Odyssey and how they fail to continue the original film by accepting the limitations placed on science fiction, while also examining the film’s thematic symbolism and conclusion, pointing out the differences between the film and the book, and discusses the common tropes used in science fiction.

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The Making of the Film

The articles cited here reflect on the making of 2001, including reflections in Frewin 2010, whose author worked with Kubrick for over thirty years, including 2001. Ede 1996, Fischer 2004, O’Meara 1969, Poole 2001 all explore aspects of the special effects of the movie, while Eichorn 2004 examines its branding and use of brand names.

“New Film History”

The works cited here reflect the “new film history” into 2001, incorporating new available archival materials or based on reflections by those who worked on the film. Abrams 2017 focuses on HAL while Frewin 2004, the author of which worked on the film, discusses the abandoned prologue. Krämer 2009 and Krämer 2013 explore audience responses and introduces the film to nonacademic audiences, respectively. Krämer 2014 discusses 2001 as spectacle and Krämer 2017 looks at how it has inspired other filmmakers.

Science, Technology, and Artificial Intelligence

These articles are primarily interested in the implications of 2001 for science, technology, and artificial intelligence rather than as a film artifact itself. Boylan 1985 discusses symbolic interpretations of technology, while Brown 2001 compares the film’s vision to the real year of 2001. Lucy 2000 focuses on speech, writing, and technology. Midbon 1990 examines computer technology and Nofz and Vendy 2002 looks at emotions. Stix 2001 briefly discusses HAL, as does Vendy and Nofz 1999.

  • Boylan, Jay H. “Hal in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’: The Lover Sings His Song.” Journal of Popular Culture 18.4 (Spring 1985): 53–56.

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    Discusses the symbolic interpretations of technology, evolution, and humankind, in view of HAL 9000, emphasizing HAL’s emotional state, bittersweet devotion to logic, and humanity’s dependent relationship with tools and machines.

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  • Brown, Peter G. “2001: Reel to Real.” Sciences 41.1 (January 2001): 2.

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    Briefly discusses the parallels of 2001 and the real year of 2001, citing modern computers and the scientific probing of extraterrestrial life. It also imagines an alternative, contemporary version of 2001, featuring a more documentary motif.

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  • Lucy, Niall. “Total Eclipse of the Heart: Thinking through Technology.” Senses of Cinema: An Online Film Journal Devoted to the Serious and Eclectic Discussion of Cinema 7 (June 2000).

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    Discusses the connections between speech/writing and technology through highlighting common features, such as knowledge, social attitudes, and suspicion; briefly mentions 2001: A Space Odyssey and how technology takes the form of a character and becomes inseparable.

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  • Midbon, Mark. “Creation Machines: Stanley Kubrick’s View of Computers in 2001.” ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society 20.4 (December 1990): 7–12.

    DOI: 10.1145/122403.122405Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Conveys his thoughts on the level of detail and research placed on computer technology and development in 2001, emphasizing the monolith’s similarity to a circuit and the significance of computers in the evolution of humankind.

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  • Nofz, Michael P., and Phil Vendy. “When Computers Say It with Feeling: Communication and Synthetic Emotions in Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’.” Journal of Communication Inquiry 26.1 (January 2002): 26–45.

    DOI: 10.1177/0196859902026001003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors explore the relationship between technology and humans in 2001 with an emphasis on how human emotions and artificial intelligence intersect together and create a pragmatic, life-like computer system.

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  • Stix, Gary. “2001: A Scorecard.” Scientific American 284.1 (January 2001): 36.

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    Briefly discusses the innovation and scope surrounding HAL’s intelligence, strategic ability, and human-like mannerisms. HAL is also compared to modern-day computer intelligence and is seen as a benchmark for future technologies.

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  • Vendy, Phil, and Michael Nofz. “HAL’s Long, Long Run: Computers and Social Performance in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001.” ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society 29.4 (December 1999): 8–10.

    DOI: 10.1145/572199.572202Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines how HAL has influenced audiences with its unique social behavior, technological possibilities, and humanistic emotional spectrum, underlining the emotional relationship between humans and computers, and the unavoidable, interweaved, emotionally charged marriage.

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Sexuality and Gender

These articles discuss sexuality in 2001. Hanson 1993 looks at the panoply of sexualities in 2001, while Janes 2011 explores Clarke and Kubrick’s oeuvres for same sex desires. Sofia 1984 examines abortion, while Spector 1981 takes a feminist approach.

  • Hanson, Ellis. “Technology, Paranoia and the Queer Voice.” Screen 34.2 (Summer 1993): 137–161

    DOI: 10.1093/screen/34.2.137Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores a range of sexual possibilities within 2001, examining the uncanny side of heterosexuality and the balance of sexual emotions, as well as sexual transformation and technologically symbolic sexual devices.

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  • Janes, Dominic. “Clarke and Kubrick’s 2001: A Queer Odyssey.” Science Fiction Film and Television 4.1 (Spring 2011): 57–78.

    DOI: 10.3828/sfftv.2011.4Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Janes examines same-sex desires in the work of Clarke and Kubrick. Janes notes that it was only later in Clarke’s career that he openly explored homosexual themes in his fiction. This was most likely because of negative attitudes toward homosexuality in the 1950s and 1960s and the homophobia then present. In terms of homosexuality in Kubrick’s films, Janes explores how homosexuality often occurs in a military setting.

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  • Sofia, Zoe. “Exterminating Fetuses: Abortion, Disarmament, and the Sexo-Semiotics of Extraterrestrialism.” Diacritics 14.2 (Summer 1984): 47–59.

    DOI: 10.2307/464758Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that 2001 reflects modern controversy surrounding fetal abortions, industrial technology, and destructive extremism. Emphasis is also placed on technology’s ability to reproduce artificially and social fears of infertility and death.

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  • Spector, Judith A. “Science Fiction and the Sex War: A Womb of One’s Own.” Literature and Psychology 31.1 (1981): 21–32.

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    Discusses the science fiction genre from a feminist viewpoint, citing Arthur C. Clarke’s novel 2001 as a contribution toward oppressing women. Spector characterizes the Star-Child as male womb envy, the female apes as pitiful, and the monolith as the courier of phallic tools.

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Philosophical Approaches

This group of articles primarily takes a philosophical approach to the film using different frameworks, including Friedrich Nietzsche (Abrams 2007), Gilles Deleuze (Balmain 2000), and Carl Jung (Kuberski 2008).

  • Abrams, Jerold J. “Nietzsche’s Overman as Posthuman Star Child in 2001: A Space Odyssey.” In The Philosophy of Stanley Kubrick. Edited by Jerold J. Abrams, 247–265. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2007.

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    This essay discusses the importance of Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra for understanding 2001.

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  • Balmain, Colette. “Temporal Reconfigurations in Kubrick’s 2001.” Enculturation: Cultural Theories & Rhetorics 3.1 (Fall 2000).

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    Provides a brief history of 2001 followed by an analysis, which concentrates on how the mise-en-scene, narrative, and symbolism create meaning through interpretation, using Gilles Deleuze’s concept of “the time image” as a framework to explore its philosophical systems and visual complexities.

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  • Kuberski, Philip. “Kubrick’s Odyssey: Myth, Technology, Gnosis.” Arizona Quarterly 64.3 (Autumn 2008): 51–73.

    DOI: 10.1353/arq.0.0006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Kuberski takes a Jungian approach to 2001. He argues that Kubrick delivered a spiritual message through the medium of technology while rejecting specific parties and religions. Kuberski uses examples, such as the ape’s bone as both a weapon and a symbol. The symbol of death, blending both technology and gnosis, the awareness of spiritual secrets. This can be seen throughout the film, with the monolith and HAL being symbols of death, technology, and spirituality.

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Music

Krukowski 2002 and Scheurer 1998 explore the movie’s use of classical music with the former arguing that it de-emphasizes humanity and the latter suggesting how it invokes emotional responses.

Interpretative Articles

Boyd 1978 and Castle 2004 interpret the symbolic meanings of 2001, while Charlot 1986 locates the film in history, in particular the American Revolution and World War I. Dean 1978, Freedman 1998, and Rieder 2010 locate 2001 in the broader context of science fiction, particularly from 1968 to 1977. Fry 2003 focuses on HAL and Moon Watcher. Miller 1994 examines fan mail, while Moore 2000 explores 2001 as an allegory for the beginnings of human existence. Savage 2010 and Vint 2009 discuss anthropology, evolution, technology, time, and the future of humanity.

  • Boyd, D. “Mode and Meaning in 2001.” Journal of Popular Film and Television 6.3 (1978): 202–215.

    DOI: 10.1080/00472719.1978.9943437Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the numerous symbolic meanings and interpretations, which are interlaced within 2001, highlighting the importance of accepting a multiplicity of factors and not reducing the intellectual significance by championing one component.

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  • Castle, Robert. “The Interpretative Odyssey of 2001: Of Humanity and Hyperspace.” Bright Lights Film Journal 46 (31 October 2004).

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    Describes the author’s own experience with 2001 and reflects on the film’s representation of power structures, technological innovation, and emotional expression while emphasizing the symbolic imagery and narratives, including interesting interpretations of drugs, eyes, and birth.

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  • Charlot, John. “From Ape-Man to Space-Baby: 2001, an Interpretation.” East-West Film Journal 1.1 (December 1986): 84–89.

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    Draws parallels among the apes, astronauts, and technology by discussing themes of humanity, rivalry, and fear of one’s own environment, highlighting the connections to the American Revolution, World War I, and the mysterious dualism between humankind and tools.

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  • Dean, J. F. “Between ‘2001’ and ‘Star Wars’.” Journal of Popular Film and Television 7.1 (1978): 32–41.

    DOI: 10.1080/01956051.1978.9944190Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A brief survey of themes and characterizations in science fiction films between 1970 and 1977, and how many reflected genuine concerns but had mundane treatment and limited financial success, compared to 2001 and Star Wars.

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  • Freedman, Carl. “Kubrick’s ‘2001’ and the Possibility of a Science-Fiction Cinema.” Science Fiction Studies 25.2 (July 1998): 300–318.

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    Discusses how Kubrick deconstructs, innovates, and directly engages with the previously problematic balance among special effects, intellectual banality, and ideological complexity within the science fiction genre. Therefore, upon creating such a rich, intertextual solution, Kubrick solidifies the erratic nature of the genre and suggests its peak, in terms of authenticity, depths of meaning, and intertextuality.

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  • Fry, Carrol L. “From Technology to Transcendence: Humanity’s Evolutionary Journey in 2001: A Space Odyssey.” Extrapolation 44.3 (Fall 2003): 331–343.

    DOI: 10.3828/extr.2003.44.3.07Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Fry describes HAL as both master and slave. She argues that like the Moon Watcher, HAL was asserting his dominance and safeguarding his territory and, by extension, himself. Furthermore, HAL’s death symbolized the end of the technically relationship, which was started by the Moon Watcher. This triggers the next stage of human evolution, with Dave Bowman reborn as a space fetus.

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  • Miller, Mark Crispin. “2001: A Cold Descent.” Sight & Sound 4.1 (January 1994): 18–25.

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    Explores Kubrick’s fan mail and examines multiple themes connected to 2001; for example, the degrees of dominance that separate and link the carnivorous apes and modern man. Moreover, Doctor Floyd is analyzed through his emotional, social, and psychological capacity.

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  • Moore, Greggory. “The Process of Life in 2001: A Space Odyssey.” Images: A Journal of Film and Popular Culture 9 (December 2000).

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    Moore summarizes 2001: A Space Odyssey, with accompanying pictures, and interprets the story as an allegory for the process of life and how the mystery of existence came to be.

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  • Rieder, John. “The Return to the Frontier in the Extraordinary Voyage: Verne’s The Mysterious Island and Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.” Extrapolation 51.2 (Summer 2010): 201–215.

    DOI: 10.3828/extr.2010.51.2.2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Rieder argues that 2001 operates above definitions of genre and speaks directly to communities involved in science fiction. This is done over time by overlapping the requirements of numerous thematic practices and creating an intersectional journey.

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  • Savage, Robert. “Paleoanthropology of the Future: The Prehistory of Posthumanity in Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.” Extrapolation 51.1 (Spring 2010): 99–112.

    DOI: 10.3828/extr.2010.51.1.7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Savage discusses the process of building the narrative of 2001: A Space Odyssey with a key focus on anthropology, human evolution, and the future of humanity. Savage also examines the theme of time by exploring HAL’s relationship with Dave, noting that both regress into an infant-like repose.

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  • Vint, Sherryl. “Simians, Subjectivity and Sociality: 2001: A Space Odyssey and Two Versions of Planet of the Apes.” Science Fiction Film and Television 2.2 (Autumn 2009): 225–250.

    DOI: 10.1353/sff.0.0076Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Vint explores how 2001 portrays the human-like apes and how they inspire thoughts of humanity, evolution, and technology. Emphasis is also placed on patriarchal and military symbolism, animalistic culture, and technology’s ability to threaten humanity.

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