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Canadian Journal of Communication (2008) - Undecided Stories: Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail and The Problem of Moral Agency




This article considers the question of moral agency in the work of Alfred Hitchcock through a detailed analysis of a crucial sequence from his early film Blackmail (1929). Focusing on this representative moment the author’s goal is to examine the problem of moral agency per se, rather than to catalogue expositions of specific ethical problems in a range of different Hitchcock films. In distinguishing between ethical rules and moral impulses, the author follows Zygmunt Bauman (1993, 1995, 2000) to examine the utility of this distinction in relation to the issue of moral agency in Hitchcock's work. Ethical rules, it is argued, are one aspect of our moral experience that often runs directly counter to our moral intuitions.