I work on cultural criticism, focusing particularly on popular cinema (primarily Hollywood), science fiction, horror, and comics. I am interested in the ways cultural texts make us feel, their affects and sensations, and the way these felt intensities function as a mass-mediated production of our senses.
I'm currently working on two books, one on posthuman science fiction and one on contemporary action cinema.
Issues regarding the ontological status of the human species are inherently complex and complicated, and the outcomes not clearly in sight. In my book, tentatively titled Bodies Under Empire, I investigate how science fiction has been one place where these issues have been confronted in fictional form, in order to explore the question of the limits of the human in speculative ways. While SF has always agonized over the status of the human and what we will develop into, these questions have gained traction and intensified scrutiny within the past few decades. Contemporary SF has developed a new mode, which I term post-biological SF. My argument is that the posthuman, post-biological bodies in these texts are expressive of the state of the body politic and the affective state of living in a time of Empire. I take expressive to indicate both that they represent and map how our bodies are affected but also participate in the construction of Empire. The best way to understand Empire and its corporeal forces is to understand how these texts articulate the forces, whether as recuperative or disruptive.
My book on action cinema is tentatively titled War Machines: Action Cinema in the Drone Age. Drawing on current film theory’s preoccupation with affect and embodiment, I investigate the sensations of contemporary action films in order to argue that these films habituate us to a new media culture, one that is dominated by the use of increasingly autonomous technologies. My main argument is that more than simply narratives of conflict and ideological scenarios in which hegemony asserts its dominance, action films also produce new modes of sensory perception. While action cinema does reveal ideological contradictions, their audiovisual barrage at the same time obscures the contradictions. The sensorial overload of contemporary action cinema works perfectly in conjunction with a media culture of constant and immediate gratification but also reveals how vicariously we can live through moving images. As a genre, action cinema requires complete immersion into the flow of action even to a point of allowing these films to overpower us. This is why these films work as war machines, because they produce a desensitized mental state, not unlike the one soldiers are trained to enter.
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