• Globalization, Postcolonialism, and Science Fiction: Nomadic Transgressions

      Kurtz, Malisa; Interdisciplinary Humanities Program
      This dissertation seeks to establish science fiction as a critical framework for interrogating contemporary neocolonial structures. Specifically, I examine the ways an emerging subgenre of “postcolonial science fiction” provides valuable conceptual tools for imagining what postcolonial relations might look like in an era defined by globalization and multinational capitalism. By linking a critique of the genre’s colonial drive to the logic of advanced capitalism, postcolonial science fiction offers a critical lens through which to examine the continuation of contemporary neocolonial structures. For example, postcolonial science fiction questions several of the assumptions that underpin science fiction, including the genre’s colonial gaze, the appeal to an ideology of progress, focus on the “future” and the construction of an assumed cosmopolitan future, and an implicit faith in technological solutions or the inclination towards techno-optimism. Postcolonial science fiction links these generic qualities to the dominance of certain ideological frameworks in contemporary neoliberal culture, revealing the colonial underpinnings of both genre and the “real-world” socio-historical contexts from which genres emerge. Importantly, postcolonial science fiction is also constructivist, offering alternative epistemological frameworks for understanding our relationship to the future beyond colonial paradigms. Through the process of deconstructing and reconstructing sf’s colonial assumptions, I see postcolonial science fiction produced from diverse national contexts as expressions of a transnational desire to understand such questions as: what do we need to do so that tomorrow is not characterized by the violence against others we exhibit today? Or, more specifically, how can we create new visions of “postcolonialism” that will materialize into more ethical practice? By explicitly foregrounding these questions postcolonial science fiction transforms the genre’s world building into a strategy of postcolonial experimentation that strives to understand the complexity of problems facing diverse global communities. Postcolonial studies might also benefit from thinking through the lens of science fiction, where creative projects function as ethical experiments towards mapping out the possibilities of transnational affiliation. As this study emphasizes, I therefore see postcolonial science fiction as simultaneously a subgenre and a process, strategy, or mode of relation established between people committed to imagining less exploitative futures.
    • The Larger Stages: The 'Becoming Minor' of South African Theatres.

      Planche, Jill; Interdisciplinary Humanities Program
      ABSTRACT The Larger Stages: The Becoming ‘Minor’ of South African Theatres. By Jill Planche South Africa is layered with entangled histories that have created a fragile landscape of ambiguities where fractured memories are revealed yet remain concealed. The social architecture of apartheid still persists in a legacy of hostile urban geographies and land inequity, while global capitalism and economic disparity are seen in the dramatic contrast between the developing middle class and the poverty of millions. This research project interrogates the way in which contemporary theatre in South Africa is implicated in the country's complex cultural, economic and social realities. Pursuing rigorous qualitative research in the history, practice and criticism of South African theatre; contemporary studies in theatre spatiality; and philosophy, cultural theory and human geography, I explore precisely whose voices are being heard and which audiences are being reached. What role does – and might – theatre play in addressing South Africa’s socio-economic and artistic challenges, both as a barrier and a bridge to audiences? Drawing on the work of such thinkers as Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Rosi Braidotti and Achille Mbembe, can we anticipate what we might describe as a ‘minor’ theatre that will tell the stories that resonate twenty years after the end of apartheid? The term ‘minor’ refers to the Deleuzian concept of affirmative and dynamic processes to create new political subjects; processes of “becoming” that break from the fixed, proscribed “being,” which in the South African context has been created by centuries of colonialism and decades of state-imposed racial construction. Given the insights afforded by such theorization, I argue that the spaces of performance are potentially dynamic spaces of intersection within this landscape of layered socio-economic and artistic challenges created by a milieu of rooted physical and mental boundaries that have informed the country’s inherited theatrical practices.
    • Mediated Masculinities: The Forms of Masculinity in American Genre Film, 1990-1999

      McDonald, Terrance H.; Interdisciplinary Humanities Program
      This dissertation mobilizes Brinkema's radical formalism (2014) through Deleuze and Spinoza to read masculinities as forms. Specifically, I closely read Western films and masculine crisis films from 1990 to 1999 to map how cinematic forms constitute the potential to alter normative modes of masculinity. To launch this endeavor, I rely on a theoretical hybrid of Brinkema-Deleuze-Spinoza that foregrounds genre films as vibrant forms of difference. This foregrounding unfolds through an engagement with Altman's theory of film genre (1999), Neale's work on genre films (2000), and Grant's view of film genres as iconography and ideology (2007) as well as the work of Deleyto (2012) and Herzog (2010 and 2012) to re-conceptualize film genre in relation to form. I proceed to use my theoretical hybrid and attention to forms to interrogate film theory as a means of seizing gender and, moreover, masculinities from discourses of representation and spectatorship, which tend to limit readings of gender and masculinities to socio-cultural and political meanings. This interrogation engages Mulvey's revision of screen theory (1975), Rodowick's work on difference (1991, 1994), Perkins's approach to mise-en-scène (1972), Bordwell's neo-formalism and post-theory (1996, 2005, 2006), Sobchack's phenomenological approach to spectatorship and affect (1992, 2004), and del Río's Deleuzian conceptualization of affect and performance (2008). Then, with an insistence on the close reading of cinematic forms, my dissertation undertakes two case studies: the Western and the masculine crisis film cycles of the 1990s. Considering the work of Gates (2006) and Grant (2011) on masculinities in popular cinema, my close readings reveal masculinities as taking shape, assuming structures, and forming as they affect and are affected by relations and becomings. These close readings of cinematic forms generate theoretical speculation that engages masculinities studies research, including Bly (1990), Connell (1995), Kimmel (2006 and 2013), Reeser (2010), and Buchbinder (2013). Through theoretical speculation, my dissertation conceptualizes masculinities as forces of creation that materialize as forms. What is at stake in this dissertation is a methodology that denies transcendent ideals and essentialist claims of masculinity with concepts that harness the potential to continuously read masculinities as what has yet to come.
    • A Rhetorical Model of Autism: a Pop Culture Personification of Masculinity in Crisis

      Matthews, Malcolm; Interdisciplinary Humanities Program
      ABSTRACT In my dissertation, I argue that significant rhetorical mechanisms are at work in the production and consumption of portrayals of autism in literature, TV, and film. My project is driven by a central question: In what ways do portrayals of autism function as a visual rhetorical reconfiguration of masculinity that reimagines and repurposes disability in the service of the promotion of Humanist notions of white male hegemony in a technocentric era? I begin with Hans Asperger’s 1944 claim that autism is “a variant of male intelligence.” I connect that originary declaration with contemporary observations by Stuart Murray that autism is a form of “metaphorized hypermasculinity” and with Simon Baron-Cohen’s controversial insistence that autism represents a version of “The Extreme Male Brain.” Such testimonials, coupled with results from my own analysis and taxonomy of autistic characters throughout emerging popular culture manifestations, has led me to hypothesize that autism in portrayal serves as a survival guide for the white Western male in an era that threatens to be post-racial, post-ableist, post-phallocentric, and even post-anthropocentric. Fictional adolescent autists (e.g.: Christopher Boone, Nathanial Clark, and Colin Fischer), living autists (e.g.: David Paravicini, Daniel Tammet, and Temple Grandin), autistic “techno-savants” (e.g.: Spock, Rain Man, Sheldon Cooper), and speculatively diagnosed historical figures (e.g.: Alan Turing, Andy Warhol, and Bobby Fischer), advance a distinct “autism aesthetic” and function as rhetorical texts whose readings expose an unexplored intersection of disability, masculinity, ethnicity, and digital technology. Such characters illustrate in visual rhetorical terms how certain traits of autism are being romanticized in a digital era to equate ethnic whiteness with intellect and with a re-branded form of techno-masculinity. By providing a Rhetorical Model of autism as a link between autism as a clinical condition and as a cultural construct, I aim to form a more complete picture of autism and of its role in popular consciousness. As an interdisciplinary project, my dissertation draws upon the vocabularies and methodologies of gender, disability, and media studies. Under the unifying umbrella of visual rhetoric, I explore ethnicity, sexuality, and symbol-manipulation on the autism spectrum as they relate to Western man’s hope for a unifying techno-human singularity and his anxiety over the possible obsolescence of conventional constructions of masculinity. At stake are notions of hegemonic masculinity and of autism as a rhetorical artifact with real world implications.