Chronicle of Media Initiative Events

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I have added a new rubric (Events) at the top of this page, where I will post future events and maintain a chronicle of past events. While putting this list together, it occurred to me that the media initiative has organized quite a few events over the (nearly) two years of its existence at the Leibniz University Hannover. Here’s a list of things we’ve done:

April 13, 2011: Inaugural meeting of the Initiative for Interdisciplinary Media Research

May 18, 2011: Shane Denson, “Mediatization & Serialization” (public lecture)

June 8, 2011: Media Initiative blog (medieninitiative.wordpress.com) goes online

July 13, 2011: Preliminary meeting of the Film & TV Reading Group

October 26, 2011: First regular meeting of the Film & TV Reading Group (text: Jason Mittell, “Narrative Complexity in Contemporary American Television” – moderators: Florian Groß, Shane Denson)

October 27, 2011: “Bollywood Nation” film series begins (organized by Jatin Wagle and Shane Denson, in conjunction with Jatin Wagle’s seminar “Long-Distance Hindu Nationalism and the Changing Figure of the Expatriate Indian in Contemporary Bollywood Cinema”); screening #1: Swades: We, the People (2004)

November 24, 2011: “Bollywood Nation” film series, screening #2: Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)

November 30, 2011: Film & TV Reading Group (text: Lynn Spigel, “Television, the Housewife, and the Museum of Modern Art” – moderator: Bettina Soller)

December 8, 2011: “Bollywood Nation” film series, screening #3: Pardes (1997)

December 15-17, 2011: “Cultural Distinctions Remediated: Beyond the High, the Low, and the Middle.” International Conference, organized by Ruth Mayer, Vanessa Künnemann, Florian Groß, and Shane Denson. Sponsored by the DFG, DGfA, American Embassy in Berlin, CampusCultur, and in association with the DFG Research Unit “Popular Seriality—Aesthetics and Practice” and the Initiative for Interdisciplinary Media Research at the Leibniz University of Hannover. Keynote speakers: Jason Mittell and Lynn Spigel. Presentations by Media Initiative members Shane Denson, Florian Groß, Christina Meyer, and Bettina Soller.

December 21, 2011: Film & TV Reading Group (text: Steven Shaviro, “Contagious Allegories: George Romero” – moderator: Stefan Hautke) + film screening: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

January 5, 2012: “Bollywood Nation” film series, screening #4: Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2002)

January 18, 2012: Film & TV Reading Group (text: Livia Monnet, “A-Life and the Uncanny in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” – moderator: Thomas Habedank)

January 26, 2012: “Bollywood Nation” film series, screening #5: Chak De! India (2007)

April 25, 2012: Film & TV Reading Group (text: Mark B. N. Hansen, “Media Theory” – moderator: Shane Denson)

April 26, 2012: “Chaos Cinema?” film series begins (organized by Felix Brinker, Shane Denson, and Florian Groß); screening #1: “Chaos Cinema” (video essays by Matthias Stork)

May 16, 2012: Film & TV Reading Group (text: Steven Shaviro, “Post-Continuity” – moderator: Felix Brinker)

May 24, 2012: “Chaos Cinema?” film series, screening #2: Gladiator (2000); curator: Florian Groß

June 20, 2012: Film & TV Reading Group (text: Rudmer Canjels, “Seriality Unbound” – moderator: Ilka Brasch)

June 21, 2012: “Chaos Cinema?” film series, screening #3: Transformers (2007); curator: Shane Denson (presentation: “Discorrelated Images: Chaos Cinema, Post-Cinematic Affect, and Speculative Realism”)

July 2, 2012: Public lecture – Mark B. N. Hansen, “Feed Forward, or the ‘Future’ of 21st Century Media”; First in a week-long series of events with Mark B. N. Hansen (Duke University), co-organized by Shane Denson and Felix Brinker. Grant secured through the Fulbright Senior Specialist Program. Sponsored by the Guest Professor Program of the Faculty of Humanities, American Studies / English Department, and the Initiative for Interdisciplinary Media Research at the Leibniz University of Hannover.

July 3, 2012: Mark B. N. Hansen, “The End of Pharmacology? Historicizing 21st Century Media”; Guest lecture in Shane Denson’s seminar, “Cultural and Media Theory: Media in Transition”

July 5, 2012: “Chaos Cinema?” film series, screening #4: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010); curator: Felix Brinker (presentation: “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The Movies: Intermedial Collage and Narrative Logic in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World”)

July 6, 2012: Workshop with Mark B. N. Hansen, including presentations by Media Initiative members Ilka Brasch (“Mapping the Ends of Human Sense Perception”), Felix Brinker (“Between Life and Technics”), and Shane Denson (“Mediate. Discorrelate. Recalibrate.”)

July 11, 2012: Film & TV Reading Group (text: Jack G. Shaheen, “Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People” – moderator: Malte Mühle)

July 17, 2012: Presentations by participants in Shane Denson’s “Digital Media and Humanities Research” course: Linda Kötteritzsch, Julia Schmedes, and Mandy Schwarze, “Bonfire of the Televised Profanities” (blog presentation and discussion of the intersection of TV studies and digital media; Urthe Rehmstedt and Maren Sonnenberg, “Digital Humanities” (video essays).

July 19, 2012: “Chaos Cinema?” film series, screening #5: WALL-E (2008); curator: Shane Denson (presentation: “WALL-E vs. Chaos (Cinema)”)

November 8, 2012: “M: Movies, Machines, Modernity” film series begins (organized by Ilka Brasch, Felix Brinker, and Shane Denson); screening #1: Metropolis (1927); curator: Shane Denson (presentation: “M: Movies, Machines, Modernity – An Introduction”)

November 14, 2012: Film & TV Reading Group (text: Walter Benjamin, “Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit” – moderator: Shane Denson)

November 29, 2012: “M: Movies, Machines, Modernity” film series, screening #2: Man with a Movie Camera (1929); curator: Felix Brinker (presentation: “Movies, Machines, Modernity: On Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera”)

December 5, 2012: Film & TV Reading Group (text: Jean Baudrillard, “The Ecstasy of Communication” – moderator: Julia Schmedes)

December 13, 2012: “M: Movies, Machines, Modernity” film series, screening #3: M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder; curator/presenter: Urs Büttner

December 15, 2012: Shane Denson, “Batman and the ‘Parergodic’ Work of Seriality in Interactive Digital Environments”; presentation in conjunction with the American Studies Research Colloquium

January 16, 2013: Film & TV Reading Group (text: Theodor W. Adorno, “Prolog zum Fernsehen” – moderator: Felix Brinker)

January 17, 2013: “M: Movies, Machines, Modernity” film series, screening #4: Modern Times (1936); curator: Ilka Brasch (presentation: “M: Movies, Machines, Media – Modern Times)

January 22, 2013: Campus-Cultur-Prize 2013 awarded to the Initiative for Interdisciplinary Media Research and the Film & TV Reading Group by CampusCultur e.V. and the Faculty of Humanities of the Leibniz University of Hannover

January 25, 2013: Shane Denson, “On the Phenomenology of Reading Comics”; guest lecture in Felix Brinker’s “Introduction to Visual Culture” seminar

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Press Release: Campus-Cultur-Prize

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The Faculty of Humanities has posted a press release about the Campus-Cultur-Prize, along with this picture of Svenja Fehlhaber, Meike Walter, and myself, who were at the faculty’s graduation ceremony to receive it. Here’s the full text of the announcement:

Die Verabschiedung der diesjährigen Absolventinnen und Absolventen der Philosophischen Fakultät bildete den festlichen Rahmen für die Verleihung der Campus-Cultur-Preise 2012. Aus der Hand von Prof. Dr. Peter Nickl vom Vorstand dieses vor zehn Jahren gegründeten Vereins zur Förderung der Fakultätskultur der Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften an unserer Universität empfingen die Vertreterinnen und Vertreter zweier Initiativen ihre Auszeichnungen.

Gewürdigt wurde zum einen die Arbeit von PraxisPur, einer von der Sonderpädagogik-Studentin Sophie Stenger ins Leben gerufenen Kooperationsinitiative von Studierenden und den Schulen Hannovers zur Förderung schwacher Schülerinnen und Schüler. Zielgruppe von PraxisPur sind Schülerinnen und Schüler, die aufgrund fehlenden Basiswissens Schwierigkeiten in der Schule haben und Unterstützung in ihrem individuellen Lernprozess insbesondere in den Fächern Deutsch und Mathematik benötigen. Statt herkömmlicher Nachhilfe erfolgt eine langfristige, auf den Schüler bzw. die Schülerin zugeschnittene Förderung von professioneller und reflexionsgestützter Seite. Ein Supervisions-Begleitseminar durch die Dozentin Urte Schell aus der Abteilung Pädagogik bei Lernbeeinträchtigungen fördert den Ansatz, Theorie und Praxis miteinander zu verknüpfen und Kompetenzen zu stärken.

Der zweite Campus-Cultur-Preis 2012 ging an die Film & TV Reading Group. Studierende, die an diesem extracurricularen Forum teilnehmen, treffen sich im Englischen Seminar, um Theorietexte, Filme und Fernsehmaterialien zu diskutieren, eigene Projektideen und Projekte zu entwickeln und interdisziplinär über aktuelle Trends und Ansätze der Medienwissenschaft ins Gespräch zu kommen. Seit mehreren Semestern wird die Lesegruppe flankiert von einer Filmreihe, die Klassiker der Filmgeschichte aus dem public domain-Bereich vorführt und zum gemeinsamen Schauen und Diskutieren dieser Filme einlädt. Auch diese Filmreihe wird von Studierenden hauptsächlich des Master of Advanced Anglophone Studies konzipiert und organisiert. Die Aktivitäten sind Teil der Initiative für interdisziplinäre Medienforschung, die von Dr. Shane Denson (American Studies) ausging und koordiniert wird. Die Initiative wendet sich vor allem an den akademischen Nachwuchs und die Studierenden der Fakultät.

Campus-Cultur Prize 2013

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As I announced recently (here), the Initiative for Interdisciplinary Media Research and the Film & TV Reading Group received the Campus-Cultur Prize 2013, which was awarded yesterday at the graduation ceremony of the Philosophische Fakultät (Faculty of Humanities) of the Leibniz University Hannover. Meike Walter, Svenja Fehlhaber, and I were there to accept the prize on behalf of the group. Thanks again to everyone involved!

(Transnational Perspectives on) Illustration, Comics, and Animation

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The schedule has now been posted for the Illustration, Comics, and Animation Conference taking place this spring at Dartmouth College (April 19 – 21, 2013). There are quite a few interesting speakers and exciting topics on the roster, so I encourage readers to look at the complete conference schedule. But here I’d like to focus briefly on a few people who happen to be both involved in the conference and associated in one way or another with this blog and the various projects represented here.

First of all, two of my European colleagues will be presenting papers:

Daniel Stein, co-editor with me on Transnational Perspectives on Graphic Narratives and fellow postdoctoral researcher in the Popular Seriality group, will be presenting a paper called “Animating Batman: Serial Storytelling, Cartoon Animation, and the Multiplicities of Contemporary Superhero Comics.” (Click the title for his abstract.)

Lukas Etter, contributor to Transnational Perspectives (with a great chapter on Jason Lutes’s Berlin) and member of the research project “Seriality and Intermediality in Graphic Novels” (a Swiss project associated with the DFG research group on Popular Seriality), will present “Seria(s)lly Episodic: Gradual Formal Variations in Alison Bechdel’s Feminist Comic Strip Dykes to Watch Out For (1983-2008).” (Click title for abstract.)

I will also be presenting a paper, titled “Animation as Theme and Medium: Frankenstein and Visual Culture.” (Again, click for the abstract.)

Finally, our American host and the conference’s organizer is Michael A. Chaney, Associate Professor of English at Dartmouth College, who is likewise a contributor to Transnational Perspectives (with an excellent chapter on “Transnationalism and Form in Visual Narratives of US Slavery”).

As it turns out, this will be the second time that all four of our paths cross — the first being at a comics studies workshop in Bern, Switzerland in October 2011. In this respect, and in addition to our cooperation on the volume, the upcoming conference marks the continuation of a very literal transnational exchange of ideas, which has brought together German, Swiss, and American (among other) perspectives on the study of comics and related media. I look forward to this and further such intersections and (national as well as medial) border-crossings!

Daniel Stein, “Animating Batman: Serial Storytelling, Cartoon Animation, and the Multiplicities of Contemporary Superhero Comics”

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Here is the abstract for Daniel Stein’s talk at the Illustration, Comics, and Animation Conference at Dartmouth College (April 19 – 21, 2013):

Animating Batman: Serial Storytelling, Cartoon Animation, and the Multiplicities of Contemporary Superhero Comics

Daniel Stein

Comics and films scholars have devoted much time to the phenomenon of the Hollywood superhero blockbuster, developing sophisticated theories of media transposition and comic book adaptation. They have paid much less attention to a related and equally significant phenomenon: the animated superhero cartoon, most often produced for television. This may come as a surprise since animated versions of Superman (1941) and Spider-Man (1967) appeared rather early in the history of the superhero genre and have contributed to its evolution at least as much as the film serials of the 1940s (Batman: 1943 and 1949; Captain America: 1944), live action television series (Superman: 1952; Batman: 1966; Spider-Man: 1977), and the Hollywood blockbusters that followed the first Superman movie (1978).

This paper addresses two sets of questions that are vital to our understanding of superhero comics and their place in twenty-first-century media culture. First: How can we describe the transposition from sequential comic book narrative to the animated images of the television narrative? Are we dealing with different “visual ontologies” (Lefèvre)? And how does the change from multimodal storytelling in print to multimedial storytelling in film impact the representation? Second: If serial genres such as superhero comics produce various mechanisms to manage the multiplicities of proliferating “vast narratives” (Harrigan/Wardrip-Fruin), we must explain how new media impact the development of the genre. How does the “animated universe” (Brooker) of specific superheroes relate to their comic book continuities and canonicity? The paper analyzes animated Batman cartoons of the last twenty years: from television series such as Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995), The New Batman Adventures (1997-1999), Batman Beyond (1999-2001), and Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2008-2011) to animated movie adaptations of canonical graphic novels such as Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010) Batman: Year One (2011), Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (2012).

Lukas Etter, “Seria(s)lly Episodic: Gradual Formal Variations in Alison Bechdel’s Feminist Comic Strip Dykes to Watch Out For (1983-2008)”

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Here is the abstract for Lukas Etter’s talk at the Illustration, Comics, and Animation Conference at Dartmouth College (April 19 – 21, 2013):

Seria(s)lly episodic. Gradual Formal Variations in Alison Bechdel’s Feminist Comic Strip Dykes to Watch Out For (1983-2008).

Lukas Etter

When early in 2000 comic artist Alison Bechdel depicted herself as insane, this was due to the political state of her country. The episode in question, titled “Leadership Vacuum”, is a one-page comic strip in which the artist is shown at the drawing board, incapable of bearing the ‘loudness’ of the current political discourse resulting from the Lewinsky affair of the previous year. Simultaneously depicted is a main character, Mo, who transgresses from an intra- into an extradiegetic world by ‘stepping out’ of the strip and addressing the readers in order to explain the author’s alleged insanity. “Leadership Vacuum” is an episode of Dykes to Watch Out For, a bi-weekly feminist comic strip syndicated in U.S.-American periodicals between 1983 and 2008 – i.e., the strip which Bechdel had been working on for more than 17 years at this point.

These 17 years are subtly reflected in the episode “Leadership Vacuum”, given that Mo rummages in drawings made at an earlier stage. While self-reflexivity is almost always present in Bechdel’s later work – Fun Home (2006), “Cartoonist’s Introduction” (2008), “Compulsory Reading” (2008), “Wrought” (2008), Are You My Mother? (2012) – the rummaging in earlier drawings, and more generally speaking such an explicit type of self-reflexivity, is exceptional for a Dykes to Watch Out For episode. More importantly still, it is a subject matter largely understudied in critical literature on Bechdel’s work. Here begins, ultimately, what the present paper aims to focus on: The gradual formal changes over time in Dykes to Watch Out For, with a special interest in drawing style as well as narrative features – such as direct addressing of the readers at the end of an episode (“Stay tuned!”). An analysis of such changes will facilitate our understanding of the mechanisms at work a flexinarrative (i.e. combination of the ‘episodic’ and the ‘serial’ proper) on a more abstract level. It will add to an understanding of how Bechdel’s strip continually serves as a pungently sarcastic comment on contemporary ‘Western’ society at large for – in Eco’s terms – both a ‘naïve’ reader and a ‘smart’ one.

Shane Denson, “Animation as Theme and Medium: Frankenstein and Visual Culture”

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Here is the abstract for Shane Denson’s talk at the Illustration, Comics, and Animation Conference at Dartmouth College (April 19 – 21, 2013):

Animation as Theme and Medium: Frankenstein and Visual Culture

Shane Denson

Frankenstein and above all Frankenstein’s monster are emphatically plurimedial figures; already in the nineteenth century, they escaped the confines of Mary Shelley’s novel and proliferated on theater stages and in political cartoons before embarking, in the twentieth century, on a long career in film, radio, TV, comics, and video games. In the course of these developments, the monster in particular has become an unmistakable visual icon, the general contours of which were more or less fixed in our visual culture through Boris Karloff’s embodiment in the early 1930s. The image, however, remains flexible enough as to be instantly recognizable in cartoonish illustrations adorning cereal boxes. In this presentation, I contend that the monster’s image presents a special case for thinking the intermedial networks that constitute our visual culture, owing to the fact that this icon is linked inextricably with “animation” as both a thematic and media-technical topos. The act of animation, or bringing a creature composed of dead corpses to life—subject to only cursory treatment in the novel—becomes the main subject and visual attraction of the tale’s filmic iterations, where animation is motivated not solely by narrative but linked also to a self-reflexive probing of film as a medium. The first Frankenstein film, Thomas Edison’s Frankenstein (1910), used reverse motion and trick photography to animate its creature, and it linked into early discourses of cinema, according to which moving images in general (rather than, as later, a special class of films) were referred to as “animated film”—for the cinema brought “dead” photos (cf. 19th century memento mori) back to life, as attested in the names of early-film companies and apparatuses (Bioscope, Vitagraph, etc). James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931), too, probes animation as both theme and medium in the midst of change, reviving this nexus (and the monster) in the wake of the sound transition, with its foregrounding of uncanny figures “electrified” by technical sound, showcased all the more by a mute monster capable only of inarticulate moans. Besides the cinematic trajectory, moreover, there is also a rich Frankensteinian comics tradition—which includes fumetti film tie-ins, Dick Briefer’s Frankenstein series of the 1940s and 1950s, various serializations at Marvel and DC, and even crossovers with superheroes like Batman, Spiderman, or the X-Men—that similarly probes “animation” as the thematic/medial wellspring of modern visual culture. Both in film and comics, graphic/visual treatments of Frankenstein approach animation (asymptotically, perhaps) as an enabling frame or parergon and thus relive, again and again, an iconic Urszene of the birth of modern visual culture and its self-reflexive mediality.