Frankenstein and Film

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Flyer for my “Frankenstein and Film” class, Spring 2017 at Stanford. Complete syllabus here.

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Postnaturalism reviewed in MEDIENwissenschaft

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The latest issue of MEDIENwissenschaft: Rezensionen/Reviews includes a nice review of my book Postnaturalism: Frankenstein, Film, and the Anthropotechnical Interface. 

For those of you who read German, you can find the entire text of the review, by Anya Heise-von der Lippe (Tübingen/Berlin), here. For everyone else, here is a (rough) translation of the reviewer’s summary statement:

Postnaturalism offers a philosophical approach and an engagement with fundamental ontological and phenomenological questions of human and nonhuman materiality, which is indispensable especially for a post-postmodernity characterized by resource scarcity, climate change, and species extinctions, as well as the threat of a return to essentialist positions in politics and popular culture. Adapting a phrase from Bruno Latour, Denson counters the latter with a postnatural position: “We have never been natural” (24). Furthermore, Denson’s detailed examination — at the level of content, reception, and production — of Frankenstein adaptations is an asset for the analytical and production-aesthetic [produktionsästhetische] investigation of a central text (or modern myth) and its many adaptations in a wide range of text-critical disciplines: from media studies to literary to cultural studies.”

(Again, the translation is rough. Tweaks are more than welcome! Especially if you have suggestions for produktionsästhetisch or for making that first sentence more readable, drop me a line in the comments below…)

Finally, make sure you check out the entire issue of MEDIENwissenschaft, which is chock full of great stuff. Of particular interest to readers of this blog, among other things: the “Perspectives” section contains a longer piece on seriality and television series’ interrelations by Tanja Weber and Christian Junklewitz.

Check out the full contents of the issue here.

Postnaturalism reviewed in LWU

lwu-postnaturalismThe latest issue of Literatur in Wissenschaft und Unterricht, a special (English-language) issue on Serial Narratives edited by Kathleen Loock (a fellow member of the DFG research unit on “Popular Seriality”), includes a review of my book Postnaturalism: Frankenstein, Film, and the Anthropotechnical Interface. 

The review, by Dennis Büscher-Ulbrich of the University of Kiel, is mostly positive, though hardly uncritical. You can read the entire review here, but my favorite part must be a certain characterization of the book that appears in the midst of exposing what Büscher-Ulbrich takes as “the book’s theoretical Achilles’ heel” (namely, my lack of engagement with overtly political revolutions and with “recent post-Marxist political ontologies and metaphysics” in particular). In this context, Büscher-Ulbrich nonetheless flatteringly praises my “extraordinary powers of theoretical synthesis” and claims that

“[Postnaturalism] is one of the rare enough scholarly monographs whose collected footnotes alone provide an excellent education.”

Now, I recognize that it’s not for everyone (I have been criticized before for including “an entire second essay within an essay”) — and while I’m not sure I’d recommend taking your kids out of school and making Postnaturalism the primary textbook for their homeschooling (though you might do worse…) — I’m glad to see the footnotes getting some attention here from a reader who can appreciate the value of a page of text “below the line.”

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In any case, if Postnaturalism ever sees a second edition, I’ll certainly suggest this as a fitting blurb!

Check out the entire review:

And check out the entire special issue of LWU on Serial Narratives!

Postnaturalism in CUP Spring 2015 Catalog

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Some time ago, I posted that my book Postnaturalism: Frankenstein, Film, and the Anthropotechnical Interface had officially been made available by Columbia University Press, which serves as distributor in North and South America and Australasia. Shortly thereafter, massive restructuring of the CUP website led to the book’s temporary disappearance, but it is now back up here, and it has just appeared in CUP’s Spring 2015 Catalog (pictured above) as well.

If you’d like to preview the book, the best places to look are either at the Transcript-Verlag website (here; click “Excerpt” or “PDF” below the cover image) or the Google Books preview for the book (here).

Finally, it’s worth noting that you can get the book much cheaper than its official $60 price tag if you look for it on amazon or other outlets.

Postnaturalism now available through Columbia University Press and on Google Books

 

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My book Postnaturalism has been out since July, but there was a slight delay with US distribution. Now, however, the book is officially available for order through Columbia University Press.

This is probably more important for university libraries, who might want to order directly from CUP (if your library doesn’t have a copy yet and you’re in any position to do so, please do consider requesting they order one). For everyone else, you can currently get a copy much cheaper through marketplace sellers on amazon.com (right now, around $38 for a new copy, rather than the $60 list price at CUP).

Finally, a preview of the book has gone up at Google Books. Check it out here.

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Short review of Postnaturalism

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A short review of my book Postnaturalism: Frankenstein, Film, and the Anthropotechnical Interface has just appeared in fiph journal 24 (October 2014) — the journal of the Forschungsinstitut für Philosophie Hannover (the Research Institute for Philosophy Hannover, or “fiph” for short). The review, in German, was written by Dominik Hammer of the fiph, and it includes a brief summary and a nice endorsement of the book, part of which I translate here for those who don’t read German:

Postnaturalism is not only the product of a technicization that denatures embodiment (p. 230); rather, it designates the position that the human, but also nature itself, was never natural (p. 24). Nevertheless, the theory remains beholden to the naturalism from which it takes off and sets itself apart [sich abhebt]. Setting out from this “postnaturalism,” the media theorist investigates the connection between Frankenstein films and the development of the “anthropotechnical interface.”

Denson’s book […] is no light fare. For Postnaturalism you have to take your time, but it’s definitely worth it. The work is especially to be recommended for those interested in the philosophy of technology, media theory, and anyone who wants to engage with a postnaturalistic metaphysics.

Diagramming Media as the Environment for Life

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Both aesthetically and conceptually, the diagram above is imperfect in many ways. It is, necessarily, an oversimplification; I hope that it might nevertheless serve a positive purpose by giving visible form to an otherwise somewhat abstract argument. Developed for my talk at the upcoming “Philosophy After Nature” conference in Utrecht (you can find my abstract here), the diagram could also serve as an emblem for the argument I make in Chapter 6 of Postnaturalism. In that chapter, I look at (among other things) Mark Hansen’s concept of “the medium as an environment for life” (as introduced in his paper “Media Theory,” which appeared in Theory, Culture & Society); this concept, developed in conversation with Bernard Stiegler’s philosophy of technics, has been very important for my work, and grappling with it was central for me in the process of arguing that “we have never been natural.”

In the course of developing his concept, Hansen argues that there is an asymmetrical priority of human embodiment in the transductive relation between technics and the human. In Hansen’s engagement with Stiegler, this prerogative of embodiment is seen to be at odds, to a certain extent, with Stiegler’s argument about the synchronization or industrialization of experience through the action of recording technologies. The latter embody “tertiary retentions” of experience, beyond the primary and secondary retentions that Husserl theorized as the operations, respectively, of immediate temporal experience and of recollection or memory. According to Stiegler, in a complex argument that I will not try to summarize here, tertiary retention (technical recording) injects secondary retention (memory) into primary retention (the immediate experience of the “adherent present,” from which flows also the future) — effectively instituting a pre-formatted future on a mass scale (especially in the age of live television and real-time media).

Following an objection raised by Jean-Michel Salanskis, who sees a paradox or split in Husserl’s notion of primary retention — a split between the referential aspect that aligns primary retention with conscious experience, on the one hand, and a non-referential aspect that is wholly unconscious, on the other — Hansen argues that Stiegler’s argument diminishes the robust role of embodiment in the production of temporal experience. The synchronization envisioned by Stiegler is dependent, according to Hansen, on a bracketing of embodied agency; the “mnemotechnical constitution of time” prioritized by Stiegler is thus secondary to the “corporo-technical constitution of time” that Hansen identifies as an infra-empirical condition of experience. Hence the asymmetrical privileging of human embodiment in the medial transduction of human and technical agencies.

The diagram above summarizes my own intervention in the context of these debates. Rather than reinstituting the priority of the human within the anthropotechnical transduction, my suggestion is that we conceive tertiary retention (and media technics more generally) as similarly split between a referential (“mnemotechnical” or broadly representational) and a non-referential (materially embodied) aspect. With memory flanked on both sides by a non-discrete, smooth space of matter, cognitive life is then situated squarely in a realm staked out between robustly material agencies—between the subpersonal operation of the body, on the one hand, and the subphenomenal, infra-empirical material agency of technics on the other. As the diagram tries to indicate, a certain symmetry is restored in the anthropotechnical interface, which on this model describes the joint production of empirical reality — the distributed (human and nonhuman) agency by which the phenomenal realm is demarcated from out of the unmarked environment of material flux.