Walter Benjamin & the Wizard of Oz

Tomorrow (November 14, 2012), there are two events at the University of Hannover that might be of interest to readers of the blog.

First up, there’s the first meeting this semester of the Film & TV Reading Group (see the flyer here), where we’ll be discussing Walter Benjamin’s famous Artwork essay. We’ll meet from 4 to 6 pm in room 613 (Conti-Hochhaus). The reading group always welcomes new participants, so please spread the word to anyone who might be interested in joining us!

Second, and immediately following the reading group, Frank Kelleter will be giving a talk entitled “Massenkultur, Serienkultur, Populärkultur am Beispiel des Wonderful Wizard of Oz und seiner Variationen” [roughly: Mass Culture, Serial Culture, Popular Culture, with Reference to the Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its Variations]. The talk, from 6 to 8 pm in room 103 (Conti-Hochhaus), will take place in the context of the seminar “Massenkultur: Unterhaltung, Konsum, Medialität” [Mass Culture: Entertainment, Consumption, Mediality], which is being jointly taught by Ruth Mayer and Michael Gamper. Frank Kelleter is professor of American studies in Göttingen and the speaker for the DFG Research Group “Popular Seriality — Aesthetics and Practice” (in which Ruth Mayer and I are collaborating on the project “Serial Figures and Media Change”). He has recently published a chapter entitled “‘Toto, I Think We’re in Oz Again’ (and Again and Again): Remakes and Popular Seriality” in Film Remakes, Adaptations and Fan Productions: Remake / Remodel, edited by Kathleen Loock and Constantine Verevis.

Film & TV Reading Group (Winter 2012/13)

(Click on the image for a larger view)

As indicated on the flyer above, the Film & TV Reading Group will have its first meeting of the semester on Wednesday, November 14 (4:00 pm in room 613, Conti-Hochaus), where we will discuss Walter Benjamin’s famous “Artwork” essay. The topics for the following meetings have not been determined yet, so if there is anything you would like to discuss, please let me know. Tentatively, the following dates have also been reserved: December 5 and January 16 (also 4:00 – 6:00 pm in room 613). New participants are always welcome!

Steven Shaviro on “Post-Continuity”: Film & TV Reading Group

Tomorrow (Wednesday, May 16, 2012, at 6:00 pm in room 615 of the Conti-Hochhaus), the Film & TV Reading Group will meet to discuss Steven Shaviro’s take on the “chaos cinema” debates (and his alternative idea of “post-continuity”). Felix Brinker will be moderating the discussion, which will center around a recent talk by Shaviro on the topic (which can be found on his blog, here:

As usual, everyone is welcome to join us!

Mark B.N. Hansen on Media as Environment (for Life)

Delimination of Life: Mark B. Hansen (us) about his new work on subjectivity and experience in the wake of contemporary media from transmediale on Vimeo.

On Wednesday, April 25, 2012, the Film & TV Reading Group will meet at 6:00 pm in room 615 (Conti-Hochhaus) to discuss Mark Hansen’s article “Media Theory,” (from Theory, Culture & Society 23.2-3 (2006): 297-306). In this piece, Hansen importantly rethinks media beyond their apparatic, empirical determinations (devices, machines, storage media, etc.), instead conceiving media as “the environment for life.” The argument behind this approach is outlined in the paper’s abstract:

Poised on the cusp between phenomenology and materiality, media institute a theoretical oscillation that promises to displace the empirical-transcendental divide that has structured western meditation on thinking, including the thinking of technics. Because media give the infrastructure conditioning thought without ceasing to be empirical (i.e. without functioning as a transcendental condition), they form the basis for a complex hermeneutics that cannot avoid the task of accounting for its unthematizable infrastructural condition. Tracing the oscillation constitutive of such a hermeneutics as it serves variously to constitute media theory in the work of critics from McLuhan to Kittler, from Leroi-Gourhan to Stiegler, my interrogation ultimately conceptualizes the medium as an environment for life: by giving concrete form to ‘epiphylogenesis’ (the exteriorization of human evolution), concrete media find their most ‘originary’ function not as artifacts but via their participation in human technogenesis (our co-evolution with technics).

Hansen’s reconceptualization of media has been a key point of reference in my own attempts to theorize the ecology of “postnaturalism,” which turns on the notion of a constantly evolving “anthropotechnical interface.” One of the things that I tried to do in my engagement with Hansen’s thought was to expand it and to push the notion of media as environment beyond the qualification “for life,” arguing that media constitute the environment for agency in a broader sense, both living and non-living. One could say, in fact, that this is equivalent to saying that media constitute the environment period. And, interestingly, in the video above (from the transmediale 2011), we find Hansen working towards precisely this type of expanded approach: a non-anthropocentric, non-biocentric, positively cosmological notion of media.

Artificial Life and Uncanny Animation in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

The next meeting of the Film & TV Reading Group will take place at 6:00 pm (s.t.) on January 18, 2012 (in room 609 of the Conti-Hochhaus). Thomas Habedank will be moderating the session, for which he has chosen a very interesting article by Livia Monnet entitled “A-Life and the Uncanny in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” (from Science Fiction Studies 31.1 (2004), 97-121).

While focusing on the 2001 film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (see imdb for more info), in certain respects the paper’s topic picks up on a facet of our discussion of Romero’s zombie films–the question of the uncanny. The paper links this question to a certain historical moment and the media transition from analog to digital forms, to questions of adaptations between film and videogames, and to broader questions of “animation” as both a specific form of film and a basic impulse of film in general.

No prior familiarity with the Final Fantasy franchise or the film is required in order to participate. We will watch some relevant clips to facilitate discussion, and the topic should be conducive to discussion along the lines of a wide variety of interests in moving-picture media.

As always, new participants are more than welcome to join us. For more information about the Film & TV Reading Group, feel free to contact me by e-mail (see the “Contact” page above for the address).

Nightmare Before Christmas

On Wednesday, December 21, 2011 (6pm, room 609 in the Conti-Hochhaus), the Film & TV Reading Group will meet to discuss Steven Shaviro’s “Contagious Allegories: George Romero,” a chapter from his now classic book The Cinematic Body. In the spirit of the holiday season, though, and in light of the fitting subject matter, we’ve decided to make it into a somewhat more festive event than usual: we’ll start off by screening the first of Romero’s zombie movies, Night of the Living Dead (1968). Glühwein and zombies: it just doesn’t get much more Christmas-y than that!

Film & TV Reading Group: Lynn Spigel on TV, Housewives, and MoMA

The Film & TV Reading Group at the Leibniz Universität Hannover will be meeting this Wednesday, November 30, 2011, to discuss Lynn Spigel‘s “Television, The Housewife, and the Museum of Modern Art” (in Television after TV: Essays on a Medium in Transition, ed. Lynn Spigel and Jan Olsson; Durham & London: Duke UP, 2004; pp. 349-385).

Lynn Spigel will be one of our keynote speakers at “Cultural Distinctions Remediated: Beyond the High, the Low, and the Middle,” December 15-17, 2011. Her talk is entitled “Designer TV: Television and the Taste for Modernism in Mid-Century America” (click for abstract).

The reading group will meet at 6:00 pm in room 609 (in the “Conti-Hochhaus” at Königsworther Platz 1). New members are always welcome to join us!

Film & TV Reading Group: Jason Mittell on Narrative Complexity

The Film & TV Reading Group at the Leibniz Universität Hannover will be meeting next Wednesday, October 26, 2011, to discuss Jason Mittell’s oft-cited article “Narrative Complexity in Contemporary American Television” (from The Velvet Light Trap 58 (Fall 2006), also downloadable from Mittell’s website at Middlebury College here). We will meet at 6:00 pm in room 609 (in the “Conti-Hochhaus” at Königsworther Platz 1). New members are always welcome to join us!

Test Pattern: Film & TV Reading Group

Just a quick reminder: the first meeting of the Film & TV Reading Group will take place on Wednesday, July 13 at 2:15 pm in room 608 (6th floor, Conti-Hochhaus). We hope to get a preliminary plan for next semester put together, based on the interests of the participants who show up. So bring along some ideas, and feel free to pass this along to anyone who might be interested in joining us. Thank you!

Film & TV Reading Group

In connection with the Initiative für interdisziplinäre Medienforschung, Florian Groß and Shane Denson are planning a film and television reading group, open to interested students, PhD candidates, and faculty members alike. Beginning in the coming winter semester, we plan to meet regularly to discuss classic and contemporary texts in film and television studies (including both general theoretical texts and more narrowly focused, applied studies as well). Both readings and discussions can be in German or English, and texts will be chosen according to the interests and needs of the participants. In order to get a first assessment of who might be interested, as well as what kinds of topics participants are interested in, we would like to meet once in the remainder of the summer semester and discuss possibilities and plans for next semester. Our preliminary meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 13 at 2:15 pm in room 608 (6th floor Conti-Hochhaus). For more information, please contact Shane Denson (see the “About” page for contact info).