Colloquium | Cynthia Chris

Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - 12:00pm

Cynthia Chris

Subjunctive Desires: Becoming Animal in The Metamorphosis and Green Porno

What would it be like to live underground or underwater, to spin a web or to light one’s own way, bioluminescently? None of our human selves will ever really know, but riffing on sex education and wildlife films, Isabella Rossellini explores these very questions in her series of short films Green Porno and Seduce Me, becoming the worm, the salmon, the spider, and the firefly, among other animals, wearing fabric wings and cardboard fins. Similarly, in Franz Kafka’s wonderful tragedy The Metamorphosis (1915), the traveling salesmen Gregor Samsa wakes up to find that he is not quite himself: in fact, he has become a bug. In this talk, Cynthia Chris explores Rossellini’s short films, and Kafka’s novella, against and through the lens of the delirious passages on “becoming animal” in Deleuze and Guattari’s Thousand Plateaus. Rossellini’s animal films constitute an alternative to — and an implicit criticism of — conventional wildlife films with which audiences are familiar and commonplace assumptions about sexual behavior across species. They are also a Sundance Channel experiment in short-form filmmaking for the web and mobile devices that renovates, with humor, the place and form of environmental documentary.

Cynthia Chris is Associate Professor in the Department of Media Culture at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York. She is author of Watching Wildlife (University of Minnesota Press, 2006), and co-editor of Cable Visions: Television Beyond Broadcasting, with Sarah Banet-Weiser and Anthony Freitas (New York University Press, 2007), and Media Authorship, with Davide Gerstner (Routledge, 2013). She has contributed to Animals and the Human Imagination (Columbia University Press, 2012), as well as Feminist Media Studies, Camera Obscura, Communication Review, and Television and New Media.

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