04 May 2009

Reformed, Refragmentalized, Referential


Note: Loyal RNJ readers will, i'm sure, quickly note that i already posted these ideas earlier, but i think i see them a bit more clearly now, and i'd like to offer them up for comment, ridicule, or questions before i submit them to my (as yet not fully formed) committee.

My prelim areas will focus on the postmodern concept of the fragment, but i'd like to tie this idea of, which i've referred to as 'supermodern' elsewhere, to the 'pre-postmodern' formulation of the fragment as well, which comes through especially for me in the work of Walter Benjamin in the form of the aphorism and short essays. Mostly, though, 'the fragment' or 'fragmentation' is being used as a way to connect seemingly disparate areas of interest for me, namely:

1. Fragmented Bodies - This section, which starts at my interest in zombies - and so, extends itself to ideas about corpses, death, funerary tradition, and display - might more aptly be called "Fragmented Bodies, Fragmented Lives". I want to consider not only the unfortunate case of the zombie, of the undead, of we might term 'bare life', but also the parallel bare life that is stripped bare by human forces, namely that of refugees, of die Fl├╝chtlinge. This section will also consider other implications of zombie theory, such as theories of revolution, consumption, and ressentiment (thanks Patrick). Fragmented Bodies is also the place in which i will explore representations of bodies (mostly dead, but also alive) in film (The Act of Seeing With One's Own Eyes), fiction, and exhibitions (from Body Worlds to funeral homes). Finally, this representation theory will bring me to the representation of non-human bodies (animals & Cyborgs, for instance).

2. Fragmented Cities - Again, i come to this section through a specific project, namely my interest in urban exploration, but my formulation of urban exploration as an alternative form of tourism gives me a larger body of work in which to place this section. Starting from 'theory of tourism' (Dean MacCannell, for one), i want to explore the concept of redefining and remaking place both from the perspective of the tourist and from the perspective of urban planning (think Milwaukee's Third Ward as one example of this). In a post-industrial economy, former warehouses, factories, and mills are being transformed into places of leisure, luxury, and amusement. A very different kind of rebranding occurs when places and events of atrocity become memorialized. The resulting Museum Kult, the draw of seeking out 'authentic experiences' of history, is a kind of 're-placing', a re-creation of space. The tourist's experience of an actual space of 'historical meaning' alters that meaning. I want to examine this process of alteration.

3. Fragmented Narratives - Finally, i want to look at places where 'pure narrative' breaks down: in postmodern narratives (Think House of Leaves), in frame narratives (and more interestingly broken frame narratives like Frankenstein and Transit), and, finally, in non-narrative forms such as avant-garde cinema. Traditional narrative theory (Noel Carroll? Lewis Carroll?) tells us that narrative is a construction of suspense. A sequence of readers asking 'whatnextwhatnext-whatnext?', but i will also investigate (through Ricouer at the outset, then others) what happens when the reader doesn't necessarily ask this question, or asks it out of fear or desperation (think of a Kafkian-bureaucratic nightmare). Alternately, in a novel of boredom (sorry, Ron), nothing seems to happen next, causing the reader instead to ask something more like 'so what?' (sorry, Professor Veeder).

How's this sound? Can i really go to school for this?

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