The Ecopolitics of Horror
Join us for a panel discussion on "The Ecopolitics of Horror," with co-presenters UC Riverside graduate student Brittany Roberts, and Penn State degree candidate Bethany Doane, moderated by Sherryl Vint, UCR Professor & Director, Speculative Fiction and Cultures of Science program.
As a courtesy to attendees, the Special Collections Exhibit Mark Glassy and Frankenstein: Men of Many Parts, will be open for viewing until 6 p.m.
Bethany Doane: Reading Weirdly: The Political Ambivalences of Horror.
Abstract: As a mode, weird fiction emerged in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries in the work of authors like Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, and H.P. Lovecraft, who responded with both awe and skepticism to the political and epistemic legacies of the Enlightenment that manifested as paradigms of rationalism and positivism. Unlike classic science fiction, which extrapolates possible futures from these developments, weird fiction attempts to think toward the unthinkable by imagining what lies beyond human perceptual, epistemic, and phenomenological limits. As several scholars have rightfully noted, many of these early weird authors were also associated with reactionary, racist, and misogynistic politics that permeate their texts. This talk examines the politics of reading and writing communities for weird and horror fiction from its early days of the Lovecraftian "old weird" to the contemporary "new weird" moment in big-name authors like Kaitlin R. Kiernan, Jeff VanderMeer, China Mieville, and Victor Lavalle, among others. It follows the weird's fascination with the "outside" as one of such ambivalence that it easily opens to both reactionary and radical interpretations.
Bio: Bethany Doane is a PhD dual-degree candidate (ABD) at Penn State University in English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her dissertation project draws on critical theory, feminist studies, and genre literature in order to posit the aesthetic and conceptual significance of weird fiction and horror in the contemporary moment. Her research has been published in philoSOPHIA and is also forthcoming in Modern Language Studies. Her other research areas include 20th and 21st century American literature, feminist and queer theory, philosophies of race, and media studies.
Brittany Roberts: Between the Living and the Dead: Vegetal Afterlives in Evgenii Iufit and Vladimir Maslov's Silver Heads.
Abstract: In Evgenii Iufit and Vladimir Maslov’s post-Soviet sf film Silver Heads (1998), scientists replace human cells with a “synthesis of human and wood molecules” in order to impart human bodies with the endurance of trees. However, the experiment is unpredictable: though they aim to create a more physiologically perfect human, hybridization diffuses the human across a mixture of non-human elements. Vegetal life, then, is not so easily appropriated; the new human being is no longer recognizably human. Exhibiting neither reason nor rationality, the beings created by these experiments inhabit an alternative form of non-cognitive vitality that renders them both human and non-human and—like the plant that recycles dead matter into new life—living and dead.
In this talk, Brittany Roberts examines Silver Heads alongside the critical plant studies of Michael Marder and the “forensic turn” advocated by Ewa Domanska to demonstrate how the film’s pursuit of a “life uncontaminated by human consciousness” presents an alternative to the anthropocentrism of both Soviet Marxist-Leninism and post-Soviet humanism. Through the film’s depictions of plant-human hybridity, explorations of posthuman vegetized life, and ontological investigations into “living death,” Silver Heads demonstrates new ways of relating to vegetal life and gestures toward new ontological and ecological possibilities for Homo sapiens.
Bio: Brittany Roberts is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature at UC Riverside, studying Russian and Anglophone literature and cinema. She focuses primarily on horror, science fiction, weird fiction, and ecology. Brittany is heavily inspired by posthumanism, animal studies, speculative realism, and new materialisms.