Bio

DEBORAH LEVITT

Assistant Professor of Culture & Media Studies:

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The central focus of my research and teaching is on how media­–old and new–transform both everyday experience and expanded global, political spheres. As part of my work as a media historian and theorist, I am interested in film, post-cinema, animation, literature, cultural theory, and science and technology studies. My research is motivated by a search for intersections between only apparently divergent domains. Similarly, in my courses, I encourage students to connect their daily engagements with media of all kinds to the archaeologies and larger social structures and forces that inform them.

In my first book, The Animatic Apparatus: Animation, Vitality, and The Futures of the Image (Zero Books, 2018), I show how the ascendance of animation and simulation shift the concept of “life” in contemporary culture and call on us to rethink central concepts of ethics in response to these changes. Media examples, drawn from animation, anime, pop culture, and the historical imaginaries of artificial life, feature prominently.

In my current book project, “Rendering Worlds,” I investigate how understanding lives as media forms and media as life forms opens a way to address the actual state of emergency today: how to enable pluralism and promote ecological regeneration in the era of planetary computing and post-truth. I demonstrate how the technical and aesthetic affordances of post-cinema, digital animation, and VR allow us to create and experience worlds that model different experiences of vitality and liveliness, and different forms of sociality, in existing worlds and for possible futures.

My third book project, “ZoeTropes,” takes a longer view of mediatic entanglements with techniques and logics of the living. From eighteenth-century tableaux vivants and proto-cinematic optical toys to affective computing and ALife programs in digital cinema, I investigate how media technologies and texts influence and produce our conceptions of life, namely, the ways in which we distinguish animate beings from inanimate ones, organic from inorganic, the lively from the inert. I consider, in turn, how these new forms inform and contemporary debates on the proper beginnings, endings, and uses of “life” in and beyond biopolitics.

Degrees Held:

PhD, Film, Literature, and Culture, University of Southern California;
BA, English and Film, University of Colorado

Professional Affiliations:

Society for Cinema and Media Studies
Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts