[jahsonic.com] - [Next >>]

Scott Bukatman

Related: science fiction - American academia


Prof. Bukatman holds a Ph.D. in Cinema Studies from New York University. He is the author of two books: Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction, published by Duke University Press, was one of the earliest book-length studies of "cyberculture", and is currently in its third printing. The book combined close readings of film, fiction, comics, games and journalism to identify and analyze an emergent subjectivity within electronic culture. The emphasis was on, first, the ways in which science fiction anticipated the discourses of postmodernism and provided a template for the critical discourses of such theorists as Debord, Baudrillard, Haraway, Jameson and others and, second, isolating a phenomenological dimension to the supposedly disembodied discourses of digital culture. Bukatman's second book, a monograph on Blade Runner commissioned by the British Film Institute, continued to explore the intersection of cinema and technological experience, this time by reading the film against the background of Georg Simmel's urban sociology and city films of the 1920s and 1930s.

Bukatman has also published in such journals as Camera Obscura, Architecture New York, October, and Iris, and his work (both original and reprinted) has appeared in many anthologies. A collection of essays, considering special effects as a paradigmatic of the experience of modernity, and popular media as, in fact, mediating between new technologies and human perceptual experience, is one of his next projects. Bukatman taught extensively, at New York University, Yale University, the Free University in Berlin, and elsewhere. He was part of the Media Arts Program at the University of New Mexico from 1994-1997, helping to develop a program in film studies. Since 1997 has been a faculty member in both the departments of Art History and Comparative Literature at Stanford University, where he has also been working on the establishment of a film studies program. He has lectured extensively in both the United States and Europe. In 1988, Bukatman curated a major retrospective of the film and television work of Jerry Lewis for the American Museum of the Moving Image in New York City, and in 1994 he was a co-organizer of "Cine City: Film and Perceptions of Urban Space 1895-1995" at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.

Courses that Bukatman has developed include the usual array of film aesthetics and theory courses, but also a range of interdisciplinary, intermedial offerings including: Cinema and the City, World's Fairs and Theme Parks, Cyborgs and Synthetic Humans, Phenomenology of Film, Theories of the Information Age, and Film and the Machine Age. He co-taught with an architectural historian (while at UNM) and a philologist (at Stanford). He is currently preparing a book on the presentation of New York as a utopian, performative space of modernist concentration in musical film sequences, to be called Syncopated City.

Science fiction and musicals are more similar than they might at first appear, Bukatman argues, as spectacle, performance and kaleidoscopic excess become legitimate means of negotiating -- conceptually and physically -- the spaces of increasingly technologized existence. The potential threat of technology is contained, but not forgotten, through embodied play within such immerse technological environments as cinema, amusement parks, world's fairs, and virtual reality. --http://www.stanford.edu/dept/art/people/bios/bukatman.html [Dec 2004]

Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction (1993) - Scott Bukatman

The Science Fiction of the Spectacle

Writings on the mass media, and television in particular, concentrate on the passivity of the audience in the face of the spectacle. The seductiveness of the media have apparently resulted in the decline of moral values, the trivialising of politics, the increase of illiteracy, shorter attention spans and a heightened capacity for violent behavior - all from the surrender of the consumer. (See the books by Mander and Winn for the most hysterical examples. Of course, I would not entirely separate myself from such a view.) The invasion of "the real" by the proliferating forms of "the spectacle" in much science fiction and critical theory might in fact serve as a metaphorical projection of the threatened subversion of language and its claims to veracity. In Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 (1953), to take an obvious example, books are burned and written language has been forcibly superseded by television - an explicit turning against the word. Book burning is no idle choice on Bradbury's part, summoning up as it does overwhelming images of the Inquisition, the Holocaust, and the successive waves of fundamental hysteria in contemporary America. The overthrow of the Word is presented as tantamount to the overthrow of Reason itself, leaving an infantilized - if not barbaric - citizenry poised passively before the pseudo-satisfactions of the spectacle; bereft of the ability to think, judge, and know. The 1966 film adaptation by Truffaut emphasises this by limiting reading-matter to wordless comic books, an evocation of the pre-literate status of the young child. In fact, and as a large number of contemporary artists (Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer, for example) have acknowledged, the Word has become a complicit part of the image culture, especially within the constructs of consumer society. [...] http://wwwmcc.murdoch.edu.au/ReadingRoom/7.2/Bukatman.html [Dec 2004]

Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction (1993) - Scott Bukatman [Amazon.com]
As dense as it is deep, Bukatman's work is essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in science fiction, postmodern theory, or the relationship between technology and human culture. The glowing reviews by Bruce Sterling and Larry McCaffery were well-deserved, and this book will have a permanent place on my bookshelf (right next to Storming the Reality Studio). I had never heard of Scott Bukatman before finding this book, but I now look forward to reading anything he writes in the future. -- alone@waste.org for amazon.com

your Amazon recommendations - Jahsonic - early adopter products

Managed Hosting by NG Communications