writing and research

I received my PhD in the Film and Visual Studies program at Harvard University in 2023. My dissertation, Reforming the Common Boundary: An Ethic of Technical Media, was supervised by Giuliana Bruno on a committee featuring Eugenie Brinkema, Laura Frahm, and Eric Rentschler. This two-part work, which I am currently transforming into a book manuscript, combines intellectual history and formal analysis to activate the ethical potential of media theory. “Media,” the first part argues, is not a term that merely  refers to specific objects, platforms, or operations that mediate. As a conceptual noun derived from Aristotelian philosophy, the term is fundamentally conceptual –– and it spurs consideration of how environmental, technological, and ideological dimensions of modern life engender and hinder human flourishing.

And while media critique justly considers ways that technologies deform our collective environments, Part Two exemplifies the potential of an alternate approach. It demonstrates how the media concept may also spur engagement with sensory experiences, of technical forms, that reform our ethical sensibilities for positive ends. By engaging Isaac Julien’s ten-screen installation Lessons of the Hour (2019) –– a work that considers and draws on Frederick Douglass’s ethical theories of photography –– as well as the film Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham, 2018), I show how close attention to media forms may expand our conceptions of collective flourishing.

My second book, A Spirit of Entertainment, will continue this work to consider the relations between “entertainment” and “hospitality,” in order to pursue the kind of hospitality we imply when we speak of entertaining ideas or guests. Such hospitality, I argue, requires attention to forms that may reform our sociopolitical life. This project will consider how hospitality formalized within cinema––in films like A Report on the Party and the Guests (Jan Němec, 1966), Babette’s Feast (Gabriel Axel, 1987), Funny Games (Michael Hanneke, 1997), and Lovers Rock (Steve McQueen, 2020)––may prompt our own hospitable entertainment of cinematic form, for ethically productive ends.The “objects” of my work are varied. In addition to the films above, I am currently writing about The Lego Movie for the Journal of Popular Culture, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice for Representations; and I have written about the installation “Everything and More” by Rachel Rose for the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the films Pig (Michael Sarnoski, 2021) and The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021) for the online magazine Between Lands. While this variety makes it difficult to slot me into the neoliberal logic of contemporary academia, this difficulty cannot be helped. My scholarship is less dependent on grouping like-minded objects than a single-minded pursuit of the ethical potential that varied technical environments contain.