Sheehan Lecture - Keith Leslie Johnson
Keith L. Johnson, Professor, Assistant Professor of English and Humanities at Augusta State UniversityAssistant Professor of English and Humanities at Augusta State University
Nov 02, 2012
from 04:00 pm to 06:00 pm
|Where||Room 139, Shumaker Research Bldg.|
|Contact Name||Steven Gonzales|
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Teratology without Monsters: Exanthropism and District 9
The temptation, whenever we encounter monsters, is to read them allegorically. And at whatever allegorical level we read monsters, the tendency is to situate them like objects in a Wunderkammer—curiosities wrenched from perverse nature, domesticated and displayed as trophies of anthropocentrism. Or worse, they are hung like mirrors in a funhouse, where we delight in our own distorted reflections. Such forms of (human, all- too-human) self-representation are important and illuminating in their own right, but if only as a supplement we might try to think monsters at their most insistently, radically exanthropic, outside and fundamentally beyond human concerns. Just as Tim Morton calls for an “ecology without nature”—an ecology that does not straightaway fetishize “nature” as a concept—we might likewise call for a teratology without monsters. Neill Blomkamp's recent sci-fi film District 9 presents an opportunity to explore just such a teratology, precisely because its allegorical reading is presented up front. The film so conspicuously registers its allegorical connections to apartheid that the viewer is practically invited to think beyond them, to think against the grain, to think, impossibly, an alien thought. Such speculative attempts are always doomed to failure—we are, at day's end, inexorably human—but the attempt itself carries with it a vital and liberating potential.
Leslie Johnson received his PhD in English from Boston University, where he was Presidential Fellow, with a dissertation on the relation of ethics to questions of form in Levinas, Wittgenstein, Benjamin, Beckett, Bernhard, and Kafka. A revised version of the last chapter won the Kafka Society of America’s inaugural Emerging Scholar Prize. He is currently an Assistant Professor of English and Humanities at Augusta State University in Georgia, where he teaches courses on modernism, critical theory, and world literature.