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Keynote: Eugenie Brinkema

Eugenie Brinkema is Associate Professor of Contemporary Literature and Media at MIT. She received her B.A. in Film Studies from Yale University, her M.A. from the University at Buffalo English Department, where she worked with the Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Culture, and her Ph.D. in 2010 from Brown University’s Department of Modern Culture and Media. Her research in film and media studies focuses on affect, violence, sexuality, aesthetics, and ethics in texts ranging from the horror film to European Extremism to the visual and temporal forms of terrorism. Her articles have appeared in numerous journals including differences, Camera Obscura, Angelaki, Criticism, The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, World Picture, Discourse, and in anthologies on Michael Haneke, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and rape in art cinema. In 2014, her book The Forms of the Affects was published with Duke University Press. Forthcoming work includes a set of articles on rough form and rhythm in extreme pornography and an essay on degradation and abasement in the films of Larry Clark. Her current book project considers a set of abstract forms—the ordinal, the alphabet, the diagram, the grid, the nothing—in relation to philosophical theories of finitude in order to argue for a formalized ethics of violence in horror.

The keynote address, entitled “Touching on the Diagram (or, The Human Centipede),” will take place Saturday, October 18 at 6:00 PM in the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium. This talk contemplates the figure of enchainment in one of the more graphic films of contemporary horror and exploitation cinema, Tom Six’s The Human Centipede (2009), which literalizes intolerable fastening, an anxiety of overclose touching, in the conceit of its title—a cruel violence in which three bodies are sewn to each other, mouth to anus. Moving from a different account of captivation, Levinas’ insistence in De L’évasion of an ethic of bonded responsibility for the finite other to whom one is both host and hostage, this paper turns to the ways in which The Human Centipede articulates its mode of violence through the mechanism of a diagram, one that does not represent embodied experiences of violence, nor that provokes them experientially, but rather a violence whose reductive formalism is coextensive with its brutality.