A Note On Current Work

Hello Dear Reader,

Just letting you know what I’m working on right now.

The end of Night of the Living Dead (1968) seems to haunt me more and more as I research and write on zombies, outbreak narratives, and biopolitics. Natalia Cecire (@ncecire on twitter) was dead on (no pun intended) when she told me that she considers that final scene a lynching. I had the pleasure and honor of meeting her a few months ago, and never really got to say so in person, so if you read this, thank you.

Currently, I’m plugging away at an article I am hoping to submit to a zombie collection. It’s examining how adding Critical Race Theory and Animal/Posthuman Theory to Biopolitical Analyses of Zombie and Outbreak fiction can deepen our understanding of the political and ethical stakes of these types of narratives, especially in their relation to terror, sovereignty, and oppression.

We’ll see how that all goes, I’ve really just gotten started.

I’m also reading Paul De Kruif’s 1926 smash hit, Microbe Hunters. I’m trying to take my time with this read, as it is completely enjoyable, full of speculative biographical flourishes that I thought would infuriate me, but really just won me over. I’ll do a short book review after I finish it.

I’m also gearing up for my Wyndham Lewis-athon. My first dissertation chapter will be on Lewis, T.S. Eliot, Crowd Theory, and contagion. I’m not ready to share anything right now, but I’ll try to get you some book reviews when I make my way through The Art of Being Ruled (1926), Hitler (1931), and The Hitler Cult (1939). I’m particularly excited to read these after having read  Blasting and Bombardiering (1937), which definitely does not sympathize very strongly with Hitler or the Nazis — as many of you probably know, Lewis is often accused of some very reasonably deduced Fascist leanings, and his 1931 study of Hitler is often characterized as ‘infatuated’. I’m intrigued to see how deep his sympathy runs, and how thoroughly recanted it is in 1939 — because Blasting and Bombardiering already does some work in separating himself from English Fascists, and from Hitler and the Nazis.

Whatever the case, I’ll let you know what I find, and maybe we can have a chat about it? If there are any Lewis scholars out there I would absolutely love to hear your take on his politics — that’s not really my area of interest, though it is directly related.

Happy Sunday, Happy Summer, Happy Reading!


An Introduction and an Invitation

Welcome Dear Readers,

As you probably know if you’ve found your way to this site, my name is Steven Pokornowski. I am currently a grad student in English at UCSB. This IS an academic blog, BUT don’t let that scare you away! This blog is intended to be an engaging, informative platform for me to think through and share my research and commentary on twentieth century literature and film. I hope to open and maintain a dialog that interests academics and non-academics alike.

My research is interested in examining narratives centering around infection and immunity in the twentieth century from a biopolitical perspective. I am particularly interested in how the virus and the zombie serve as figures embodying certain fears of infection and contamination; putting pressure on the limits of life, health, and the human and showing that those terms are not binary poles, but rather extremes on a set of continuums (their opposition being death, illness, and inhumanity/monstrosity, respectively).

I am interested primarily in literature and film, and examining how political and biological notions and dilemmas influence and are influenced by high and popular culture. Given that, my project examines infection and immunity from a broad range of sources in the twentieth century: from crowd theory, to modernism, to absurdism, to zombie films, to PSAs, to medical journal articles. This mixture may sound eclectic and wide-ranging, but I strongly believe — and hope this blog will convince you as well — that considering these works in constellation together reveals some very troubling and interesting things about how Western, Anglo-American culture(s) views threats to biosecurity, national security, health, and life itself.

Put another way, I’m interested in analyzing and commenting upon the shifting limits and representations of life and death, health and illness, and humanity and monstrosity.

As I see it, in the twentieth century, two major figures emerge as markers of this fraught and complex biopolitical web: the virus and the zombie. As my work aims to show, these figures are also related to one another historically and representationally.

The introductory part of this post out of the way, let me get on to the invitation.

Please join me as I explore the nuances of the representation, politics, and ethics of the virus-zombie nexus. We’ll see how these figures embody a fear of infection, provoke a dream of immunity, and fuel a problematic logic of self-defense.

We will draw from the work of such thinkers as Roberto Esposito, Giorgio Agamben, Jacques Derrida, and Rosi Braidotti. We will examine texts from Wyndham Lewis and Samuel Beckett, Max Brooks, Robert Kirkman, and more! We will comment on and discuss films by the Halperin brothers, George Romero, Danny Boyle, Steven Soderbergh, and others, too!

If I have piqued your interest, stay tuned for updates on my work, ruminations on the work of others, film and book reviews, and a lively discussion.