zea.me

Research Statement

 
 

As a cultural theorist, I examine the interplay of structure and meaning in narratives so as to uncover systemic models and rationally interrogate both their coherence and ramifications. In projects ranging from inspecting the foundations of genres to uncovering cognitive frames in scholarship, I aim in my research to unveil the work of cultural production. Rather than focus on revealing the concealed, I obliquely approach texts to trace the foundations, mechanisms, and complications of concealing structures. As this approach tends to stir interdisciplinary arguments, it fits well within conventional, critical mediums. Owing to a diverse education in literary theory, philosophy, semantics, and semiotics, my research interests and projects are situated in multiple discourse communities, and I am confident that this is the key to generating solutions. Above all, my research rests on a commitment to advancing transdisciplinary collaborations and conversations. My research interests respectively align with my past, present, and future across the following themes.

 

Structuralism, Semantics, and Semiotics
My structural work leverages semantics and semiotics as technologies for revealing cultural models in narratives, for verifying whether such models logically and coherently work, and for exploring whether they can operate with reasonable alternative variables, thereby discovering how they can be repaired. I have two publications stemming from this approach. One is a book chapter examining the ways in which the male characters in the BBC series Sherlock interact with women in their adventures, the ultimate result of which questions the very hero worship the series cultivates. The other is an article that processes the expression “runaway slave” through several semiotic models to expose its incoherence and then explores the ways in which it is paradoxically understood, even so, as functions of racist cognitive frames issuing from white investments in the language.

 
cubes3.png

Deleuzoguattarian Theory and Science Fiction
My dissertation three-dimensionally reconstructs Hjelmslev’s glossematic matrix (composed of the following quadrants: content-form, content-substance, expression-form, and expression-substance) in conjunction with Deleuze and Guattari's theoretical concepts in order to reveal the purport of science fiction (SF). I create this theoretical apparatus in the introduction. The following four chapters then examine the content-form, expression-form, content-substance, and expression-substance of SF through a Deleuzoguattarian lens. First, I question how we recognize SF if it has both no essential details and an evolving identity. The chapter shows how recognition outweighs contingent features, thereby revealing socio-cognitive frames that buttress such recognition, and ultimately proposes a cognitive model for recognizing SF. Second, I advance an argument for a new generic paradigm for SF, whereby a narrative without chapters as a generic abstract machine can be deployed to differentiate all narratives, without defining them, while still allowing genres to define themselves, which refines the theoretical framework currently buttressing SF theory. Third, I examine Clarke's The City and the Stars (1956) to advance our understanding of anoedipal bodies in the text and the fascist machines that give rise to them, which calls into question the continental death of the author who must make choices in an oedipalized world while creating one. Fourth, I explore the deployment, seizure, reclamation, and loss of power as functions of destruction across several SF texts while advancing and interrogating the implications through theory, the ultimate result of which shows that SF is becoming destructive. Finally, the conclusion synthesizes the content and expression forms and substances from the previous four chapters to show SF to be a socio-cognitive capacity to recognize prototypes through generic gravity for a future of unavoidably oedipal technological enclosures where society has moved beyond a state of control to a crisis of destruction. My dissertation disrupts the dominant contemporary conception of SF as having an identity, or being, by committing it to the ontology of becoming. Such a re-conception frees SF from retrospective determinations. Essentially, this project enters the critical conversation on SF by proposing, first, to sidestep the need for generic determinations and, second, to accept it as an evolutionary process entangling cognition, parameters, creation, and trends. I intend to transition the chapters into articles.

 

Wittgenstein's Narratological Worlds
My future research stems from the conclusion reached in my dissertation, namely, that if SF can neither be defined nor described, has an evolving identity but no essential features, then, like all concepts, a cognitive frame must prototype SF narratives. While such reasoning led to a model for recognizing SF, particularly, I am confident that I can broadly develop it into a cognitive theory of narratives based on Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922). To the extent that only marked, informative differences from reality function within narratological arenas, world-like narratives are therefore case-like, insofar as "the world is everything that is the case." Thus, narratives are worlds where everything within its field of operations is its case. The particular ways in which the marked functions are distributed within worlds determines narratological content and expression, which are beyond description but not culturally produced cognitive frames. That is to say, by building a narratological world with estranging elements, all narratives would be everything that is the case with either something that is not or a cluster of things that are not. Such a Wittgensteinian theory of narratives would bypass the need to define genres by, instead, describing the operation of narratives, for all structural deviations from the world can be mapped to a schema. In this way, not only can the generational drive to refine how we describe science fiction and fantasy, for example, finally be arrested, but also can the artificial divide that separates genre fiction from mimetic fiction finally evaporate.

Although my research interests are wide, my approach remains consistent: to reveal the work of cultural production, to explore how it operates, and more importantly to examine how it can be broken or repaired, as needed. Moreover, as someone specializing in the intersection of genre and theory, my research both has a broad scope and great portability across national borders. This international reach, coupled with an objective to foster transdisciplinary conversations, ensures that my research will be noticed and contribute to the intellectual life of the department.