Research Statement

Overview

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 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 outlets. Owing to a diverse education in literary theory, philosophy, semantics, and semiotics, my research 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 conversations. My research interests respectively align with my past, present, and future across the following themes.

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.

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.

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.

The Neuroethics of Science Fiction

Constant exposure to the work of neuroethical decisions in popular narratives has been culturally productive, insofar as it has largely contributed to the creation of a complicated US-American neuroculture, which at once venerates and rejects both normalizing and atypical ideas of the brain. How do we make sense of the reasonable and irrational views we have about the brain and the ethical decisions we make based on them? From neuromanipulation and eugenics and to hope and horror, both modern and futuristic narratives explore what it means to be human, and by and through the creation and solution to neuroethical dilemmas foster a neuroculture. What is emerging? What does its creation change? By entangling narratology, anthropology, English, ethics, and neuroscience, I aim to investigate the neuroculture of narratives and explore particularly how its contours have been shaped by science fiction.