Ph.D. Projects

Valerie Dirk

European film festivals and the Aesthetics of Realism

European film festivals may be understood as sites where cinematic aesthetics and politics manifest. Starting from this premise, the proposed dissertation focuses on the formation of discursive and paratextual agencies in and around FIAPF-accredited A-Festivals, in order to investigate the creation and construction of realism/notations of truth and Weltbezug, by taking a closer look on the media coverage of the festivals in Cannes, Berlin, Karlovy Vary, Locarno and Venice from the 1990s until now. This approach of considering realist aesthetics, specific institutional frameworks and paratextual attributions as interdependent generates new perspectives for the study of realism in film and media studies.

Theresa Eisele

Of Theatre and Cultural Stages: Theatricality and Jewishness in Fin de siècle Vienna

The dissertation project takes a look at the negotiations of Jewishness, both on- and offstage, in Fin de Siècle Vienna. Putting an emphasis on Vienna as a nucleus of diverse knowledges around 1900, the research centers the mutual relationship between theatre traditions of different provenance, and links them to the discussions about “Eastern” and “Western” Jewry. By exploring how Jewishness was performed on stage and perceived beyond the scenes, the project connects concepts of theatricality with the European Jewish experiences of Modernity in a broader context. In doing so, the project outlines a multilayered framework from a theatre historical perspective, attempting an alternative mapping of Fin-de-Siècle Vienna, where high culture and popular culture, theatre stage and public sphere, interlock gradually. It aims for a narrative that simultaneously sheds a light on European-Jewish history and on concepts of self-construction in the Viennese Modern Age.

Birgit Haberpeuntner

Beyond “The Task of the Translator”: Walter Benjamin and Cultural Translation

For years, a pronounced interest in translation has been observed throughout the Humanities. The concept, however, has increasingly detached from linguistic-textual parameters, and, tellingly, it has become the basis for a broad spectrum of discussions subsumed under the heading of "Cultural Translation“. This concept is constantly re-invented, and it is often used to focus attention on in-between spaces and to deconstruct what has been imagined as binary oppositions. In their own (re-)formulations of this concept, a remarkable number of scholars—Bhabha, Venuti, Niranjana, Simon, to name but a few—explicitly refer to Walter Benjamin, who wrote about translation in the early decades of the 20th century, mainly in his essay “Die Aufgabe des Übersetzers” (1921/1923). Birgit Haberpeuntner examines the exceptionally broad reception of Walter Benjamin in English-language publications relating to Cultural Translation. How do contemporary scholars incorporate Benjamin’s texts in their own writings, and what becomes of the German-Jewish critic and philosopher, his texts and his ideas? Is Benjamin invoked in an attempt to vindicate the validity of an unstable concept in intra- and interdisciplinary transfer? Or do developing concepts that travel in and between disciplines allow for the discovery, and rediscovery, of genuinely ‘new Benjamins’? With these questions in mind, intertextual transfers are examined for shifts and fractions, but also for the possibility of opening new ‘image-spaces’ and ‘rooms-for-play’.

Melanie Konrad

Arrangements of Familiarity. Trans- und Intermedial Negotiations of Queer Kinship in Photographic Media

The family photo album and the family home-video – as artefacts that arrange, document, conserve and structure remembrance and memory – can be apprehended as media of the arrangement of familiarity. Thereby they can be seen as forms of the self-reflective medial processing of experiences in the generation and elaboration of contents and memories. Memory and remembrance are connected to subjects that reciprocally constitute them and are constituted by them; they are complex and undergo change. The political comprehensibility of such artistic-medial expression unfolds with their resistance to socio-political norms and commonplaces i.e. the (hetero-)normative temporal and semantic order of bourgeois society. The actual increasing visibility and judicial legitimation of conditions for queer kinship in the everyday life of Western industrialised societies is indicative of certain forms of social stabilisation of queer forms of family and family-like life. Since the early 2000s we see a growing popularity of images that deal with queer kinship in so-called mainstream media. Yet, the (de-)construction of family lies at the heart of the political struggles surrounding LGBTIQ* issues because LGBTIQ* practices challenge in a vast variety of ways the bourgeois nuclear family. The question how sex/gender and sexuality are performatively (re-)produced in the context of the LGBTIQ* family in media is, therefore, a question of the politics of media and images that support these constructions. The research project aims to investigate medial arrangements of the family from a queer-feminist, media-culture studies-oriented perspective. The necessary analytical framework will be developed in engagement with the research material. The research will reflect on queer-feminist media theory and analysis (Engel, Foucault, Butler and Halberstam) by way of a contextualization through certain approaches of Critical Theory (Benjamin and Kluge).

Laura Katharina Mücke

Anti | Immersion? The Performativity of Filmic Experience between Approximation and Distanciation

Current interest in and enthusiasm for immersive environments and media experiences notwithstanding, one aspect of recipients' engagement with immersive artefacts has been curiously neglected: the need for aesthetic distance as an integral part of the immersive experience. Rethinking immersion as a perceptive phenomenon, my project develops the concept of "anti-immersion", which includes – beneath the approximative qualities – the simultaneously operating process of distanciation. Immersion is thus conceived as a double-sided process, in which the bodily positions between film and viewer are continuously reframed. Under these circumstances, approximation and distanciation connect the filmic with the contextual layers of our existence to evoke a multilayered experience. Referring to concrete media experiences, the dynamization of immersion allows us to explain the complex challenges that contemporary hybrid media environments confront us with. In this tradition, my project will examine historical phenomena like Vaudeville theatre as well as Expanded Cinema, Secret Cinema, and interactive movies.

Stefan Schweigler

Shame and Pain. Media Dispositifs of the Home in the Context of Queer Affect (working title)

There are media phenomena of both Art and Popular Culture that, critically queer, re-attend to the political refuge of domestic inwardness – yet, neither addressing homonormative dreams of housing nor ‘gay pride’. The project researches that kind of current, queer and queerfeminist media practices and motives of the home, of privacy and of housing, which articulate spaces of debilitating negative affects and bad feelings (such as shame, failure, sadness, loneliness, forlornness and pain).
In doing so, the dissertation develops and defends the notion and observation of a ‘domestic turn’ within queer politics, which is currently formative for different understandings of resistance in queerfeminism. By reflecting on the history of domestic media, the increasing queer focus on homes and debilitating bad feelings responds to ambivalent developments with regard to housing (smart homes and home offices on the one side, gentrification, precariousness and depression on the other) as well as to the history of political queer affects of being punk/indignant (queercore) or gleefully ‘proud out loud’ (gay pride).
With a blended methodological approach of dispositif analysis, media ecology and ANT-related passivity studies, the project seeks to understand the critically queer usage of domestic media as a specific techné (Rancière), which shall be defined as a considerably different notion of the ‘connected home’ compared to that of the smart home, since this queer techné puts ethical concepts of empathy and solidarity onto its political agenda.

Stefan Sulzenbacher

Post-televisual Technologies of the Self. Male Subjectifications in Recent Serial Narratives from an ANT and Dispositive Analytical Perspective (working title)

The interdisciplinary dissertation project examines media- and gendertheoretical aspects of the currently much-discussed phenomenon of (television) series. The project assumes that posttelevisual "quality" series are currently privileged cultural locations, where negotiations and reciprocal processes of constitution, de-stabilization and restabilization of television and masculinities take place. Masculinities are thereby negotiated and (re-)defined as entanglements of narrative themes and sets of cultural practices of (re)mediation. The focus of the study lies on subjectifications of masculinities through posttelevisual self-technologies, through media practices that are still subsumed under the term "television" in everyday life, but are not (anymore) bound to a clearly defined medium. Using different practices of excessive series experience like binge-watching, collecting and accessing series, the project explores various bundles of serialized post-televisual practices and their entanglement with discourses and materialities. In doing so, the research project will draw on and connect studies of masculinities, actor-network theory and dispositive analysis. The aim of the project is to analyze subjectivizations of masculinities in the context of current serial television practices as the effects of posttelevisual self-technologies, which are understood as part of contemporary media governmentality.

Sara Tiefenbacher

'Cultural mobility'. Österreichische Dramatiker_innen in Polen. Polnische Dramatiker_innen in Österreich: ein interkultureller Theaterdiskurs (Arbeitstitel)

The dissertation project deals with cultural mobility between Poland and Austria in contemporary theatre. At the intersection of theatre historiography, cultural studies and political and social history, this work describes and documents examples of cultural mobility on the basis of selected theatre productions. Polish and Austrian actors such as the director Krystian Lupa, the authors Thomas Bernhard and Małgorzata Sikorska-Miszczuk as well as theatre festivals such as the Wiener Festwochen are examined. With the concept of cultural mobility, the project includes transnational approaches ('mobility studies'). It looks at mutual exchange from two different perspectives. This theatre exchange investigation between Poland and Austria makes a significant contribution to the research field: it opens up a wider chronological perspective (time horizon), contextualises the respective examples in terms of theatre-historical and (cultural-)political aspects and focuses on mobility. The aim of this project is to illustrate different forms of cultural mobility using case studies (theatre productions) and to point out which perspectives are opened up by this mutual discourse on theatre between Poland and Austria.