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.