Before arriving in Chicago to work towards an M.A. in the humanities, I had a varied undergraduate career at the University of Rhode Island. There I received a B.S. in Marine Biology, a B.A. in English and a minor in art. I spent a year studying in Florence, Italy before graduating. After graduation I spent two years working and thinking. Finally, I couldn’t help but be seduced entirely by the humanities and began the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities at the University of Chicago where I took Professor Mitchell’s Theories of Media class during Winter quarter 2004.
My interest in science survives in my engagement with media theory. It surfaces in my interest in thinking about the body and medication as media and how these media problematize and/or contribute to ideas of subjectivity. Specifically I am drawn to psychotropic medications which exploded into American consciousness in 1987 with the arrival of Prozac. These medications prompt questions about agency and authenticity; they are called everything from miracle cures to dangerous toxins, from libratory to homogenizing. Some individuals feel that the medications allow them to more truly “be themselves” while others feel the medications make them “not themselves”. Because of the language that makes up these debates, I can’t help but think that the highly polemic responses to psychotropic medications hinge on questions of subjectivity. Questions that in turn may be best understood or thought about in terms of mediation. Katherine Hayles work on embodying the posthuman has helped structure my thought while media theory has provided a productive space to work through more than one discipline. This can be said, not only of my interest in science, but also of my interest in art.
In studying art, my primary focus has been photography. Upon reading Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida, I was struck by the language and analogies he used. For him, photography was described in terms of a wound, and of trauma; it hinged on the punctum and was intimately and ultimately connected to death. These are themes I would like to explore. How can photography and trauma be related? Is it possible for trauma to be photographed? Is a photograph of the maimed, wounded, dead, or dying an image of trauma? What can these images do? Specifically, what can images of war do? Does photography as “art” come closer to “communicating” trauma than photography which represents “reality”? Again, media theory has provided a space for me to think about these questions.
In terms of my love of literature, I am extremely interested in using 20th century American literature to engage with many of the topics we discussed in Professor Mitchell’s class. One avenue I would like to continue to pursue, among others, is the work of Don DeLillo. After receiving my M.A., I plan on finding employment in the area and continuing my studies through my involvement with the Chicago School of Media Theory while I apply to graduate programs.
Chicago School Media Theory: Reading List
Media Theory Keywords Glossary: agent, agency
Taxonomy of Media: model
Theories of Media Annotation: Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida—Reflections on Photography
Theories of Media Prospectus: “Reading the Medicated Body in Literature and Culture”