• Deborah Levitt

    Assistant Professor of Culture and Media


    The central focus of my research and teaching is on how media-old and new-transform both everyday experience and expanded global, political spheres. As part of my work as a media historian and theorist, I am interested in film, video, digital media (including CGI, VR, and AR), animation, literature, cultural theory, and science and technology studies. My research is motivated by a search for intersections between only apparently divergent domains. Similarly, in my courses, I encourage students to connect their daily engagements with media of all kinds to the archaeologies and larger social structures and forces that inform them.

    My current research considers the history and cultural ramifications of exchanges between media texts, tropes, and technologies and rhetorics of “life”: My first book, forthcoming from Zero Books, is called The Animatic Apparatus: On Biocybernetic Reproduction and The Futures of the Image. In this work I consider how the ascendance of animation and simulation shift the concept of “life” in contemporary culture. Media examples are drawn from animation, anime, pop culture, VR, and histories of thinking about artificial life. I’m also completing a second book project, ZoeTropes, which takes a longer view of mediatic entanglements with rhetorics and logics of the living. From eighteenth-century tableaux vivants to proto-cinematic optical toys to ALife programs in digital cinema, I investigate how media technologies and texts influence and even create conceptions of life, namely, the ways in which we distinguish animate beings from inanimate ones, organic from inorganic, the lively from the inert. I consider, in turn, how these new forms affect contemporary political debates on the proper beginnings, endings, and usages of biopolitical “life.” I have a continuing interest in theories of moving images—past, present, and future—as well as in intersections between cinema and other media, particularly literature. A future project will investigate the affective dimensions of digital cinema, VR, and AR.

    Degrees Held:

    PhD, Film, Literature, and Culture, University of Southern California;
    BA, English and Film, University of Colorado

    Professional Affiliations:

    Society for Cinema and Media Studies
    Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts

    Recent Publications:

    • The Animatic Apparatus, forthcoming from Zero Books, 2017.  
    • “Doll Parts (or, Mamoru Oshii’s Kleist Crisis),” Waking Life: Kino zwischen Technik und Leben, ed. Adina Lauenburger, Chris Tedjasukmana, Lisa Åkervall, Sulgi Lie. B-books Verlag, Berlin, 2016.
    • “Animation and the Medium of Life: Mediology, An-Ontology, Ethics,” Special Issue, “Animating
      Biophilosophy,” ed. Phillip Thurtle, Inflexions: A Journal of Research-Creation, (March 2014),
    • “The Subject of the Phantasm,” “Feminist Media Theory and Iterations of Social Difference,” ed.
      Jonathan Beller, Special Issue of The Scholar and Feminist Online, Summer 2012.  
    • Acting and Performance in Moving Image Culture: Bodies, Screens, and Renderings, edited with
      Dieter Mersch and Jeorg Sternagel,  Transcript Verlag, Berlin, print 2012, e-book 2014.   
    • “Living Pictures: Gesture Beyond Cinema,” in Acting and Performance in Moving Image Culture:
      Bodies, Screens, and Renderings
      , ed. Deborah Levitt, Dieter Mersch, and Jeorg Sternagel, Transcript Verlag, Berlin, print 2012, e-book 2014. 
    • “Film Theory,” co-authored with Lisabeth During, The Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural
      Theory 2010
      , ed. Susan Currell and Andrea Bontea, Oxford University Press, 2011.  
    • “Gesture” and “Spectacle,” The Agamben Dictionary, ed. Alex Murray and Jessica Whyte,
      Edinburgh University Press, 2011.  
    • “Film Theory,” co-authored with Lisabeth During, The Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural
      Theory 2009
      , ed. Susan Currell and Andrea Bontea, Oxford University Press, 2010.  
    • “Media and Biopolitics: Notes on ‘Notes on Gesture’” in The Work of Giorgio Agamben: Law,
      Literature, Life
      , ed. Justin Clemens, Nick Heron and Alex Murray, University of Edinburgh Press, 2008, paper 2010.

    Research Interests:

    Media history and theory; Cinema; Animation; VR and AR; Literature; Intermediality; Poststructuralist theory; Science and technology studies