General Areas of Research

Critical and Cultural Theory: psychoanalysis, feminist & queer theory, post-structural theory and gender studies, Virtual Reality and narrative

Literary, Film, and Cultural Studies – specifically, gothic fiction (18th-20th century), gothic film, popular culture and women’s literature

Cultural Studies – specifically, posthumanist questions of representation, race/gender/identity; animal studies

Gothic Studies – popular culture, Stephen King

Recent and Current Research Projects

Occult Subjects: Literature, Film, Psychoanalysis

One of my projects is a SSHRC-funded study that aims to explore the influence of nineteenth- and early twentieth- century ideas about spiritualism, spiritism, telepathy, and the paranormal on the rise and practice of psychoanalysis. This study is interdisciplinary in that it will not only compare the discourse of psychoanalysis with writing about parapsychology but will also develop this comparison in relation to other turn-of-the-century narratives that crystallize social and cultural questions about both scientific authoritarianism and the mechanistic worldview of the Enlightenment: namely, works of Gothic fiction and early twentieth- century Gothic film in which the tropes of telepathy, hypnosis, dreaming, and somnambulism address social and cultural questions regarding the "occult" status of the mind in the face of speculations about unconscious mental activities. By bringing together the writings of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Sándor Ferenczi which deal explicitly with the "occult" and the paranormal with "Gothic" fiction and film this study will be of interest to scholars in the history of ideas; cultural and film studies; literary studies (19th & 20th century, Gothic studies, Victorian Literature), including literary theory (psychoanalytic, deconstruction); the history and philosophy of science and religion and culture.

As it was conceived through the combined efforts of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Sándor Ferenczi, and others such as William James, the new science of mind that emerged in the nineteenth century appeared to share a strange affinity with the Gothic as the site of long-standing epistemological struggles between positivism and "occult" thought. In fact, Anne Williams has argued that Freud is the "true heir" of the Gothic tradition and that his collected works could be entitled, "The Mysteries of Enlightenment" (1995, 240). Since Freud was not alone in generating such narratives, this current study will bring together Freud, Jung, Ferenczi and James to build upon Terry Castle's assertion that "post-Enlightenment language of mental experience is suffused with a displaced supernaturalism"(1995, 84). This study takes as a premise that traces of this "displacement" are as much a part of psychoanalysis and of current post-structuralist thought as they are of Gothic fiction and film.

Synchronicity, Narrative, Quantum Theory and Virtual Reality

This is a three-part program of research designed to bring into proximity 1) the history of consciousness and creativity; 2) studies in cognition, technology and the Arts; 3) and the application of Virtual Reality (VR) technology to bridge the Humanities and Social Sciences in areas of the study of discourse and society, including the study of cultural narratives and their role in the interplay between individual and cultural cognition and the role that perceptions play in the propagation of culture and its “others.”

This second project is linked to the first speculative pathway leading from mesmerism to psychoanalysis and parapsychology and into one strand of modern physics—namely quantum theory—which not only challenges what Christopher Hauke has referred to as “the hard and fast division between mind and matter” (Hauke 263), but also in a roundabout and eclectic way, leads into thinking of the efficacy of the use of digital technology in the Humanities—specifically Virtual Reality (VR)—to encourage interactive participation in immersive experiences and thereby enable questions of representation, perception, and cognition in relation to the production of meaning.

In other words, like quantum theory which posits an inexplicable “interaction” between mind and matter, VR technology has the potential to challenge certain social and cultural explanatory models based on classical subject-object distinctions. When Carl Jung in collaboration with the physicist Wolfgang Pauli hypothesized the parallels “between psychic and psychophysical events”[1] in his theory of synchronicity to argue “that psychic energy influences living or inert objects in such a way that, as though ‘animated’ by a psychic content alien to them, they are compelled to represent it somehow or other”[2] he could just as well be describing the radical potential for the use of VR technology in the Humanities to encourage interactive and participatory experiences in addressing questions of the role of narratives in structuring social and cultural reality. In the chapter on the potential for VR immersion in her book, Hamlet and the Holodec , Janet Murray states, “we see the same feeling from a psychologically immersive experience that we do from a plunge in the ocean or swimming pool: the sensation of being surrounded by a completely other reality, as different as water is from air, that takes over all of our attention, our whole perceptual apparatus” (2). Such immersive experiences have potential to develop not only a phenomenology of “reading” which encompasses both traditional literary texts and the new textual genres made possible by the electronic revolution of the past few years, such as hypertext, electronic poetry, interactive movies, and synchronic role-playing games but also to change the nature of the study of society and culture in the Humanities by putting scholars/students “inside” their subjects and giving them the freedom to make their own discoveries based on an interactive model. What I hope will become apparent in this research is that in drawing together studies in the history of ideas—namely the correspondences between spiritualism, what Freud repudiated as “mysticism,” the rise and practice of psychoanalysis in the 19th century and quantum theory—and the study of cultural narratives in relation to Virtual Reality technology—that I am attempting to work in the spirit of Dürer who says “whoever wants to dream must mix all things together.”

Last reviewed shim9/12/2013 3:06:23 PM