Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
History of Art
“Night on Earth: The Nocturnal Sensorium in World Cinema” draws on cinema and media studies, psychoanalysis, affect theory, and new materialism to interrogate the relation between processes of perceptual mediation and emergent political and economic sensoriums. Addressing how the night allegorizes perception by decelerating vision, I explore how nighttime blurs distinctions between atmosphere and materiality, labor and leisure, as well as visual spectacle and invisibility. This project analyzes how the low–light capacities of digital cameras enable new configurations of sensory acquisition and world responsiveness, thus unsettling the prevailing notion that celluloid film has a concrete material relation to physical reality that digital cameras simply aim to transcend. Through close readings of both analog and digital films, I probe how spectacular nightscapes reflectively thematize the sensory modalities enabled by different media, but also how these representations link the alternative social orders of the night to new perceptual thresholds. In doing so, I engage critical orientations that are infrequently combined, aligning ontological questions on cinema’s underlying essence with feminist and queer epistemologies. My project thus builds on ecomaterialist arguments that atmosphere is as much an extension of physical reality as landscapes and flesh; conceptualizations of biometric opacity in media studies; and descriptions of bodily exhaustion in critiques of neoliberal globalization. Reading across these coordinates, I map how cinematic nightscapes allow for a critical reflection of our perceptual and corporeal limits while at the same time redrawing where those limits might be.
Cortez, Cesar Ignacio Ruiz, "Night On Earth: The Nocturnal Sensorium In World Cinema" (2018). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. 2961.