Professor Talks: Scholarly Discourse

Seaman and Bruns showed us on Tuesday how theory touches everything, even outside of traditional academic settings.

The Realness of the Fantastic and Minutia:

Insights from Dr. Seaman and Dr. Bruns

Dr. Seaman and Dr. Bruns came to us on Tuesday with the intent of sharing their scholarship with us, and the discourses they encounter while researching; at first glance, film studies and medieval literature might have little crossover, but from what we heard, the methodology and process of engaging with academic peers was very similar. Dr. Seaman introduced to us the concept of “postsecular posthumanism”, a way of looking at the past with respect for the role of the supernatural in the everyday person’s life, as well as keeping a healthy distance from mythologizing or sanitizing the felt reality of the Divine that was ascribed to objects such as holy relics. Bruns, by contrast, gave an overview of the film studies field, and referenced how he chose to teach its history, from early moving photographs, to his final on the movie “Inception” directed by Christopher Nolan. What I found to be most relevant to each of the readings, aside from their comprehensive breakdown by the professors, was the attention to how each train of thought and field of research was constructed and deconstructed. Seaman gradually walked us through her usage of terminology to call attention to how she was carving out a rhetorical and methodological space for herself within a very specific academic context concerning how we should view texts from the Middle Ages. Bruns is ¬†most intrigued by Hitchcock’s films, and the small, recurring details that appear as motifs throughout all of his films, even going so far as to examine each film frame by frame.

But what I understood to be the key, defining, interdisciplinary insight from these guest lecturers was that each of them was very concerned with the material reality of their field’s approach to the subject of study; Seaman is in the process of convincing her colleagues to not impose our own subjective secularism in a time and place where such a mentality did not exist. Bruns’ close analysis of Hitchcock’s newspaper or some other motif brought to life the main themes of his films, such as spying and human observation. For each professor, their research illuminated for me that theory, although essentially an abstract concept and process, extends outwards like tree roots throughout the world, giving us insight into ourselves and others, regardless of whether it holds market value, literary value, or academic value. As we try to tackle questions large and small, broad and narrow, in our own research, we should keep in mind how the theories and hypotheses we formulate do not exist in a vacuum – by producing theory, we affect reality by creating more permutations of transcendental signifiers, even if we are unsure to what extent outside of the initial context this becomes truth for us and our colleagues.

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