Milstein Program in Technology & Humanity Faculty Publications

The Brink

“THE BRINK is everything you’d want in a collection: funny, inventive, somehow both expansive and wistful. Austin Bunn is a young writer to reckon with.” — Jess Walter

Audie Winner 2017, Best Audio Book (Fiction Collection category)

BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR, Electric Literature

Lambda Literary Award Finalist

A  brilliant, inventive debut story collection in the vein of Kevin Wilson and Wells Tower.

Brimming with life and unforgettable voices, the stories in Austin Bunn’s dazzling collection explore the existential question: what happens at “the end” and what lies beyond it? In the wry but affecting “How to Win an Unwinnable War,” a summer class on nuclear war for gifted teenagers turns a struggling family upside down. A young couple’s idyllic beach honeymoon is interrupted by terrorism in the lush, haunting “Getting There and Away.” When an immersive videogame begins turning off in the heartbreaking “Griefer,” an obsessive player falls in love with a mysterious player in the final hours of a world.

Told in a stunning range of voices, styles, and settings—from inside the Hale-Bopp cult to the deck of a conquistador’s galleon adrift at the end of the ocean—the stories in Bunn’s collection capture the transformations and discoveries at the edge of irrevocable change. Each tale presents a distinct world, told with deep emotion, energizing language, and characters with whom we have more in common that we realize. They signal the arrival of an astonishing new talent in short fiction.


"Bunn’s debut story collection mixes genres and styles in 10 ambitious, impressive tales. Among the strongest are “Getting There & Away”—a near perfect story that involves a honeymoon, a lost ring, an explosion, and the Bali nightlife—and “Ledge,” concerning a ship in the late 15th century that discovers the literal end of the Earth and a passageway between the living and the dead. Bunn drops his characters in a variety of locales: summer school, a basement, aSecond Life–like virtual world, and the Heaven’s Gate cult just prior to its mass suicide in 1997. And while many of his stories speak to the ideas of physical and emotional loss, the author’s fearlessness in constructing interesting protagonists prevents any moments of déjà vu for the reader. These characters are uncomfortable in their own skin. Both “Ledge” and “Curious Father” contain men questioning their sexuality. And sometimes, these characters also create reader discomfort. “Griefer” finds a man so obsessed with technology that he fails to pay attention to his family, and in “When You Are the Final Girl,” Bunn crafts a particularly threatening protagonist in Randy, a man bent on drugging a teenage girl after a car accident disfigures his face. This is a compelling collection, and several of the stories are breathtaking."

Publishers Weekly, April 2015. STARRED REVIEW


Bunn’s prose has the quality of a lantern set at the edge of a dark crevice: the light falls softly and precisely, illuminating mysteries.” — Leslie Jamison (The Gin Closet, The Empathy Exams)

“An impressive collection of stories from a writer with his ear very well attuned to the strange, often rough paths we take in search of intimacy in a deeply fractured world.” — Adam Haslett (You Are Not a Stranger Here, Union Atlantic)

Hooray for this brazen, poignant debut. Austin Bunn brings us to terrifying places, and also to funny and wondrous ones. He’s got it all — heart, danger, precision, and music.” — Sam Lipsyte (The Fun Parts, The Ask)

"The Brink is rich and extremely satisfying. His characters -- an array of memorable voices -- are all perched on the thresholds of life-altering change. I began marking passages I wanted to return to, marveling at the precise language and fresh vision, only to discover that I was marking every pages. The Brink is an extraordinary collection." — Jill McCorkle (Life After Life, Going Away Shoes)

The Brink book cover

Ethereal Queer: Television, Historicity, Desire

In Ethereal Queer, Amy Villarejo offers a historically engaged, theoretically sophisticated, and often personal account of how TV representations of queer life have changed as the medium has evolved since the 1950s. Challenging the widespread view that LGBT characters did not make a sustained appearance on television until the 1980s, she draws on innovative readings of TV shows and network archives to reveal queer television’s lengthy, rich, and varied history. Villarejo goes beyond concerns about representational accuracy. She tracks how changing depictions of queer life, in programs from Our Miss Brooks to The L Word, relate to transformations in business models and technologies, including modes of delivery and reception such as cable, digital video recording, and online streaming. In so doing, she provides a bold new way to understand the history of television.

Film Studies: The Basics

Film Studies: The Basics is a compelling guide to the study of cinema in all its forms. This second edition has been thoroughly revised and updated to take account of recent scholarship, the latest developments in the industry and the explosive impact of new technologies. Core topics covered include:

  • The history, technology and art of cinema
  • Theories of stardom, genre and film-making
  • The movie industry from Hollywood to Bollywood
  • Who does what on a film set

 
Complete with film stills, end-of-chapter summaries and a substantial glossary, Film Studies: The Basics is the ideal introduction to those new to the study of cinema.

Lesbian Rule: Cultural Criticism and the Value of Desire

With hair slicked back and shirt collar framing her young patrician face, Katherine Hepburn's image in the 1935 film Sylvia Scarlett was seen by many as a lesbian representation. Yet, Amy Villarejo argues, there is no final ground upon which to explain why that image of Hepburn signifies lesbian or why such a cross-dressing Hollywood fantasy edges into collective consciousness as a lesbian narrative. Investigating what allows viewers to perceive an image or narrative as "lesbian," Villarejo presents a theoretical exploration of lesbian visibility. Focusing on images of lesbians in film, she analyzes what these representations contain and their limits. She combines Marxist theories of value with poststructuralist insights to argue that lesbian visibility operates simultaneously as an achievement and a ruse, a possibility for building a new visual politics and away of rendering static and contained what lesbian might mean.

Integrating cinema studies, queer and feminist theory, and cultural studies, Villarejo illuminates the contexts within which the lesbian is rendered visible. Toward that end, she analyzes key portrayals of lesbians in public culture, particularly in documentary film. She considers a range of films—from documentaries about Cuba and lesbian pulp fiction to Exile Shanghai and The Brandon Teena Story—and, in doing so, brings to light a nuanced economy of value and desire.

Keyframes: Popular Cinema and Cultural Studies

Keyframes introduces the study of popular cinema of Hollywood and beyond and responds to the transformative effect of cultural studies on film studies.
The contributors rethink contemporary film culture using ideas and concerns from feminism, queer theory, 'race' studies, critiques of nationalism, colonialism and post-colonialism, the cultural economies of fandom, spectator theory, and Marxism. Combining a film studies focus on the film industry, production and technology with a cultural studies analysis of consumption and audiences, Keframes demonstrates the breadth of approaches now available for understanding popular cinema. Subjects addressed include:
* Studying Ripley and the 'Alien' films
* Pedagogy and Political Correctness in Martial Arts cinema
* Judy Garland fandom on the net
* Stardom and serial fantasies: Thomas Harris's 'Hannibal'
* Tom Hanks and the globalization of stars
* Queer Bollywood
* Jackie Chan and the Black connection
* '12 Monkeys', postmodernism and urban space.

Social Media and International Relations

The 2016 US election highlighted the potential for foreign governments to employ social media for strategic advantages, but the particular mechanisms through which social media affect international politics are underdeveloped. This Element shows that the populace often seeks to navigate complex issues of foreign policy through social media, which can amplify information and tilt the balance of support on these issues. In this context, the open media environment of a democracy is particularly susceptible to foreign influence whereas the comparatively closed media environment of a non-democracy provides efficient ways for these governments to promote regime survival.

Taxing Wars: The American Way of War Finance and the Decline of Democracy

Why have the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq lasted longer than any others in American history? The conventional wisdom suggests that the move to an all-volunteer force and unmanned technologies such as drones have reduced the apparent burden of war so much that they have allowed these conflicts to continue almost unnoticed for years. Taxing Wars suggests that the burden in blood is just one side of the coin. The way Americans bear the burden in treasure has also changed, and these changes have both eroded accountability and contributed to the phenomenon of perpetual war.

Sarah Kreps chronicles the entire history of how America has paid for its wars-and how its methods have changed. Early on, the United States imposed war taxes that both demanded sacrifices from all Americans and served as reminders of their participation. Indeed, thinkers from Immanuel Kant to Adam Smith argued that these reminders were exactly the reason why democracies tended to fight shorter and less costly wars. Bearing these burdens caused the populace to sue for peace when the costs mounted. Leaders in a democracy, responsive to their citizens, would have incentives to heed that opposition and bring wars to as expeditious an end as possible.

Since the Korean War, the United States has increasingly moved away from war taxes. Instead, borrowing-and its comparatively less visible connection with the war-has become a permanent feature of contemporary wars. The move serves leaders well because reducing the apparent burden of war has helped mute public opposition and any decision-making constraints. But by masking accountability, however, the move away from war taxes undermines the basis for democratic restraint in wartime. Contemporary wars have become correspondingly longer and costlier as the public has become disconnected from those burdens. Given the trends identified in Taxing Wars, the recent past-epitomized by our lengthy wars in Afghanistan and Iraq-is likely to be prologue.

Drones: What Everyone Needs to Know

Drones quite possibly represent the most transformative military innovation since jet engines and atomic weaponry. No longer do humans have to engage in close military action or be in the same geographical vicinity as the target. Now, through satellite imaging and remote technology, countries such as the United States can destroy small targets halfway around the world with pinpoint accuracy.

In the last several years, many of the military advancements have been rivaled by those in the commercial realm. Civilian industries have clamored to acquire drones for everything from monitoring crops to filming Hollywood movies to delivering packages. Not surprisingly, the use of drones has generated a lively debate, but no book thus far has engaged the range of themes surrounding drones. How do drones work? To what extent has the technology proliferated to other nations outside the US? How can they be used on the ground and in maritime environments? How are they being integrated into both military and civilian life?

In Drones: What Everyone Needs to Know, the international relations scholar (and former air force officer) Sarah E. Kreps provides a concise synthesis of the topic. The book explains how they and the systems associated with them work, how they are being used today, and what will become of the technology in the future. What readers need now is a more practical guide to how this technology is reshaping both military and civilian life; this book is that guide. The drone revolution has already changed warfare, and will soon become a commonplace tool in a civilian context too. It is clear that drone technology is here to stay. Drones: What Everyone Needs to Know explains how the revolution happened, what its current contours are, and where we might be headed next.

Drone Warfare

Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2015

One of the most significant and controversial developments in contemporary warfare is the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly referred to as drones. In the last decade, US drone strikes have more than doubled and their deployment is transforming the way wars are fought across the globe. But how did drones claim such an important role in modern military planning? And how are they changing military strategy and the ethics of war and peace? What standards might effectively limit their use? Should there even be a limit?

Drone warfare is the first book to engage fully with the political, legal, and ethical dimensions of UAVs. In it, political scientist Sarah Kreps and philosopher John Kaag discuss the extraordinary expansion of drone programs from the Cold War to the present day and their so-called effectiveness in conflict zones. Analysing the political implications of drone technology for foreign and domestic policy as well as public opinion, the authors go on to examine the strategic position of the United States - by far the worlds most prolific employer of drones - to argue that US military supremacy could be used to enshrine a new set of international agreements and treaties aimed at controlling the use of UAVs in the future.

Coalitions of Convenience: United States Military Interventions after the Cold War the

Why does the United States sometimes seek multilateral support for its military interventions? When does it instead sidestep international institutions and intervene unilaterally? In Coalitions of Convenience, a comprehensive study of US military interventions in the post-Cold War era, Sarah Kreps shows that contrary to conventional wisdom, even superpowers have strong incentives to intervene multilaterally: coalitions confer legitimacy and provide ways to share the costly burdens of war. Despite these advantages, multilateralism comes with costs: multilateral responses are often diplomatic battles of attrition in which reluctant allies hold out for side payments in exchange for their consent. A powerful state's willingness to work multilaterally, then, depends on its time horizons--how it values the future versus the present. States with long-term--those that do not face immediate threats--see multilateralism as a power-conserving strategy over time. States with shorter-term horizons will find the expediency of unilateralism more attractive. A systematic account of how multilateral coalitions function, Coalitions of Convenience also considers the broader effects of power on international institutions and what the rise of China may mean for international cooperation and conflict.

Collecting as Modernist Practice

Winner of the Modernist Studies Association Book Prize of the Modernist Studies Association

In this highly original study, Jeremy Braddock focuses on collective forms of modernist expression—the art collection, the anthology, and the archive—and their importance in the development of institutional and artistic culture in the United States.

Using extensive archival research, Braddock's study synthetically examines the overlooked practices of major American art collectors and literary editors: Albert Barnes, Alain Locke, Duncan Phillips, Alfred Kreymborg, Amy Lowell, Ezra Pound, Katherine Dreier, and Carl Van Vechten. He reveals the way collections were devised as both models for modernism's future institutionalization and culturally productive objects and aesthetic forms in themselves. Rather than anchoring his study in the familiar figures of the individual poet, artist, and work, Braddock gives us an entirely new account of how modernism was made, one centered on the figure of the collector and the practice of collecting.

Collecting as Modernist Practice demonstrates that modernism's cultural identity was secured not so much through the selection of a canon of significant works as by the development of new practices that shaped the social meaning of art. Braddock has us revisit the contested terrain of modernist culture prior to the dominance of institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art and the university curriculum so that we might consider modernisms that could have been.

Offering the most systematic review to date of the Barnes Foundation, an intellectual genealogy and analysis of The New Negro anthology, and studies of a wide range of hitherto ignored anthologies and archives, Braddock convincingly shows how artistic and literary collections helped define the modernist movement in the United States.

Paris, Capital of the Black Atlantic: Literature, Modernity, and Diaspora

Paris has always fascinated and welcomed writers. Throughout the twentieth and into the twenty-first century, writers of American, Caribbean, and African descent were no exception. Paris, Capital of the Black Atlantic considers the travels made to Paris—whether literally or imaginatively—by black writers. These collected essays explore the transatlantic circulation of ideas, texts, and objects to which such travels to Paris contributed. Editors Jeremy Braddock and Jonathan P. Eburne expand upon an acclaimed special issue of the journal Modern Fiction Studies with four new essays and a revised introduction. Beginning with W.E.B. Du Bois’s trip to Paris in 1900 and ending with the contemporary state of diasporic letters in the French capital, this collection embraces theoretical close readings, materialist intellectual studies of networks, comparative essays, and writings at the intersection of literary and visual studies. Paris, Capital of the Black Atlantic is unique both in its focus on literary fiction as a formal and sociological category and in the range of examples it brings to bear on the question of Paris as an imaginary capital of diasporic consciousness.

Directed by Allen Smithee

A new estimation of Hollywood’s least appreciated director.

From 1969 until 1999, Allen Smithee was the pseudonym adopted by Hollywood directors who refused to be associated with their own films. Encompassing more than fifty films of various stripes—B movies, sequels, music videos, made-for-TV movies—Smithee’s work provides a unique opportunity to reassess auteur theory, the concept of the director as the primary creative force in filmmaking.

Contributors: Tom Conley, Jonathan P. Eburne, James F. English, Christian Keathley, Jessie Labov, Laura Parigi, Donald E. Pease, Robert B. Ray, Craig Saper, Andrew Sarris.

What editors Jeremy Braddock and Stephen Hock have assembled is a cultural studies book that splits the difference between your typical academic compendium and its self-conscious parody, merging the deadly serious with the quasi irreverent.

 Artforum