“Getting Real About the Anthropocene,” a talk by E. Ann Kaplan (Stony Brook University)


Please join us for COMMA’s next event of the Spring Quarter. We will continue our investigation of “The Desert of the Real” on April 15th at 1:00 in South Hall 2623 with a talk by E. Ann Kaplan.

Professor Kaplan is Distinguished Professor of English, and Cultural Analysis and Theory, at Stony Brook University. Her influential works on feminist film theory include Women & Film: Both Sides of the Camera (1990) and Motherhood and Representation (1992). Professor Kaplan’s work on trauma theory includes Trauma Culture: The Politics of Terror and Loss in Media and Literature (2005), and has led her to her current research considering the physic structures of human/environmental relations. In 2015, Rugters published her most recent monograph, Climate Trauma: Foreseeing the Future in Dystopian Film and Fiction.

“’Getting Real About the Anthropocene’: Pretrauma and Cultural Politics in Futurist Dystopian Film (with Reference to Jeff Nicol’sTake Shelter)”

In this talk, taken from her 2015 monograph, Climate Trauma: Foreseeing the Future in Dystopian Film and Fiction, E. Ann Kaplanexplores how cinema negotiates the catastrophe of climate change humans ignore at their peril. She first asks what affects and psychic processes prevent humans from coming together to save the planet. In turning to dystopian narratives to investigate such questions, Kaplan develops the concept of pre-traumatic stress (linked to the familiar Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome), and asks what impact results from viewers occupying a position of “virtual future humans” in climate disaster fictions. Here, Take Shelter will be discussed as a striking example of pre-traumatic stress. Second, Kaplan attends to the cultural politics in disaster scenarios commenting on meanings attached to race and gender; she introduces psychoanalysis to partially explain the evident sexism and racism.  Finally, Kaplan debates whether or not commercial climate disaster films provide an unhelpful sense of mastery, collude with corporate manipulation of fear, or function as a call to action. Film can be a powerful tool for changing consciousness and even policy. She concludes that if we can understand the psychic processes involved in climate denial, we have a chance to rupture the ideological structures that entrap people.