Technological Monsters


About the Cluster
This cluster examines the intersections between monsters and technology in global literature, performance, arts, and media, and brings together faculty in humanities, arts, social sciences, and engineering to imagine how studying monsters can open new paths to understanding the cultural anxieties and affordances intrinsic to technological development. From nineteenth-century novels like Frankenstein and Dracula, in which complex monsters are products of and metaphors for technological advancement, through early twentieth-century films like King Kong and Beast from 20,000 Fathoms that use classic monsters to show off new moving picture technologies, to sci-fi blockbusters like Battlestar Galactica and Ex Machina that make the indistinguishability between artificial intelligence and humanity its own uniquely monstrous phenomenon, monsters have long been expressions of the possibilities and dangerous limitations of technological advancement in a world that may or may not be ready for it. In this respect, the study of monsters provides opportunities to explore the junctures between technology and the imagination, often transhistorically and transnationally, as the same old monsters are reproduced in new times, places, and media, to vastly different ends.

We also aim to explore how creating monsters can produce, enhance, and synthesize technologies that become integral to media and the larger world, and to see monsters themselves as a form of technē, an art of development that, as Jeffrey Jerome Cohen writes in his foundational essay, “Monster Theory: Seven Theses,” “enables the formation of all kinds of identities.” That is, this cluster will be interested in discovering the generative capacity of monsters as well as their facility as cultural mirrors.

Expelled to the cultural margins though they often are, monsters are central to the humanities’ inquiries into the nature of the human, and to the capacious mobility of such inquiries in the face of new and sometimes frightening technological development. This cluster seeks to discover all that monsters can teach us about how we negotiate our understandings of the self within an ever evolving world of technological modernity.

The cluster will capitalize on the ongoing work of the new UCSC Center for Monster Studies.

Co-Principal Investigators
Renée Fox (Literature)
Michael Chemers (Performance, Play, and Design)

Affiliated Faculty
Hunter Bivens (Literature)
micha càrdenas (Performance, Play, and Design)
Vilashini Cooppan (Literature)
Susan Gillman (Literature)
Catherine Jones (History)
Camilla Hawthorne (Sociology)
Kim Lau (Literature)
Marc Matera (History)
Elaine Sullivan (History)
Elizabeth Swensen (Performance, Play, and Design)
Noah Wardrip-Fruin (Computational Media)

Affiliated Graduate students
Kristen Nelson (Literature)
Rafael Franco (Literature)
Ariane Ferris (Literature)
Raty Syka (Environmental Art & Social Practice MFA program)