Tom Cohen’s lecture is entitled “Petrolepathy: Notes on ‘Oil’ and Visual Media ”
Tom Cohen’s work began in literary theory and cultural politics and traverses a number of disciplines—including cinema studies, digital thought, “deconstruction,” and more recently the contemporary shift of 21st century studies in the era of climate change. He has published broadly on American authors and ideology (Poe, Whitman, Melville, Faulkner, pragmatism, Morrison, among them) as well as on Greek and continental philosophy. His Anti-Mimesis—from Plato to Hitchcock (Cambridge UP, 1994) explored the relations between close reading techniques alter the paradigms of historical representation, while Ideology and Inscription—‘Cultural Studies’ after Benjamin, de Man, and Bakhtin (Cambridge, 1998) examined modes of thinking cultural and interpretive politics in relation to scriptive memory. In his two volume work on Hitchcock’s Cryptonymies, Cohen explored cinema’s hyperbolic links to writing, perceptual memory and representational politics. In one review, Christopher Morris writes: “Hitchcock’s Cryptonomies is an intellectual event of the first order for film studies, critical theory, and philosophy. In the originality of its challenge to received critical approaches, it has no peer.”
His current interests focus on how the dawning “era of climate change” resets the protocols of 20th century theoretical concepts. To pursue this horizon he founded the Institute on Critical Climate Change, IC3, in which the term “critical” references theoretical and conceptual paradigms. It has platformed a series of five international symposia since, three at the University at Albany. These have resulted in a special issue of the journal Global South and Telemorphosis—Theory in the Era of Climate Change (OHP 2012). He is also a co-author, together with Claire Colebrook and J. Hillis Miller, of Theory and the Disappearing Future: On de Man, on Benjamin, with Routledge (2012). And he is co-editor of the series Critical Climate Change, with the new web-based Open Humanities Press. Cohen has taught internationally, including assignments in China and Fulbright sponsored work in Thailand. He has essays in forthcoming volumes or special journal issues on Nietzsche and Media, War, Digital Theory, the Materialist Spirit, The Technologies of ‘The Book,’” Deconstruction and “Life,” among others. Book projects that are “in progress” include a study of Faulkner, “race” and technics (titled Catafalque); a monograph on the Brazilian director Jorge Padilha’s Bus 174 and cinema “after” biopolitics; and a book on the Aporia of ‘Travel,’ a counter-narrative inquiry into temporalities and contemporary “travel”—and a monograph on “oil” and technics, tentatively title Petrolepathy.