Gut Feelings: The Special Effects Body at the Limits of Taste
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Gut Feelings: The Special Effects Body at the Limits of Taste

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This dissertation centers spectacular displays of the body and its component parts in horror and exploitation film. Working against the prevailing discourses of immateriality attached to the discussion of digital effects in critical, fan, and even academic conversations, this dissertation focuses on the materiality of both practically and digitally produced special effects bodies. I argue that these corporeal spectacles are visceral in every sense of the word—as hybrid assemblages of the bodily bits of humans and animals that intersect with technics, in their preoccupation with the revelation of what lies beneath, and in their reliance on bodily interaction between themselves and sensing bodies offscreen for their affective charge. By taking these spectacular assemblages of biology and technology as my object, I analyze and contextualize the material, affective, and experiential dimensions of our bodily engagement with these assemblages; violence, death, and decay as it relates to biological and technological structures; and ethical and practical questions raised by the lives and deaths of these constructed beings. As a guiding heuristic and a means of rerouting media experiences beyond sight and cognition, this project argues for the potentialities of the gut as a knowing, feeling, and even imagining system. I propose the concept of the enteric imaginary as an intervention that centers the hyper-presence of the gut—its experiential, emotive, and image-generating capacities—in the affective dimensions of bodily special effects, reinscribes the importance of biological matter within both digital and analogue scapes, and seeks to broaden both our understanding of what constitutes possible embodied engagements with the digital beyond simply cognition, as well as what “counts” as cognition. This dissertation foregrounds the critical role of disgust, taste, ingestion, digestion, and excretion in the varied modes of engagement (pleasurable and otherwise) and cultural meaning-making applied to special effects bodies, and to the films and contexts in which they appear. Taking inspiration from Siegfried Zielinski’s media anarchaeological model, this project utilizes a promiscuous scope in selecting case studies from a wide array of media contexts, and grounds this admittedly chaotic approach by organizing these varied objects around a guiding figure in each chapter: the écorché, the wolfman, the cannibal, and the revenant.

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This item is under embargo until February 7, 2025.