I am a university lecturer at the University of Bremen and the co-founder of KinderundJugendmedien.de, an online portal dedicated to interdisciplinary research on literature, films, and picture books for children and young adults. My research and teaching focuses on children’s literature, children’s films, children’s theatre, and on film and media theory. This websites provides information about my ongoing activities.
Sabine Planka has edited the English-language edited volume Critical Perspectives on Artificial Humans in Children’s Literature (Königshausen & Neumann, 2016) whose contributions explore the sophisticated ways in which children’s literature deals with the idea of artificial human beings, and how society, social fears and wishes are reflected and integrated within it. I have contributed an essay to that volume: “Dystopias of Creation: The Evolution of Artificial Humans in Contemporary Young Adult Literature”.
In the article, I argue that, apart from mirroring the growing relevance of scientific research as well as popular-cultural discourse on artificial intelligence (AI) in societies across the globe, literature has played an integral role in fleshing out the consequences of human attempts to generate new forms of sentience. Young Adult Literature adds a specific perspective to the long tradition of occidental storytelling about artificial (human) beings, since its focus on non-adult characters allows exploring the similar challenges shared by adolescents and artificial humans alike: Growing up in a world they are not entirely integrated into yet, embodying a body that still not feels entirely owned, searching for an identity that feels fully theirs. This continues as well as evolves the occidental tradition of telling stories about artificial beings throughout the history of literature and film. Consequently, my article traces the transformations and evolutions of artificial beings in Young Adult Literature, based on a historical overview, followed up by case studies of two recent artificial intelligence narratives: Karl Olsberg’s Rafael 2.0 (2011) and Mary E. Pearson’s Jenna Fox Chronicles (2008-2013).
Cover of “Critical Perspectives on Artificial Humans in Children’s Literature”
I have written a short entry introducing KinderundJugendmedien.de – our website dedicated to research in children’s literature, film, and other media – in the most recent issue 16.3 of the children’s media research journal kjl&m. You can find the entry here. There’s also another entry on KinderundJugendmedien.de published in CLOSURE – a German-language digital journal decdicated to Comics research (lookahere).
I have written a review of Felix Giesa’s book “Graphisches Erzählen von Adoleszenz”, an extensive study of German-language comics that deal with topics of adolescence. You can find the review in issue 2.5 of the comics research eJournal CLOSURE and on KinderundJugendmedien.de.
One of the most popular picture books series is Sven Nordqvist’s Pettersson & Findus – no wonder that the German film director Ali Samadi Ahadi has recently directed a children’s film based on some of Nordqvist’s stories. For the 50th supplement of the (German-language) Lexikon des Kinder- und Jugendfilms I have written a small article that investigates the film’s production history and analyzes selected aspects of the film: Even though it mainly targets elementary-school-level children, Pettersson & Findus – Kleiner Quälgeist, große Freundschaft employs a surprisingly complex cinematic aesthetics, using the arsenal of contemporary blockbuster cinema.
I’ve been researching the way in which digital games have influenced contemporary filmmaking for a while. One of the outcomes of that research is an article that has just been published in the latest – and sadly last – issue of the (German-language) Lexikon des Kinder- und Jugendfilms, a cornerstone of the German children’s film research landscape. The article, “Computer-Spiel-Ästhetik im Kinder- und Jugendfilm” outlines basic varieties of computer game aesthetics in cinema: Film adaptations of computer games, computers as set pieces in film, game worlds in film, computer game characters in film, computer game paratexts in film, interactive films as new forms of cinematic narration. Within that framework, I discuss a number of films such as Wreck-it-Ralph, Spy Kids 3D, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Star Wars: Episode 1, Tron, eXistenZ, Run Lola Run, and others. You can find the article in the 50th supplement of the Lexikon des Kinder- und Jugendfilms, edited by Horst Schäfer.
Christian A. Bachmann and I drafted a comics bibliography for KinderundJugendmedien.de, which collects the most important publications in (mostly German-language) comics research as well as an overview of databases, mailing lists, journals and comics research institutions. Looka here.
Timotheus Vermeulen and I wrote an uber review of current German television studies: cartography of a debate, for the March 2016 issue of the journal Critical Studies in Television. We give an overview of some of the most exciting contributions to current German-language TV scholarship. Check it out – the entry is available for free.
At last! Apparently, some books take their time before peeking out into the world, in a Wittgensteinian fashion. This is certainly true for my Skepticism Films. Knowing and Doubting the World in Contemporary Cinema: almost ten years after I drafted my first ideas about the way in which mainstream cinema plays around with ideas of a rather philosophical provenance, the book is finally available in print and in ebook format, published by Bloomsbury. I am very happy about that – and about the wonderful design and haptics of the book. You can find more information about the book here, the link to the publisher’s homepage with additional online material is here.
Tobias Kurwinkel and I were invited for a talk at the Oldenburg symposium “farb klang reim rhythmus” (Colour, sound, rhyme, rhythm). In our presentation “Überlegungen zur Auralität im Bilderbuch” we sketched a way of applying our concept of aurality, originally developed for the analysis of the entanglement of sound and image in children’s film, to the analysis of picturebooks. The symposium, organized by the Forschungsstelle Kinder- und Jugendliteratur (OlFoKi, Research Center for Children’s Literature) of the University of Oldenburg, took place from november 12 to 14, and it assembled many brilliant and talented picturebook scholars as well as musicians, for instance the composer Henrik Albrecht, the conductor-researcher Reinhard Gagel, and the reseacher-publisher Christian A. Bachmann Thanks to the organizers, Mareile Oetken and Lars Oberhaus, for the kind invitation! Here is a link to the flyer of the program.
I reviewed the autobiography of Michael Ballhaus, the eminent cinematographer behind many of Martin Scorsese and Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s films, for literaturkritik.de. The review also works as a short overview of Ballhaus’ life and work. Again, it is in German, but whoever’s up to it: Here you go.