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Steven Brown

Steven Brown profile picture
  • Title: Professor of Comparative Literature
  • Phone: 541-346-4016
  • Office: 304 Villard Hall
  • Office Hours: Spring 2017: by appointment
  • Interests: posthumanism, horror cinema, Surrealist film and animation, sound design in film, Japanese popular culture, and critical theory.
  • Curriculum Vitae

Education

B.A., 1987, Summa Cum Laude, East Asian Studies and Classics, University of Illinois
M.A., 1988, East Asian Studies, Stanford University
Ph.D., 1994, Comparative Literature, Stanford University

Statement

Steven T. Brown received his Ph.D. from the Department of Comparative Literature at Stanford University. He is the author of Tokyo Cyberpunk: Posthumanism in Japanese Visual Culture (Palgrave, 2010) and Theatricalities of Power: The Cultural Politics of Noh (Stanford, 2001), the editor of Cinema Anime (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), and co-editor of Performing Japanese Women (2002), a special issue of the feminist journal Women & Performance. He has published articles in journals ranging from the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Mechademia, Canadian Review of Comparative Literature, and New Nietzsche Studies. He is currently working on a study of sound design in Asian horror cinema. 

His most recent book, Tokyo Cyberpunk: Posthumanism in Japanese Visual Culture, engages some of the most thought-provoking anime, manga, and films in the history of Japanese science fiction as transnational sites of contestation for competing discourses, philosophical crises, and socioeconomic fault lines.  More specifically, he situates Japanese popular culture in terms of the issues raised by posthumanism (from the absent presence of cell phone usage to the status of virtual online identities to video game addiction), Japanese socioeconomic problems (from the breakdown of the family to youth violence to the social withdrawal known as “hikikomori”), as well as globalization and advanced capitalism. Through an investigation into how the questions and issues of posthumanism are frequently broached in works of Japanese popular culture to explore new possibilities of existence at the intersection of different forms of intelligence, corporeality, and data-processing, Tokyo Cyberpunk attempts to destabilize our assumptions about what it means to be human in a posthuman world and how we might relate to all the intelligent machines with which we increasingly share the world. 

Prof. Brown's edited collection, Cinema Anime: Critical Engagements with Japanese Animation, charts the terrain of contemporary Japanese animated film, one of the most explosive forms of visual culture to emerge at the crossroads of transnational cultural production in the last twenty-five years. Cinema Anime offers bold and insightful engagements with anime’s shifting negotiations with gender identity, anxieties about body mutation and posthumanity, and the asymmetry between two-dimensional cel animation and three-dimensional digital cinema.  The contributors to Cinema Anime dismantle the distinction between “high” and “low” culture and offer compelling arguments for the value and importance of critical scholarship on popular cultural flows in the transnational spaces of translation from the local to the global.

Prof. Brown's current book-length project, Resonant Evil: Studies in Asian Horror Cinema, deals with sound design in contemporary Asian horror cinema. In recent years, a new wave of film scholarship has emerged that seeks to correct the overemphasis on the visual aspects of narrative film by reclaiming the importance of sound. Sound design plays an extremely important role in Asian horror, privileging not only ambient noises and electromechanical drones, but also the omission of sound and the dynamic manipulation of sound and silence.  By subtly adjusting the oscillation between sound and silence, Asian horror creates a three-dimensional soundscape that is quite effective at unnerving the audio spectator.  In Asian horror cinema, it often seems as if silence interrupts the noise of modernity itself, making the suspension of sound just as important in the modulation of the horror soundtrack as its presence. Through advanced spectral and surround sound field analysis and a careful consideration of elements such as point of audition, the interrelations between noise and silence, the function of drones, and the status of the acousmatic voice, Resonany Evil will analyze how soundscapes contribute to the construction of horror in contemporary Asian cinema and push the boundaries of genre filmmaking.

Publications

Dissertation

Staging Contingency: The Historicity of Chance in Greek Tragedy and Japanese Noh Drama (Thomas Hare, director)

Books

Japanese Horror and the Transnational Cinema of Sensations (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming).

Tokyo Cyberpunk: Posthumanism in Japanese Visual Culture (New York: Palgrave Macmillan Press, 2010).

Theatricalities of Power:  The Cultural Politics of Noh (Stanford, Calif.:  Stanford University Press, 2001).  

Books (Edited)

Cinema Anime: Critical Engagements with Japanese Animation (New York: Palgrave Macmillan Press, 2006; paperback reprint, 2008).  

Performing Japanese Women, a special issue of Women & Performance vol. 12, no. 1, issue 23 (2002).

Articles

"Machinic Desires:  Hans Bellmer's Dolls and the Technological Uncanny inGhost in the Shell 2: Innocence," Mechademia 3 (2008): 222-53. 

"Screening Anime," in Cinema Anime: Critical Engagements with Japanese Animation, ed. Steven T. Brown (New York: Palgrave Macmillan Press, 2006), 1-19.

"Ominameshi and the Politics of Subjection," in Ominameshi:  A Flower Viewed from Many Directions, ed. Mae Smethurst (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University East Asia Program, 2003), 115-34. 

"Nietzsche and the Biopolitics of Art," New Nietzsche Studies 5:1/2 (Spring/Summer 2002):  57-71. 

"Other Histories of Japanese Performance," in Performing Japanese Women, eds. Steven T. Brown and Sara Jansen, a special issue of Women and Performance 12, no. 1, issue 23 (2002).

"The Digital Literary:  Electronic Phrases for the Post-Gutenberg Age," inThe Future of Literary Studies, a special issue of Canadian Review of Comparative Literature 26.3-4 (2001):  61-7.  Reprinted in Library of the Canadian Review of Comparative Literature, vol. 9. 

"From Woman Warrior to Peripatetic Entertainer:  The Multiple Histories of Tomoe," Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 58.1 (1998):  183-99. 

"Staging Female Suicide on Otokoyama:  New Historicist Readings of Power and Gender in the Noh Theater," in The New Historicism and Japanese Literary Studies, Proceedings of the Midwest Association for Japanese Literary Studies 4 (Summer 1998):  120-37. 

"Theatricalities of Power:  New Historicist Readings of Japanese Noh Drama," in Revisionism in Japanese Literary Studies, Proceedings of the Midwest Association for Japanese Literary Studies 2 (Summer 1996):  156-87.  "Aesthetics as 'Applied Physiology':  Nietzsche and the Logic of Degeneration in Art," Vanishing Point:  Studies in Comparative Literature 1 (1994):  127-43. 

"Zur Entstehungsgeschichte der japanischen Schrift" (Towards the History of the Emergence of Japanese Writing), in Schrift, eds. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht and K. Ludwig Pfeiffer (Munich:  Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1994), 183-90. 

"Im Reich der leeren Zeichen:  Amerikas Japanbilder sind postmoderne Projektionen" (In the Empire of the Empty Sign:  American Figurations of Japan are Postmodern Projections), Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, October 4, 1990, Geisteswissenschaften, 1-2.