Theresa Geller

Scholar in Residence
Beatrice Bain Research Group
Appointment Dates:
(May 13, 2018 – May 17, 2019)
Research Project:
The Art of Entrustment and Generic Subversions
This year I am undertaking two major book projects that are at different stages of completion. The Art of Entrustment centers on twenty-first century feminist and queer media, art, and performance to identify contemporary models of political and affective resistance. The origins of this research began as a paper I presented on Italian feminism, autonomia, and queer entrustment in Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love (Io sono l'amore, 2009). The first chapter works through the intersecting histories of feminist thought and queer theory to reconceptualize entrustment as a mode (and model) of praxis. The latter chapters sketch out the forms entrustment takes in a range of film and media, including Big Bang Love, Juvenile A (Takeshi Miike, 2006), The Business of Fancydancing (Sherman Alexie, 2002), and Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby” (2014), among others. Together, these chapters show how contemporary counter-cinema, art, and performance articulate queer culture’s encounters with social precarity, including transphobia, racism, misogyny, and settler colonialism.   The other project that is nearer to completion is Generic Subversions: The Queer Character of Popular Cinema, which updates long-standing claims in genre criticism and film theory in light of the insights of queer critique, reconsidering the cultural work and affective terrain of popular cinema. The question at the heart of Generic Subversions is less one of identifying the lesbian or gay content of a given film than of understanding what queers genre and its norms. One such norm of the genre film is character. I argue that generic subversion is most apparent when the character anchoring a genre film, such as the action hero, the private eye, the comedic clown, or the femme fatale, is categorically destabilized through a refusal of generic casting, troubling dominant discourses of gender, race, sex, and nation. Generic subversion names a queer form of textual critique that maps subversive citational practices in popular cinema by examining historical shifts shaping film genre tropes and the explicit casting against generic convention.
Theresa L. Geller is a scholar of media studies, film philosophy, and feminist and queer theory. Before joining the Beatrice Bain Research Group, she taught at Grinnell College for nine years, holding the position of Associate Professor of Film Theory and History when she (and the electoral college) decided the Bay Area was the best place to be at this moment in history. She is the author of The X-Files (Wayne State University Press, 2016) and has published in American Quarterly, The Velvet Light TrapCamera Obscura, Rhizomes, and Frontiers, among others. She recently co-edited Reframing Todd Haynes: Feminism’s Indelible Mark, under contract with Duke University Press. With the support of the Beatrice Bain Research Group, Dr. Geller has completed several publications, including “Thinking Sex, Doing Gender, Watching Film,” in The Anthem Handbook of Screen Theory; “The Wages of !W.A.R.: Activist Historiography and the Feminist Art Movement,” in Documenting the Visual Arts; “‘The Hardest, the Most Difficult Film’: Safe as Feminist Film Praxis” for Reframing Todd Haynes; and, “Shimmer Obscura: Parsing Metaphor from Metonymy,” in Gothic Nature.