Emily Apter – The Landscape of Photogeny

Lecture date: 1995-11-01

As the notion of photogeny is transferred from face to place, from flesh to building skin or wrinkled desertscape, from racially marked body to film noir, the problem of what gives a site its sex becomes entangled with the more difficult political and aesthetic problem of identifying what is noir in the aesthetics of noir. Put slightly differently, what (or who) is black in the shadows of the high-gloss landscape. Tracing the concept of photogeny from the work of Jean Epstein and Edgar Morin through to the magical realism of Rachid Boudjedra, Emily Apter explores the idea of photogeny in relation to the vision of land, monuments and territory conveyed by colonial photography and early cinema. The photogenic landscape opens up the question of what constitutes site photogenicity.

A former Chair of the Department of Comparative Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature and French at UCLA, Apter is currently a Professor in the Department of French at NYU. She has taught at Cornell University, where she was Chair of Comparative Literature, University of California, Davis, the University of Pennsylvania, and Williams College. She is the editor of a book series, Translation/Transnation for Princeton University Press, and serves on the editorial boards of PMLA, Comparative Literature, October and Signs.


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