Libertinism and radical philosophy; film studies; systems theory; sociological approaches to cultural production
My most recent monograph is The Autonomy of Pleasure: Libertines, License, and Sexual Revolution (Columbia UP, 2016). The principal topic is the radicalization of libertinism, its initial alignment and subsequent break with philosophie, and the consequences of making pleasure into a sovereign power in pre-Revolutionary France. This work has also allowed me to stretch back into earlier texts—for example, considering the reception of satires from classical antiquity—as well as forward—looking at the Marquis de Sade’s rehabilitation in theoretical texts in the 1960s and 70s, for instance, or examining parallels between my primary material and the later “democratic” sexual revolution. My previous book is Cruel Delight: Enlightenment Culture and the Inhuman (Indiana UP, 2004). Here I examined the construction of the category of “moral monstrosity” within philosophy in Britain and France and the deployment of this conceptual category in literature, journalism, and the visual arts, with debates about scientific curiosity, anatomy, vivisection, and criminality as my foci.
At the same time, I have pursued other interests that fit broadly under the “intellectual history” rubric mentioned above. These include publications on film and film theory, on the history of post-structuralism, and on sound studies. My main research project at present is a study of symbolic capital, finance, and globalization in the Hong Kong and French film industries, looking at the ten or so years on either side of the millennium, that is, when film as a medium and as a business was increasingly considered under threat from new technologies and its models of production and distribution being rapidly transformed. The working title for this project is “The End of World Cinema,” and will examine the work of directors such as Johnnie To, Alan Mak, and Olivier Assayas, along with theorists and thinkers as diverse as Jacques Rancière, Giovanni Arrighi, and Niklas Luhmann.
I am also working on a follow-up volume to The Autonomy of Pleasure, tentatively titled “The Epistemology of Fantasy,” that examines the how literary texts—libertine and otherwise—complicate the dominant Lockeian models of language and knowledge in the eighteenth century, providing a sort of constructivist complement to philosophy’s representational ideal.
I have recently published a translation of the Marquis de Sade’s Journey to Italy, his massive Italian travelogues, with a substantial introduction and critical apparatus (University of Toronto Press, 2020). I have also published a translation and critical introduction to French scholar Michel Chion’s Sound: An Acoulogical Treatise (Duke UP, 2018) and co-edited a volume entitled Sound Objects, which gathers together many of the major figures in emerging field of "sound studies" or "auditory cultures" to consider the nature and construction of sonic experience (Duke UP, 2019).
Marquis de Sade, Journey to Italy, translation, introduction and annotations (University of Toronto Press, 2020)
The Autonomy of Pleasure: Libertines, License, and Sexual Revolution (Columbia University Press, 2016)
“The Thirdness of King Hu: Wuxia, Deleuze, and the Cinema of Paradox,” The Journal
of Chinese Cinemas (May 2014).
“The Temptation of Alexander Pope: Materialism and Sexual Fantasy in ‘Eloisa to
Abelard,’ Sex and Death in the Eighteenth Century, ed. Jolene Zigarovich (Routledge, 2013): 127-146.
“The Medium Is Not the Message: Rancière, Eschatology, and the End of Cinema,”
Rancière and Film, ed. Paul Bowman (University of Edinburgh Press,
"Oscillate and Reflect: La Mettrie, Materialist Physiology, and the Revival of the Epicurean Canonic," in Dynamic Reading: Studies in the Reception of Epicureanism, ed. Brooke Holmes and W.H. Shearin (Oxford University Press, 2012): 162-198.
“Metal Machines, Primal Screams, Horrible Noise, and the Faint Hum of a Paradigm
Shift in Sound Studies and Sonic Practice.” Musica Humana 3.1 (Spring 2011):
"Speaking of Noise: From Murderous Loudness to the Crackle of Silk," differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, 22.2-3 (Summer-Fall 2011).
“In Pursuit of the Object of Sound: An Introduction.” Co-authored with Rey Chow. The
Sense of Sound, a special double issue of differences: A Journal of Feminist
Cultural Studies 22.2/3 (2011): 1-9.
“Global Ear: Hong Kong.” Co-authored with Andy Hamilton. The Wire 328 (June 2011):
“Hermeneutic Heresy: Rey Chow on Translation in Theory and the ‘Fable’ of Culture,” Postcolonial Studies 13.3 (2010): 289-302.
“Sentimental Horror: Enlightenment Tragedy and the Rise of the Genre Terrible.” An
American Voltaire: Studies in Honor of J. Patrick Lee, ed. E. Joe Johnson and Byron R. Wells (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2009): 297-314.
“What Happened to the Porn in Pornography? Rétif, Regulating Prostitution, and the
History of Dirty Books.” Symposium 60.3 (Fall 2006): 189-204
"Liberating Sade." Yale Journal of Criticism 18.2 (2005): 351-379.
"An Unworthy Subject: Slaughter, Cannibalism, and Postcoloniality," Masculinities and Hong Kong Cinema, ed. Laikwan Pang and Day Wong (Hong Kong University Press, 2005): 155-174.
Cruel Delight: Enlightenment Culture and the Inhuman (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2004).
“John Woo’s Bullet in the Head: Trauma, Identity and Violent Spectacle,” Chinese Films in Focus, ed. Chris Berry (London: British Film Institute, 2003).
UCI Critical Theory, director