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Meta-Morphing

Visual Transformation and the Culture of Quick-Change

1999

Vivian Sobchack, editor

Meta-Morphing

Exposes the history of digital morphing and its cultural meaning.

Two thousand years ago, Ovid’s writing invoked metamorphoses in which men and women became flowers and beasts. Today, before our cinema-savvy eyes, people melt and re-form as altogether new creatures: they “morph.” This wide-ranging volume explores digital morphing as a cultural practice specific to our times and as a link to a much broader history of images of human transformation, considering such topics as turn-of-the-century “quick change” artists; cosmetic surgery; movies such as Terminator 2; Heavenly Creatures and Forrest Gump; and the transformations in Kafka, Proust, and Burroughs.

Contributors: Roger Beebe, Scott Bukatman, Victoria Duckett, Kevin Fisher, Joseba Gabilondo, Marsha Kinder, Norman Klein, Louise Krasniewicz, Angela Ndalianis, Matthew Solomon, and Mark J. Wolf.

Vivian Sobchack has brought together a stunning collection of essays absolutely on the cutting edge of contemporary cultural studies. Meta-Morphing deftly combines historical, philosophical, psychoanalytic, textual, and even mythic examinations of morphing—that transformation encompassing a wide variety of cultural forms, from classical mythology to nineteenthth-century performance art to contemporary cinema.

Patrice Petro, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

Two thousand years ago, Ovid asked his readers to imagine metamorphoses in which men and women became flowers and beasts. Today, before our cinema—savvy eyes, people melt and re-form as altogether new creatures: they “morph.” This volume explores what digital morphing means—both as a cultural practice specific to our times and as a link to a much broader history of images of human transformation.

Meta-Morphing ranges over topics that include turn-of-the-century “quick-change” artists, Mesoamerican shamanic transformation, and cosmetic surgery; recent works such as Terminator 2, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Heavenly Creatures, and Forrest Gump; and the transformations imagined by writers such as Kafka, Proust, and Burroughs. The contributors look not only at the technical wizardry behind digital morphing, but also at the history and cultural concerns it expresses.

Contributors: Roger Beebe; Scott Bukatman, Stanford U; Victoria Duckett; Kevin Fisher; Joseba Gabilondo, Bryn Mawr College; Marsha Kinder, USC; Norman Klein, California Institute of Arts; Louise Krasniewicz, UCLA; Angela Ndalianis, U of Melbourne; Matthew Solomon; Mark J. Wolf, Concordia U, Wisconsin.

Meta-Morphing

Vivian Sobchack is professor of critical studies in the Department of Film and Television and associate dean of the School of Theater, Film, and Television at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Meta-Morphing

The volume brings into productive juxtaposition a range of cultural phenomena concerned with transformation and its possibilities, from notions of shape-shifting to mathematical theories of four-dimensional objects to different forms of magical conjuring.

symploké

A recommended read for instructors and students interested in graphics, communications, or media studies and the effects images have on our culture, what they say about, who they say we are.

techdirections

The excellent essays in Meta-Morphing open up the potential of seeing the morph historically and the montage futuristically as our culture’s logic of visual transformation.

Visual Resources

Vivian Sobchack has brought together a stunning collection of essays absolutely on the cutting edge of contemporary cultural studies. Meta-Morphing deftly combines historical, philosophical, psychoanalytic, textual, and even mythic examinations of morphing—that transformation encompassing a wide variety of cultural forms, from classical mythology to nineteenthth-century performance art to contemporary cinema.

Patrice Petro, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee