Rebecca Sheehan

Rebecca Sheehan

Visiting Associate Professor of Visual and Environmental Studies, 2016-17
Rebecca Sheehan

Sheehan’s research focuses on intersections between cinema and philosophy and sculpture and cinema. She has also published work on the biopic, poetics and cinema, “documation,” and is co-editing a book entitled Border Cinema: Paradoxes of Visibility at the U.S.-Mexican Border and Beyond. Sheehan’s first book manuscript, In Between America: Avant-Garde Cinema and the Poetics of Contingency, examines American avant-garde film in the context of the film-philosophies of Gilles Deleuze and Stanley Cavell as well as a philosophical tradition beginning with the American thinkers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau and continuing through Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, and Heidegger. Sheehan argues that American avant-garde films from the 1940s to the present constitute an over-looked resource in the field of film-philosophy and shows how the films of Hollis Frampton, Stan Brakhage, Phil Solomon, James Benning, Marie Menken, Ernie Gehr, Michael Snow, Maya Deren, and Pat O’Neill, philosophize through rather than simply about cinema by formally and theoretically engaging the interstitial. In this way, they accomplish the epistemological and ethical investigation that film philosophers like Gilles Deleuze and Stanley Cavell fall short of achieving. Through an investment in the epistemological means of the in-between, Sheehan argues the avant-garde’s films advance an ethics of contingent thinking and re-evaluative speculation.

Sheehan is also at work on a book-length manuscript entitled Cinema’s Laocoön: Film, Sculpture and the Virtual. Departing from the temporalizing effects of photographic motion studies on sculpture in the late 19th century, this book argues that contrary to contemporary claims, it is sculpture rather than film that offers the first virtual three-dimensional reality. Using sculpture as a conduit into investigating the nature of the virtual in cinema while surfacing cinema’s impact on sculpture as a “spatial” art, this book offers an incisive examination into how sculpture and cinema have historically interfaced. The book begins by considering the influence of chronophotography on late 19th century sculptors like Auguste Rodin and concludes with cinema’s sculptural presence and the cinematic (successional and durational) experience of modern sculpture in the contemporary gallery space.

Sheehan obtained her B.A. in Comparative Literature from Stanford University in 2001 and her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Cinema Studies from University of Pennsylvania in 2008. She is currently on leave as an Associate Professor of Cinema and Television Arts at California State University, Fullerton. Her work has appeared in Screen, Screening the Past, Journal of Modern Literature, Discourse, Interdisciplinary 19, and in various edited collections.