UC New Media Research Directory
Thompson, Kara
February 22nd, 2007 under Grad Students

Graduate Student, English, UC Davis
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Kara ThompsonKara Thompson is a Ph.D. student in the English department at the University of California, Davis. She has a designated emphasis in Critical Theory and is also affiliated with the Davis Humanities Institute’s Queer Research Cluster. She is currently writing her dissertation, Recycling Native America, with Many Reservations. The project uncovers what she calls “archives of the present” on or near American Indian reservations, exploring how archive and present might intersect, although they are traditionally opposed. The project draws methodologically on trauma studies, but departs significantly from the field’s canonical texts and attention to depression, anger, and illness. Instead, she focuses on American Indian cultural productions that actually utilize forgetting, nonrepresentability and disappearance to mark collective experiences of positive cultural memories emerging in the present. She is also working on a corollary new media project, “Sitings: Visualizing Native America,” which investigates the relationship between technology and Native America and asks how American Indian spaces are read with technologies such as Google Earth and Wikipedia.

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In scanning headlines from the late nineteenth century to the stock market crash—even knowing exactly how history turns out—I find myself drawn into the narrative, watching the dates jump forward in increments until the key words switch from “speculation” and “boom” to “depression” and “crash.” I click on the “next page” link at the bottom of my screen to see more and more pages of headlines as if I want to find out how the story ends. The experience reminds me, once again, that history is never finished and that the present is always waiting to change a past that has not yet happened.

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To explain this more precisely, just as Bloom acknowledges in Omens of Millennium that the very prescience of the Gnostic texts would not have allowed them to disappear entirely (and for their persistence, it must be noted, he is joyful), the prescience of Frankenstein similarly renders it a dangerous text to be used and/or abused. Frankenstein’s prescience resides in Mary Shelley’s brilliant dialectic of reality-based faith and scientific dreams. Simultaneously, this dialectic demands attention and theorization and it denies the possibility of polemical resolution. Thus, Shelley astonishingly narrates a meta-prognostication on the formula of science fiction as the imaginative production which can lead to reproductions inside and outside of texts even as she is installing the spark of life into the first of its species. From this critical perspective, even the most conservative efforts to ossify Frankenstein into a technophobic cultural cliché will, like Victor’s pastoral optimism in trying to forget about the creature amidst the sublime Alpine landscape, not succeed in bringing forth the good spirits (whether God or a sacred “Nature”) they summon. Rather, every cautionary invocation of Frankenstein cannot help but give more life, as both Harold Bloom and that rebellious replicant Roy Baty are both fond of saying, to precisely the abhorrent productions and reproductions they desperately wish to kill.
From “Dismembering the Cautionary Cliché: Re-reading the Warnings in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein”