Ian Fleishman is an Associate Professor of Cinema & Media Studies as well as in the Department of Francophone, Italian & Germanic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is also affiliated with the Penn Program in the Environmental Humanities and the programs in Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies and Comparative Literature & Literary Theory.
He holds a doctorate in French and German Literature from Harvard University and has published widely on subjects ranging from the Baroque to contemporary video pornography. His first book, An Aesthetics of Injury: The Narrative Wound from Baudelaire to Tarantino (2018) was the winner of the Northeast Modern Language Association Book Award.
ICI Affiliate Project 2022-23
This project treats pornographic utopianism as it relates to ecological thinking, queer models of kinship and racial nationalism. The monograph, provisionally titled Homodystopia: Porn Culture and the Ethno-Ecological Imaginary, treats a broad spectrum of cultural phenomena ranging from Hitler Youth film propaganda to New Wave auteur cinema and from video pornography to social media. Implicit to these various visual cultures, the study argues, is a shared desire for what it dubs the homotopian: the society-founding ambition of imagined communities as spaces of idealized racial, sexual, ethnic and ecological homogeneity.
Utopian inquiry into the various discourses informing this investigation—queer theory, the environmental humanities, queer ecologies and porn studies—is well established. But whereas the ethical intervention intended by queer ecology often aligns it with a certain measure of political hopefulness, the utopian aspects of the pornographic are generally ideologically ambivalent at best. It is this tension that is explored in Homodystopia through an examination of the erotics and ecologies of masculinist homosociality in transatlantic visual culture, beginning with the film propaganda of the Third Reich and culminating in the several all-male, all-white ‘content houses’ that create short videos for social media platforms like TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and Twitch. The study is predicated on the suspicion that homoeroticism attached to environments in these various realms brings into view both pornographic thinking and tacit utopian aspirations: in the war films and westerns of New Hollywood Cinema, for instance, or in the solicitous—and frequently shirtless—self-display of the boys of TikTok’s Sway House, from Tom of Finland to Abercrombie & Fitch. What is theorized throughout the book as homo-eco-erotic utopianism involves an unspoken assumption of same-sex eco-pornographic desire as a non-negotiable condition for group membership—tracing a surprising through-line from German fascism to the political aesthetics of certain facets of contemporary internet culture.
ICI Affiliate Project 2019-20
This project, provisionally entitled Counterfeit Identities: Camp Abjection from André Gide to Xavier Dolan, investigates formal experimentalism as an index of sexuality in order to map queer strategies of storytelling onto queer subjectivities’ (sometimes self-destructive) modes of self-invention. It argues for an understanding of queer neither primarily as a set of sexual orientations nor as a perpetually unsettling worldview, but rather as a distinctly narrative mode of playful, and playfully contrived, identity formation and worldmaking.
With the notion of camp abjection, which argues for the impossibility of a self unconditioned by alterity, Counterfeit Identities responds to recent calls for an investigation into the darker aspects of the camp sensibility. Ultimately, the archive of the camp abject may suggest a productive countermodel to queer theory’s own efforts at perpetual self-reinvention within a discursive field tacitly committed to the assumption that non-normative sexualities might somehow inherently correspond to both progressive politics and an avant-garde aesthetic.