November 5: Eli Park Sorensen, CUHK: “Monopolizing the Future: Carl Schmitt’s Exception and Sci-fi Movies”

Society of Fellows in the Humanities Lecture Series Fall 2018

Eli Park Sorensen, Chinese University of Hong Kong
“Monopolizing the Future: Carl Schmitt’s Exception and Sci-fi Movies”

November 5, 2018, 4PM
Room 436, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus, The University of Hong Kong

This paper explores possible affinities between Carl Schmitt’s concept of the exception and the genre of sci-fi movies. To Schmitt, the sovereign is the one “who decides on the exception.” No legal prescription, Schmitt argues, can encompass or predict every possible future scenario. Hence, the future is a potential threat to the sovereign’s authority. Schmitt’s exception is designed to anticipate a future that cannot be anticipated or imagined. In my paper, I hope to further develop these thoughts in connection with a discussion of various sci-fi genre theories, including Darko Suvin’s influential concept of the novum, which he uses to distinguish the sci-fi genre from other, similar genres. To Suvin, the sci-fi genre is above all characterized by introducing scientifically plausible new things, i.e. the novum, whereby the genre remains — futuristically — imaginable, and hence realistic. An exception to Suvin’s rule of the novum, I argue, is precisely Schmitt’s concept of the exception; it is the Schmittian exception that ultimately reactivates the genre’s political potential amidst more conservative visions of the future. In my paper, I will provide some examples from various Hollywood sci-fi movies, including Spielberg’s Minority Report (2002) and Blomkamp’s Elysium (2013).

Eli Park Sorensen is assistant professor in Department of English at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He specializes in comparative literature, postcolonial thought, literary theory, and cultural studies. He is the author of Postcolonial Studies and the Literary: Theory, Interpretation and the Novel (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) and has published in journals such as NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, Journal of Narrative Theory, Paragraph, Modern Drama, Research in African Literatures, Partial Answers, and Forum for Modern Language Studies.

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