Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation
May 2019 - May 2020
Clown in the Machine: Popular Arts and Technology
This project aims to investigate the human experience of technology by exploring the ways we have been approaching technological advancement through humour – on the popular stage, and in fiction – over the past 100 years. What role do comic performances play in our cultural response to technology and engineering? What narratives and aesthetics have emerged from the intersection of technology and the comical in culture? Using interdisciplinary approaches, this project will respond to gaps in existing debates, by generating new knowledge in cultural and literary studies and the popular history of technology. It expects to advance society’s knowledge of the human relationship to technology and to inform human-machine interaction. The project will unearth positive and nonthreatening visions of a technological humanity at a time when the Western world is grappling with how to respond to technological advancement and how to define the human experience of technology.
Anna-Sophie Jürgens is currently a Visiting Fellow at the College of Arts and Social Sciences of the Australian National University and a Humboldt Return Fellow (Alexander von Humboldt Foundation). Between 2017 and 2019 she was a Feodor Lynen Postdoctoral Fellow (Alexander von Humboldt Foundation) at the Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University. She works in the fields of Comparative Literature, Popular Entertainment Studies and Science in Fiction Studies, and has a doctorate in Comparative Literature from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany. Her research explores the intersections between circus, science and technology; the performance history of (violent) clowns, clowns and scientists, and aesthetics and poetologies of knowledge. Jürgens’ publications include Poetik des Zirkus (2016, monograph); Patterns of DisǀOrder (2017, ed. with M. Wierschem); LaborARTorium (2015, ed. with T. Tesche); ‘Comic in Suspenders: Jim Sharman’s Circus Worlds in The Rocky Horror (Picture) Show’ Journal of Australian Studies (2018); ‘A funny Taste: Clowns and Cannibals’ Comedy Studies 9/2 (2018); ‘The Joker, a neo-modern clown of violence’ Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics (2014). Anna-Sophie is guest editor of two special themed journal issues to be published in 2019/20 – on Circus & Science (Journal of Science & Popular Culture) and Violent Clowns (Comedy Studies), and the editor of the volume Circus, Science and Technology: Dramatising Innovation (published with Palgrave Macmillan in 2020).