NeMLA Roundtable: "Animating Theory: Fashioning Theoretical Concepts from Studio Gainax-Trigger"

deadline for submissions: 
September 29, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Dorin Smith (Brown University)
contact email: 

Roundtable Description

This roundtable is looking for 5-10 minute long papers which reflect on the intersection of Theory/post-theory/weak-theory and the animated works of studios Gainax and Trigger. Participants are asked to select a moment (5-15 seconds) of a Gainax-Trigger anime and then to develop a concept which is legible but not beholden to a theoretical approach (e.g. how does FLCL theorize “mastery” to the side of psychoanalytic debates?). By thinking from these animated texts, this roundtable aims to reveal theoretical lines of flight which emerge when theorizing with a text and to show how this approach might animate forms of close reading.


Roundtable Abstract

This roundtable explores the theoretical lines of flight which open between animation studies and Theory—specifically through a shared concern with the animated work of Japanese production studios Gainax and Trigger. The motivation behind this panel is, in part, a response to the shifting set of skills and media knowledge which students have acquired over the last 10 years. While literary studies has become marked by a “post-Theory” moment (e.g. Theory After ‘Theory’ [2011] & Theory Aside [2014]), in which theoretical systems have acceded ground to historical and biographical methods, students are increasingly coming to the classroom with a set of close reading skills drawn from cultural studies, psychoanalysis, post-colonial theory, and gender and sexuality studies. Though high “Theory” might be in remission, in practice theory as such has become inextricable from close reading. Indeed, from this standpoint, it is simply the monolith of “Theory” which has disappeared and been exchanged for “weak” (Dimock), contingent (Felski), or otherwise immanent forms of theorizing from within: i.e. of revealing how texts theorize themselves.

The change in the theoretical landscape is especially interesting given the contemporaneous proliferation of theoretical approaches to animation (e.g. Animating Film Theory[2014] & The Anime Ecology [2018]). The conceit of this session is that anime—an increasingly popular and theorized medium—has the potential for orienting new theoretical attitudes in our current post-theory/weak-theory moment. In particular, this panel focuses on Gainax and Trigger, studios known for a consistent investment in questions about transhumanism, automation, virtuality, sensibility, and production. Close reading the works of Gainax-Trigger (e.g. EvangelionGurren LagannSpace Patrol Luluco etc.), this roundtable will bring together scholars who will introduce and “close read” one moment from a work, which they’ll then theorize with, in order to develop a concept which can animate theory by sidestepping current impasses.


People interested in participating on this roundtable should submit a 250 word abstract by September 30th, 2018 to the roundtable page on the NeMLA website:


Please direct any questions to