Elena Del Rio, PhD


Faculty of Arts - English & Film Studies Dept



I am a film and philosophy scholar. My research interests fall within the intersections between politics and affects—an understanding of politics and culture that is based on a Spinozan/Deleuzian vitalist emphasis on the affects. I am interested in the ways in which this philosophical perspective can be further explored and illuminated through certain cinematic and media practices. My first book, Deleuze and the Cinemas of Performance: Powers of Affection (Edinburgh UP, 2008) provided a study of the performative body in cinema via Deleuze’s philosophy of the body and Deleuze-Spinoza’s relevant concepts of affect and expression. This monograph sought to revise former (largely feminist) theories of the spectacular, performing body in cinema by anchoring the latter in the notion of affective force, while disinvesting from the emphasis on visual form prioritized in prevalent psychoanalytic and semiotic-structuralist theories. Following my first book, my interest in performance evolved towards a closely related interest in violence. Funded by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2011-2014), my second book, The Grace of Destruction: A Vital Ethology of Extreme Cinemas (Bloomsbury 2016), undertook an ethological examination of affective life primarily by considering the negative affects produced in such situations as moral/religious oppression, biopolitical violence, the pain and aggression involved in gender relations, the event of death, and, in closing, extinction. I argued for the importance of extreme cinemas as a symptomatology of contemporary image culture that, in its diagnostic function, bears a strong affinity with Deleuze’s reading of certain forms of literature as a critical and clinical project.

I have published numerous articles on the intersections between cinema and philosophies of the body in the areas of technology, performance, and affect in cinema and theory journals such as Camera Obscura, Canadian Journal of Film Studies, Chimeres, Deleuze Studies, Discourse, Film-Philosophy, The New Review of Film and Television Studies, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, Science Fiction Studies, Studies in French Cinema, and SubStance. I have contributed essays to edited collections on topics as diverse as the films of Atom Egoyan, Rainer W. Fassbinder, Michael Haneke, Takeshi Kitano, and Lars von Trier, and on issues such as Asian exploitation film, women in Film Noir, cinema and cruelty/Antonin Artaud, the philosophy of film, and Deleuze and cinema.

I am currently writing a book that examines video artist Bill Viola's work through the framework of ecological thought. Bill Viola's Image Ecologies draws on the philosophies of difference and immanence of Deleuze/Guattari and Simondon to bring together ecology and ontology/ontogenesis and  to interrogate the political ramifications of an ecological thought based on an ontogenetic model of conflict and disparation as creative forces of transformation.

I am happy to supervise MA or PhD students in English with a strong interest in film, particularly those whose theses examine issues of the body in cinema from a philosophical perspective (phenomenology, Deleuze). I am also interested in supervising graduate work that takes the writings of Deleuze (and Guattari) as a starting point for investigating any kind of contemporary cultural event or phenomenon, as well as projects that focus on the affective dynamics of any aesthetic object, cultural or political event.


I teach a variety of undergraduate courses in film studies, ranging from introductory courses in Film Analysis and Film Theory, to gender, genre, and national cinema surveys, to upper-level seminars focused on Topics in Film Theory (Cinema and the Body, Cinema and Performance, Genre Theory), Topics in Gender (Feminist Avant-Garde Cinema), surveys of particular filmmakers (Jean-Luc Godard, Rainer W. Fassbinder, Takeshi Kitano, Seijun Suzuki, Michael Haneke, David Lynch, Lars von Trier), and of contemporary women filmmakers (Agnes Varda, Sally Potter, Claire Denis) I have taught graduate seminars on Deleuze and cinema, and on the Politics of Affect examined through various film and media works.


The Grace of Destruction: A Vital Ethology of Extreme Cinemas

Author(s): Elena Del Rio