Dr Misha Kavka

BA, MA, PhD

Biography

My fascination with media is rooted in an interest in medium specificity and cross-media forms, which began with a BA thesis on the use of music in modernist English literature (Princeton University). Not happy with literature alone, I undertook an MA in the Critical Theory programme at Sussex University, studying deconstruction with Geoffrey Bennington and psychoanalysis with Jacqueline Rose. These theoretical models I then took to Cornell University, where I wrote a PhD thesis on male hysteria in medical and literary discourses of the fin de siècle. On completing the PhD I went to the University of Zurich as a Fulbright scholar to work on women's writing about madness, after which I remained there and taught in the Department of English for six years. At Zurich, I retrained as a film and media scholar, and discovered for the first time the power of combining high theory with popular culture -- in my case, with reality TV. My passion for reality TV led me to thinking about modes of audience engagement with participants, especially the affective relations that television inspires. Although I still do research on realtiy TV, I am now expanding my work on affect to other media forms, notably new media screens, as well as writing about the affective relations that underpin celebrity culture.

Research | Current

  • Television studies
  • Reality TV
  • Gender and sexuality studies
  • Celebrity studies
  • Feminist and psychoanalytic theory
  • Gothic film
  • Hollywood film
  • New Zealand film

Books

Reality Television (Edinburgh University Press, 2012): a genre-based account of the rise and development of reality television that stresses its cultural and conceptual contexts. My approach takes up a genealogical methodology that favours the particular over the universal, disinters buried or forgotten strands, and traces provenances, intersections and resemblances amongst reality TV forms. Adapting the genealogical method to genre studies, the book locates structural connections as well as key conceptual shifts by breaking reality television down into 'generations' based on discursive resemblances amongst subgenres.

Reality Matters: Affect and Intimacy in Reality Television (Palgrave, 2008): an exploration of the affective nature of televisual effects. I take a positive stance toward reality TV, because for me it distills what TV does best – the creation of intimate relations across a screen. I am interested in what it is about reality TV that makes it 'feel real', and from this I develop a theory of mattering – in the sense of both physicality and import – which I call the materiality of affect. Such mattering is heightened, rather than decreased, by mediation across the screen – in this case, the small screen of television, but the theory can be extended by readers to apply to other media forms.

Gothic NZ: The Darker Side of Kiwi Culture, edited by Misha Kavka, Jennifer Lawn and Mary Paul (Otago University Press, 2006): a collection of art, essays and criticism on the eclectic forms of the New Zealand Gothic. Itself a beautiful artefact, the book brings together painting, photography, architecture, creative writing, film, television and tattooing in a multi-media embrace of the contemporary Kiwi Gothic. Included are my own contributions on the Gothic in New Zealand film, and the urban art of Misery.

Feminist Consequences: Theory for the New Century, edited by Elisabeth Bronfen and Misha Kavka (Columbia University Press, 2001): an anthology of new writings by many of the best-known names in feminist theory, taking the pulse of the feminist project in the 'post-feminist' age. Measuring the distance between 'Where have we come from?' and 'Where are we going?' this book draws on work by Mieke Bal, Lauren Berlant, Rosi Braidotti, Judith Butler, Rey Chow, Drucilla Cornell, Ranjana Khanna and Juliet Mitchell - to name a few - in order to address recurring questions of politics, ethics and thematics in feminism. Included is my own introduction, which surveys the history of feminist theory from the 1970s' second wave to the turn of the new century.

Teaching | Current

ENGLISH 321 Theory and the Gothic

FTVMS 101 Film Studies

FTVMS 211 Watching Television

FTVMS 309 Watching Television

FTVMS 711 Feminist Film Theory

Responsibilities

Associate Dean (Academic), Faculty of Arts

Areas of expertise

Television studies, reality TV, gender and sexuality studies, celebrity studies, feminist and psychoanalytic theory, gothic film, Hollywood film, New Zealand film

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Berryman, R., & Kavka, M. (2017). ‘I Guess A Lot of People See Me as a Big Sister or a Friend’: the role of intimacy in the celebrification of beauty vloggers. Journal of Gender Studies, 1-14. 10.1080/09589236.2017.1288611
  • Kavka, M., & Weber, B. R. (2017). Introduction: Transnational gender cultures and reality TV. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 20 (1), 3-9. 10.1177/1367549416640555
  • Kavka, M. (2016). The settlement trap. Short Film Studies, 6 (1), 67-70. 10.1386/sfs.6.1.67_1
  • Kavka, M. (2016). The affective reality of snuff. In N. Jackson, S. Kimber, J. Walker, T. J. Watson (Eds.) Snuff: real death and screen media (pp. 47-62). New York: Bloomsbury Academic. Related URL.
  • Kavka, M. (2015). The affective screen of wearable tech, or whatever happened to Google Glass?. Paper presented at Affect Theory Conference: Worldings, Tensions, Futures, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. 14 October - 17 October 2015. Related URL.
  • Kavka, M. (2015). It's her: Scarlett and the inhuman. Paper presented at 25th Annual Screen Studies Conference, University of Glasgow, Scotland. 26 June - 28 June 2015. Related URL.
  • Kavka, M. (2015). From words to numbers: redefining the public. Paper presented at Data Power Conference 2015, Sheffield, UK. 22 June - 23 June 2015. Related URL.
  • Kavka, M. (2015). Over-the-top models: affective labour and post feminist reality TV. Paper presented at Console-ing Passions: International Conference on Television, Audio, Video, New Media, Feminism, Dublin, Ireland. 18 June - 20 June 2015. Related URL.

Contact details

Primary location

SOCIAL SCIENCES - EAST - Bldg 201E
Level 5, Room 526
10 SYMONDS ST
AUCKLAND 1010
New Zealand