The Poetics of Slumberland: Animated Spirits and the Animating Spirit

March, 2012

In The Poetics of Slumberland, Scott Bukatman celebrates play, plasmatic possibility, and the life of images in cartoons, comics, and cinema. Bukatman begins with Winsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland to explore how and why the emerging media of comics and cartoons brilliantly captured a playful, rebellious energy characterized by hyperbolic emotion, physicality, and imagination. Slumberland is more than a marvelous world for Nemo and its citizens, it's an aesthetic space defined through the artist's innovations; an animated space that opens to embrace the imaginative sensibility of a reader; and it's a temporary space of play. The book broadens to consider similar "animated" behaviors in seemingly disparate media--films about Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent van Gogh; the musical My Fair Lady and the story of Frankenstein; the slapstick comedies of Jerry Lewis; and contemporary comic superheroes--drawing them all together as the purveyors of embodied utopias of disorder.

Praise for The Poetics of Slumberland 

"In praise of animation and play, The Poetics of Slumberland is what we rarely find--an inspiring book exploring the elastic pleasures of the imagination."
--Alexander Nemerov, author of Acting in the Night: Macbeth and the Places of the Civil War

"The Poetics of Slumberland continues Scott Bukatman's fascination with the vertiginous mapping of modernity from the early twentieth century to the present, here with emphasis on the relationship of the artist/animator to his own potentially autonomous and disobedient creations, which often demand a 'life of their own.' Never pedantic, always vibrant, and often downright funny, Bukatman's essays range across artists, art forms, and genres in a work that is as imaginative and seriously playful as its overarching theme."
--Vivian Sobchack, author of Carnal Thoughts: Embodiment and Moving Image Culture

"Bodies which expand and stretch through animation and special effects, within worlds subjected to topsy-turvy perspectives and kaleidoscopic optics... Bukatman synthesizes a view of an American popular culture of comics, musical numbers, science fiction fantasies, Jerry Lewis's convulsions, and superhero transcendence with considerations of the sublime, abstract expressionism, the phenomenology of the body, and avant-garde cinema--and makes us believe it! Rarely has any critic caught the pulse of American dreams so vividly and with equal parts exhilaration and vertigo."
--Tom Gunning, author of D. W. Griffith and the Origins of American Narrative Film: The Early Years at Biograph