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Prof Esther Leslie

  • Overview

    Overview

    Office hours

    By email appointment: e.leslie@bbk.ac.uk

    Web profiles

    Administrative responsibilities

    • Co-director of the Birkbeck Institute of the Humanities

    ORCID

    0000-0003-4712-2753
  • Research

    Research

    Research interests

    • marxism
    • Frankfurt School
    • Poetics of Science
    • Walter Benjamin
    • Modernism
    • colour
    • anarchism
    • Somers Town
    • radical aesthetics
    • Fascism and Nazism
    • critical theory
    • animation

    Research overview

    Esther Leslie’s chair, ‘Professor of Political Aesthetics’, at Birkbeck, yokes together subjects perhaps thought of as discrete in disciplinary terms, and neither of which she professes to teach within – Politics and Aesthetics. For her, the relay between these aspects has featured in much of her work – whether it is the exploration of how aesthetic innovations, art and culture, respond or react to liberatory revolutionary situations, or whether it is the ways in which an authoritarian regime turns aesthetics and art into a weapon of control, as something to be censored and policed, lest it threaten the social order. Much of her work on Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Siegfried Kracauer, on Nazi film and photography, on Stalinist Socialist Realism, on madness and expression, has tracked these connections. Through this work, she came to the theme of animation, which she has interpreted as a philosophically attuned form, inserting itself into political contexts in a variety of intriguing ways. Her more recent work, developing out of a fascination with colour in representation, has taken her political, aesthetic and interdisciplinary approaches into the study of technology and science, under the mantle of what she calls a poetics of science. Two aspects not always thought in tandem are again combined. One result of this was the study of synthetic dye production in Germany, where colour, artifice, politics, philosophy, company and art histories combine. Her earlier work on animation stuck with cel and model animation, but the shift of the industry into computer generation, and the suffusing of this CGI everywhere, led to investigations of liquid crystals, touchscreens and a highly expanded idea of what it means to be animated now. Newer work explores the poetics and politics of milk and butter production, the metaphorical impulses of Fog and Cloud Computing and what type of atmospheres they produce and are produced in.

    Research Centres and Institutes

    Research projects

    Animate Assembly: Animation and New Life.

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching

    Supervision

    Current doctoral researchers

    • ELIZABETH JONES
    • JACOB BARD-ROSENBERG
    • LEILA NASSERELDEIN
    • MARY NEWBOLD
    • MISCHA FOSTER POOLE
    • SIMON KING

    Doctoral alumni

    • PAUL INGRAM
    • SALLY O'REILLY
    • CLAUDIA FIRTH
    • SAM DOLBEAR
    • MAGDA SCHMUKALLA

    Teaching

    Teaching modules

    • MA Cultural & Critical Studies: Second Half Sessions (AREN050Z7)
    • Science Fiction (AREN193S6)
    • Key Concepts in Cultural and Critical Studies: Part 1 (ENHU003S7)
  • Publications

    Publications

    Artefact

    Article

    Book

    Book Section

    • Leslie, Esther (2021) Fog, Froth and Foam: insubstantial Matters in Substantive Atmospheres. In: Electric Brine. Berlin, Germany: Archive Press. ISBN 9783948212490.
    • Leslie, Esther (2021) Marx and popular Modernism. In: Understanding Marx, Understanding Modernism. Understanding Philosophy, Understanding Modernism. London, UK: Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 9781501351129.
    • Leslie, Esther (2020) The street and the fragment aesthetics of experience; aesthetics of the particular in David Frisby. In: Giannakopoulou, G. and Gilloch, G. (eds.) The Detective of Modernity: Essays on the Work of David Frisby. Classical and Contemporary Social Theory. Routledge. ISBN 9780367192563.
    • Leslie, Esther (2020) Taking a beating. In: Hasham, L. (ed.) Heather Phillipson. London, UK: Prestel. ISBN 9783791359526.
    • Leslie, Esther (2020) Clouds over Somers Town. In: Hatherley, O. (ed.) The Alternative Guide to the London Boroughs. London, UK: Open City. ISBN 9781916016910.
    • Leslie, Esther (2020) Touchscreen. In: Pryor, S. and Trotter, D. (eds.) Writing, Machine, Code: Modern Technographies. Open Humanities Press. ISBN 9781785420061. (In Press)
    • Leslie, Esther (2019) Ars Technica in Ethereality. In: Bang Larsen, L. (ed.) Mud Muses – A Rant About Technology. Stockhlom, Sweden: Museum of Modern Art/Moderna Museet. pp. 97-107. ISBN 9789198417753. (In Press)
    • Leslie, Esther (2019) Waves and globes in Walter Benjamin’s Microcosmic Cities. In: Dirscherl, M. and Köhler, A. (eds.) Urban Microcosms 1789-1940. ilmr books. London, UK: Institute of Modern Language Research. ISBN 9780854572663.
    • Leslie, Esther (2019) Jagode in Smetana: O Esfir Sub in revolucionarmen objecktu. In: Krajnc, M. and Baskar, N. and Kos, J. and Lovrenov, M. (eds.) Oktobrska revolucija in zgodnje-sovjetski film. Zbirka Jesenska filmska šola. Slovenia: Jesenskafilmskasola, Slovenska Kinoteka. ISBN 9789617013085.
    • Leslie, Esther (2018) Liquid crystal as chemical form and model of thinking in Alfred Döblin’s modernist science. In: Bud, R. and Greenhalgh, P. and James, F. and Shiach, M. (eds.) Being Modern: The Cultural Impact of Science in the Early Twentieth Century. London, UK: UCL Press. pp. 357-372. ISBN 9781787353930.
    • Leslie, Esther (2018) ‘The Clouds, the Cephs and the Ferments’/’Die Wolken, die Sepien und das Gären’. In: Oberender, T. and Rosenberg, A. (eds.) Philippe Parreno: Gropius Bau Sommer 2018. Berlin, Germany: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Konig. ISBN 9783960983903.
    • Leslie, Esther (2018) Kitsch. In: Scholz, S. and Vedder, U. (eds.) Handbuch Literatur & Materielle Kultur. Handbücher zur kulturwissenschaftlichen Philologie. Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter. pp. 412-414. ISBN 9783110416497.
    • Jackson, M. and Leslie, Esther (2017) Unreliable matriarchs. In: Cohen, M. and Otomo, Y. (eds.) Making Milk: The Past, Present and Future of Our Primary Food. London, UK: Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781350029965.
    • Leslie, Esther (2016) Benjamin gegen den Staat. In: Blättler, C. and Full, C. (eds.) Walter Benjamin Politisches Denken. Staatsverständnisse. Baden Baden, Germany: Nomos Verlag. pp. 111-134. ISBN 9783848734252.
    • Leslie, Esther (2016) Acts of handwriting. In: Hiller, S. and Treister, S. (eds.) Monica Ross: Ethical Actions - A Critical Fine Art Practice. Berlin, Germany: Sternberg Press. ISBN 9783956792021.
    • Leslie, Esther (2016) All that is solid melts into the conjuntural. In: Corby, J. (ed.) Adventures in Modernism: Thinking with Marshall Berman. New York, U.S.: UR. pp. 152-161. ISBN 9780996004169.
    • Leslie, Esther (2016) Ice creams, atom bomb, i-screens, data bomb. In: Baur, A. and Leslie, Esther and Weber, M. (eds.) Better Than De Kooning. Germany: RAM Publications. ISBN 9783864421372.
    • Leslie, Esther (2016) Liquid, crystal, vaporous: the natural states of capitalism. In: Ferguson, K. and Petro, P. (eds.) After Capitalism: Horizons of Finance, Culture, and Citizenship. New Directions in International Studies. Rutgers University Press. pp. 151-165. ISBN 9780813584263.
    • Leslie, Esther (2016) Touch screen. In: Pryor, S. and Trotter, D. (eds.) Writing, Medium, Machine: Modern Technographies. Technographies. London, UK: Open Humanities Press. pp. 191-207. ISBN 9781785420184.
    • Leslie, Esther (2015) Haphazard: a gambler’s word hoard. In: Carfield Corr, H. and Epps, L. (eds.) The Very Last Time. London, UK: Ambergris Editions. ISBN 9780993393402.
    • Leslie, Esther (2015) Art after war: experience, poverty and the crystal utopia. In: Anievas, A. (ed.) Cataclysm 1914: The First World War and the Making of Modern World Politics. Historical Materialism Book Series. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill. pp. 216-235. ISBN 9789004262676.
    • Leslie, Esther (2015) Brute forces. In: Bad Feelings. London, UK: Book Works. ISBN 9781906012588.
    • Leslie, Esther (2015) Kraftwerk’s signs of the 1970s. In: Influenser, referenser och plagiat : om Kraftwerks estetik = Influences, references and imitations : on the aesthetics of Kraftwerk. Goteberg, Sweden: Röhsska museet. ISBN 9789187039096.
    • Leslie, Esther (2015) The peculiar ecstasy of the animated object. In: Pantenburg, V. (ed.) Cinematographic Objects: Things and Operations. Cologne, Germany: August Verlag. pp. 95-109. ISBN 9783941360341.
    • Leslie, Esther (2014) Dreams for sale. In: Fischer, L. and Fraser, I. and Gregg, R. and Uhlirova, M. (eds.) Birds of Paradise. Costume as Cinematic Spectacle. London, UK: Walther König. ISBN 9783863352181.
    • Leslie, Esther (2014) Animation and history. In: Beckman, K. (ed.) Animating Film Theory. Durham, North Carolina, United States: Duke University Press. pp. 25-36. ISBN 9780822356523.
    • Leslie, Esther (2013) Animation’s petrified unrest. In: Buchan, S. (ed.) Pervasive Animation. AFI Film Readers. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. ISBN 9780415807241.
    • Leslie, Esther (2013) Brecht and cinema. In: Bauer, P. and Kidner, D. (eds.) Working Together: Notes on British Film Collectives in the 1970s. Southend, UK: Focal Point Gallery. ISBN 9781907185052.
    • Leslie, Esther (2013) Complex Messiah. In: Jordan Wolfson, None (ed.) Ecce Homo/Le Poseur. Berlin, Germany: Walther König. ISBN 9783863354145.
    • Leslie, Esther (2013) Esther Leslie. In: Lauschmann, T. (ed.) Startle. London, UK: London Film and Video Umbrella. ISBN 9780955876950.
    • Leslie, Esther (2012) Disturbios culturales. In: Ossandón, J. and Vodanovic, L. (eds.) Disturbios culturales (Cultural Unrest). Santiago, Chile: Universidad Diego Portales.
    • Leslie, Esther (2011) Smashing time. In: Loftus, B. (ed.) Sigismund's Watch. London, UK: Phillip Wilson Publishing. pp. 85-98. ISBN 9780856677090.
    • Leslie, Esther (2011) Critical criticism’s critique: 13 theses, or, it is all rubbish. In: Schad, J. and Tearle, O. (eds.) Crrritic! Sighs, Cries, Lies, Insults, Outbursts, Hoaxes, Disasters, Letters of Resignation, and Various Other Noises Off in These the First and Last Days of Literary Criticism ... Not to Mention the University. Eastbourne, UK: Sussex Academic Press. ISBN 9781845193423.
    • Leslie, Esther (2011) Shadowy, shape-shifting, shaky: animation as subversion. In: Wagner, B. and Grausgruber, W. (eds.) Tricky Women: Animations Film Kunst von Frauen. Vienna, Asutria: Schueren. ISBN 9783894727239.
    • Leslie, Esther (2011) Slumberland, architecture and the technological unconscious. In: Libero, A. (ed.) Spielraum: W. Benjamin et l’Architecture. Paris, France: Editions La Villette. ISBN 9782915456608.
    • Leslie, Esther (2010) Recycling. In: Beaumont, M. and Dart, G. (eds.) Restless Cities. London, UK: Verso. ISBN 9781844674053.
    • Leslie, Esther (2010) Liquidation and shattering: Walter Benjamin’s aesthetics. In: Pusca, A.M. (ed.) Walter Benjamin and the Aesthetics of Change. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9780230580862.
    • Leslie, Esther (2010) Siegfried Kracauer and Walter Benjamin: memory from Weimar to Hitler. In: Radstone, S. and Schwarz, B. (eds.) Memory: Histories, Theories, Debates. New York, USA: Fordham University Press. ISBN 9780823232604.
    • Leslie, Esther (2010) Walter Benjamin and the technological unconscious. In: Andreotti, L. (ed.) Spielraum: W. Benjamin and Architecture. Thinking Space. Paris: Editions de la Villette. ISBN 9782915456608.
    • Leslie, Esther (2009) Icy scenes from three centuries. In: Pajaczkowska, C. and White, L. (eds.) The Sublime Now. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 36-49. ISBN 9781443813020.
    • Leslie, Esther (2009) Ben Wilson. In: Davies, C. and Parrinder, M. (eds.) Limited Language: Rewriting Design Responding to a Feedback Culture. Basel, Germany: Birkhauser. ISBN 9783034604604.
    • Leslie, Esther (2009) It's Mickey Mouse. In: Furniss, M. (ed.) Animation - Art & Industry: A Reader. New Barnet, UK: John Libbey. ISBN 9780861966806.
    • Leslie, Esther and Wayne, M. (2009) Preface. In: Bould, M. and Miéville, China (eds.) Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction. Lebanon, U.S.: Univeristy Press of New England. ISBN 9780819569134.
    • Leslie, Esther (2007) American splendor. In: Merck, M. (ed.) America First: Naming the Nation in US Film. London, UK: Routledge. ISBN 9780415374965.
    • Leslie, Esther (2007) Snow shaker. In: Candlin, Fiona and Guins, R. (eds.) The Object Reader. In Sight: Visual Culture. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. ISBN 9780415452304.
    • Leslie, Esther (2006) Ruin and rubble in the arcades. In: Hansen, B. (ed.) Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project. Walter Benjamin Studies. London, UK: Continuum. ISBN 9780826463876.
    • Leslie, Esther (2005) Globalica: communism, culture and the commodity. In: Economising Culture On the (Digital) Culture Industry. New York, USA: Autonomedia. ISBN 9781570271687.
    • Leslie, Esther (2005) Stars, phosphor and chemical colours: extraterrestriality in 'The Arcades'. In: Burrow, M. and Farnell, G. and Jardine, M. (eds.) Readings Benjamin's Arcades. New Formations. London, UK: Lawrence and Wishart. ISSN 1905007132. ISBN 1905007132.
    • Leslie, Esther (2005) Benjamin/Adorno/Brecht and film. In: Wayne, M. (ed.) Understanding Film Marxist Perspectives. London, UK: Pluto Press. ISBN 9780745319926.
    • Leslie, Esther (2005) Two worlds of fortune: fulture and dying in the global zone. In: Cox, G. and Krysa, J. and Lewin, A. (eds.) Economising Culture. Autonomedia. ISBN 9781570271687.
    • Leslie, Esther (2005) Wear and tear. In: Evans, C. and Breward, C. (eds.) Fashion and Modernity. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9781845200282.
    • Leslie, Esther (2004) Jameson, Brecht, Lenin and spectral possibilities. In: Kellner, D. and Homer, S. (eds.) Fredric Jameson: A Critical Reader. London, UK: Palgrave. pp. 195-209. ISBN 9780230523524.
    • Leslie, Esther (2004) Karl Marx and fashion. In: Steele, V. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Fashion and Clothing. New York, USA: Charles Scribner's Sons. ISBN 9780684313955.
    • Leslie, Esther (2003) Absent minded professors: etch-a-sketching academic forgetting. In: Hodgkin, K. and Radstone, S. (eds.) Regimes of Memory. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. pp. 172-185. ISBN 9780415511049.
    • Leslie, Esther (2002) Flaneurs in Paris and Berlin. In: Koshlar, R. (ed.) Histories of Leisure. London, UK: Berg Publishers. pp. 61-77. ISBN 9781859735251.
    • Leslie, Esther (2002) Murmurs of the future. In: Rosenberg, A. (ed.) Berliner Kindheit. New York, USA: Distributed Art Publishers. ISBN 9783882438123.
    • Leslie, Esther (2002) Philistines and vandals get upset. In: Beech, D. and Roberts, J. (eds.) The Philistine Controversy. London, UK: Verso Press. ISBN 9781859843741.
    • Leslie, Esther (2000) Elemental: the arcades project. In: Osborne, P. and Benjamin, A. (eds.) Walter Benjamin's Philosophy: Destruction and Experience. Manchester, UK: Clinamen Press. pp. 304-308. ISBN 9781903083086.
    • Leslie, Esther (2000) Mad pride and prejudice. In: Curtis, T. and Dellar, R. and Leslie, Esther and Watson, B. (eds.) Mad Pride: A Celebration of Mad Culture. London, UK: Spare Change Books. pp. 67-82. ISBN 9780952574422.
    • Leslie, Esther (2000) One step forwards, two steps back. In: Flett, K. and Renton, D. (eds.) The Twentieth Century, A Century of Wars and Revolutions?. London, UK: Rivers Oram Press. pp. 33-53. ISBN 9781854891266.
    • Leslie, Esther (2000) Some optical Illusion: colour and craft. In: Stair, J. (ed.) The Body Politic: The Role of the Body and Contemporary Craft. London, UK: Crafts Council. pp. 51-57. ISBN 9781870145992.
    • Leslie, Esther (2000) Spectacles and signs. In: Living in a material world. Coventry, UK: Coventry University. pp. 240-251.
    • Leslie, Esther (1999) Souvenirs and forgetting: Walter Benjamin's memory-work. In: Breward, C. and Aynsley, J. and Kwint, M. (eds.) Material Memories: Design and Evocation. Oxford, UK: Berg Publishers. pp. 107-122. ISBN 9781847881601.
    • Leslie, Esther (1999) Telescoping the microscopic object: Walter Benjamin, the collector. In: De-, Dis-, Ex-: The Optic of Walter Benjamin. London, UK: Black Dog Publishing. pp. 58-91. ISBN 9781901033410.
    • Leslie, Esther (1998) Drawing the line: painting history and history painting. In: Gange, J. (ed.) Art, Technology, Technique: Art, Criticism, Theory. London, UK: Pluto Press. pp. 17-33. ISBN 9780745313122.
    • Leslie, Esther (1998) Walter Benjamin: traces of craft. In: Harrod, T. (ed.) Obscure Objects of Desire: Reviewing the Crafts in the Twentieth Century. London, UK: Crafts Council. pp. 21-31. ISBN 9781870145671.

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