UCL Faculty of Arts & Humanities


Q&A with Temenuga Trifonova

Here we catch up with Temenega Trifonova and ask a few questions ahead the new term teaching on the Creative Arts & Humanities BA.

1. Briefly introduce yourself and what you will be teaching on the Creative Arts and Humanities BA

Before joining UCL in June 2023 as Associate Professor of Creative Arts and Humanities I taught film studies in the Department of Cinema and Media Arts at York University in Toronto, the Department of English at the University of New Brunswick, and the Department of Film and Digital Media at the University of California Santa Cruz.

On the BA CAH I will be teaching How Moving Images Work I (HMIW I) and HMIW II. HMIW I introduces students to the critical study of moving images. What is the relationship between moving images and reality? What distinguishes moving images from other kinds of images e.g., paintings and photographs? How do moving images signify? How do we engage with moving images emotionally, morally, and philosophically?

HMIW II will be structured around two central questions:

  • How can moving images enrich our understanding of the fundamental questions explored by the humanities: the nature of personal and collective identity; the nature of existence, knowledge, and memory; cultural, social and philosophical values and beliefs; the natural world and our relationship with it; the sources of our pleasure and pain.
  • How can the humanities enrich our understanding of moving images?

2. What are your academic interests, creative expertise and achievements?

My research focuses on film theory, European cinema, migration and cinema, neoliberalism and cinema, photography and cinema, theories of globalization and identity, and aesthetic theory. I have written on a wide range of subjects, from the nature of consciousness, perception and memory in 20th century French philosophy, through philosophy of art, to the figure of the migrant in European cinema and neuroscientific theories of film.

  • The Image in French Philosophy (2007) explores the curious aversion to vision, visuality and the image in the work of Bergson, Sartre, Lyotard, Baudrillard and Deleuze.
  • European Film Theory (2008) revisits the culture wars between Grand Theory and Post Theory. Drawing on intellectual history, visual studies, film studies, and philosophy.
  • Warped Minds: Cinema and Psychopathology (2014) examines the role played by photography and cinema in the construction of pathology at the end of the 19th century, the transition from static, universalizing psychiatric paradigms to increasingly dynamic styles of psychiatry foregrounding the socially constructed nature of mental illness, the aestheticization of madness in the early horror film, the Italian giallo, and in Hollywood puzzle films.
  • Contemporary Visual Culture and the Sublime (2018) offers a map of the contemporary sublime in terms of the limits of representation - cinematic, cognitive, neurophysiological, technological, and environmental.
  • The Figure of the Migrant in Contemporary European Cinema (2020) reflects on the ways in which films centered around migrants challenge us to rethink core concepts like European identity, citizenship, justice, ethics, liberty, tolerance, and hospitality.
  • Screening the Art World (2022) explores the ways in which artists and the art world, particularly its tenuous position between commercial good and cultural capital, have been represented on screen.

My current project explores the poetics and politics of the new European cinema of precarity.

I have been the recipient of various research fellowships, including at CY Cergy Paris Université, Le Studium Centre for Advanced Studies, Waseda Institute for Advanced Studies (Tokyo), NYU Center for European and Mediterranean Studies, the American Academy in Rome, the Dora Maar House, and the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Bologna.

In addition to my academic work, I am also a novelist and occasional filmmaker. I have published two novels, Rewrite (2014) and Tourist (2018), and have recently started work on a new one.

3. What are you most looking forward to with the launch of the programme at UCL East?

I am looking forward to being part of an exciting new program that reimagines the role of the imagination and creativity in scholarship and the role of critical thinking in creative practice. I hope my collaboration with colleagues in my department and beyond will allow me to continue experimenting with different forms of writing, researching and filmmaking.

4. What kind of student do you think would thrive on this degree?

The degree will appeal to students who are excited about learning how to mix critical humanities thinking with creative practices to craft powerful stories. Students who are interested in dismantling artificial oppositions such as theory vs practice, thinking vs creating, imagination vs reason, thinking in images vs thinking in concepts, storytelling vs argumentation, fiction vs non-fiction will thrive on this degree.

5. What most excites you about this course at UCL East? 

I am looking forward to meeting and collaborating with colleagues in exciting new programs like ethnographic and documentary film, immersive factual storytelling, global urbanism, science and engineering for social change, public history, cinematic and videogame architecture, audio storytelling, robotics and artificial intelligence.

6. What is your journey to UCL East like? 

I take the overground to UCL East, and my journey time is just under an hour. Depending on how I feel, I use the time to read or nap.