Shimmering Images

Trans Cinema, Embodiment, and the Aesthetics of Change

Book Pages: 248 Illustrations: 35 illustrations Published: March 2019

Author: Eliza Steinbock

Cultural Studies > Affect Theory, Gender and Sexuality > Trans Studies, Media Studies > Film

In Shimmering Images Eliza Steinbock traces how cinema offers alternative ways to understand gender transitions through a specific aesthetics of change. Drawing on Barthes's idea of the “shimmer” and Foucault's notion of sex as a mirage, the author shows how sex and gender can appear mirage-like on film, an effect they label shimmering. Steinbock applies the concept of shimmering—which delineates change in its emergent form as well as the qualities of transforming bodies, images, and affects—to analyses of films that span time and genre. These include examinations of the fantastic and phantasmagorical shimmerings of sex change in Georges Méliès's nineteenth-century trick films and Lili Elbe's 1931 autobiographical writings and photomontage in Man into Woman. Steinbock also explores more recent documentaries, science fiction, and pornographic and experimental films. Presenting a cinematic philosophy of transgender embodiment that demonstrates how shimmering images mediate transitioning, Steinbock not only offers a corrective to the gender binary orientation of feminist film theory; they open up new means to understand trans ontologies and epistemologies as emergent, affective, and processual.


"The greatest achievement of Shimmering Images is Steinbock’s contestation of the status of the 'visible,' and of the attendant concepts expressed in the hegemonic Enlightenment insistence that to see something is to know it: 'visuality,' 'recognition,' 'knowledge,' and 'objectivity.'. . . . Steinbock leaves the reader with new tools for examining trans embodiment with(in) cinema." — Elizabeth Berman, Feral Feminisms

"Shimmering Images is often exquisitely poetic, evoking Roland Barthes's work as it describes the author's passionate investigation of media, mediation, and embodiment.… Steinbock's concept of shimmering images expresses how we thrill to certain mediated moments not in spite of, but because of, who we are and who we are becoming—in dialogue with the media that we encounter, that we seek out, and that shimmers in our lives."  — Nicole Morse, Critical Inquiry

"Whether you are a cinephile, transgender studies scholar, or simply curious, Shimmering Images comes highly recommended to readers from a wide array of backgrounds." — Eva Theunissen, Tijdschrift voor Genderstudies

“Shimmering Images contains a rich and topical cultural analysis extending across time and across genres that is underpinned by a commitment to interdisciplinary research that will undoubtedly be of value for scholars and students in film studies, transgender studies, feminist theory, cultural studies, and queer theory.”

— Lieke Hettinga, Screen Bodies

"Through the concept of shimmering, Eliza Steinbock promotes a trans cinematic aesthetic that provides the means to move beyond examining issues of representation. Innovative and sophisticated, Shimmering Images offers a delightful, whirlwind experience and a stimulating encounter with cinema, media, and trans studies as well as aesthetics and affect theory." — Chris Straayer, author of Deviant Eyes, Deviant Bodies: Sexual Re-orientation in Film and Video

“Deftly combining film theory, affect theory, trans studies, and aesthetics, Eliza Steinbock's scintillating new book makes a bravura contribution to each of the fields it draws from. They argue that, in delinking and relinking sounds and images across literal cuts, filmmaking necessarily enacts a ‘transsexual logic of cinematic embodiment.’ The brilliance of the book lies in the sophistication with which it develops that fundamental insight into a full-fledged practice of reading, watching, feeling, thinking, and interpreting. It's a game-changer.” — Susan Stryker, coeditor of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly


Availability: In stock
Price: $25.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Eliza Steinbock is Assistant Professor of Film and Literary Studies at Leiden University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface. Call Me They  vii
Acknowledgments  xi
Introduction. Disjunction and Conjunction: Thinking Trans through the Cinematic  1
1. Shimmering Phantasmagoria: Trans/Cinema/Aesthetics in an Age of Technological Reproducibility  26
2. Shimmering Sex: Docu-Porn's Trans-Sexualities, Confession Culture, and Suturing Practices  61
3. Shimmering Multiplicity: Trans*Forms in Dandy Dust and I.K.U. from Dada to Data to D@D@  107
Conclusion. An Ensemble of Shimmers  145
Notes  157
Bibliography  199
Index  219
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Winner, 2020 Best First Book Award, presented by the Society for Cinema and Media Studies

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0388-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0324-3
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