Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Moving Image Studies

First Advisor

Angelo Restivo

Second Advisor

Alessandra Raengo

Third Advisor

Jennifer Barker

Fourth Advisor

Fredric Jameson


This dissertation intervenes to theorize the implications of late 20th and early 21st century economic financialization for media studies and visual culture by considering the ways in which both the contemporary economy and contemporary culture share a central emphasis on speculation, a term which ambivalently refers both to the capacity to see, as well as the capacity to hypothesize and imagine. The central issue at stake is the question of how imaginary, speculative, and representational values in the economy can have real effects not only on stock prices but also on the material conditions of lived experience of individuals, as in the emblematic case of the 2008 global financial crisis. To answer this question, the dissertation develops a theory of the figural, drawing on the writings of Erich Auerbach, Gilles Deleuze, Walter Benjamin, and others, in order to explain how abstract processes of speculation can come to have concrete, material consequences. At stake is the notion that social reality and aesthetics are intimately imbricated through figural relations. Consequently, it is to mediated aesthetic renderings of the process of speculation that the dissertation looks to locate and comprehend these economic and cultural transformations. I focus on objects that deal centrally with conspiracy and investigation, which I argue following Fredric Jameson is the dominant representational locus of the cultural imagination of global finance. Body chapters contain close formal analyses of the amateur conspiracy chart style known as “Chart Brut,” the medical mystery television series House M.D., the found-footage horror film Sinister, and the videos news thriller Nightcrawler. A conclusion considers how the film Arrival constellates the formal and thematic issues at stake in the body chapters together into a potentially unified figure.