Ochonicky describes his talk as follows:
As a region, the Midwest is situated uniquely within the American popular imagination. Often labeled as being “flyover country,” this space and its inhabitants are considered to be both “authentically” American and a cultureless mass. In response to such regional perceptions, this talk examines two intertwined areas of focus: the cultural formation of the Midwest in film and the ever-shifting spatial and violent dimensions of nostalgia. From the closing of the Western frontier to the development of virtual environments online, the distinctive temporal properties of nostalgia have continually complicated and transformed how the Midwest’s place-identity is configured. Using Badlands (1973) and A History of Violence (2005) as case studies, I show how my concepts of “nostalgic spatiality” and “nostalgic violence” operate within cinematic depictions of the Midwest. Nostalgic spatiality refers to nostalgia being projected onto a physical landscape, thereby changing how that space is perceived, understood, or experienced. Nostalgic violence functions as a cultural force that regulates the behaviors and identities of both individuals and communities so that the present might appear as the nostalgic subject desires the past to be. Both Badlands and A History of Violence reimagine the Midwest’s physical territory as a realm in which the nostalgic desire for simultaneity is realized through a violent collapse of the past and present. Within these two films, the Midwest’s identity in American culture thus comes into focus as one of fluctuating meanings that are shaped by the inescapable pull of nostalgic longing.