Director, Film Studies
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
As Director of the Film Studies program, I oversee the Film Studies Concentration in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, as well as the Global Cinema Minor. I earned my PhD in English, with Certificate in Film Studies, at the University of Pittsburgh (this same degree program is now called Film & Media Studies). I also hold an MA in Film Studies from Emory University. Before coming to UNC-Chapel Hill, I was a visiting lecturer at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pennsylvania.
My work investigates the history of film style in a global context. I am especially interested in the philosophical and reflective capabilities of cinema. While I also write about (and teach) popular films, I am drawn to more experimental styles of filmmaking that rigorously challenge our habits of thought and perception. Within my field, I am mostly known for my work on the French-Swiss director Jean-Luc Godard and his relationship to the essay film, an intellectual genre that developed in the wake of World War II. My book, Godard and the Essay Film: A Form That Thinks, examines the topic at length through a study of Godard’s films, television programs, and videos made from the 1960s to the 2010s. The book comparatively engages the styles of other film essayists, such as Orson Welles, Harun Farocki, Agnès Varda, and Guy Debord.
Areas of interest and expertise also include classical and post-classical American cinema; global art cinema; film performance; horror and thriller genres; the history of film theory; and film’s complex intermedial relations with literature, photography, and painting. I am currently at work on a new book that examines suspense as a phenomenon at play in slow-paced, atmospheric films that are not usually considered to offer suspense. This book, The Rebirth of Suspense in Global Art Cinema: Slowness, Attention, and Atmosphere, will challenge received definitions of suspense that privilege Hitchcockian examples. Global in scope and phenomenological in approach, this book will also rethink some of the oversimplified ways in which slow cinema has been discussed in film studies. Offering a theory and analysis of cinematic suspense in slow time–particularly in art films that partake of thriller and horror genres–this book explores how negative affects such as dread, anxiety, melancholy, and paranoia are central to the aesthetic and political dimensions of slow, minimalist cinema in the twenty-first century.
My essays have also appeared in several edited collections, as well as in peer-reviewed journals such as New Review of Film & Television Studies, Quarterly Review of Film & Video, Adaptation, Critical Inquiry, Critical Quarterly, Journal of Popular Film & Television, Post Script: Essays in Film & the Humanities, Studies in World Cinema, South Atlantic Review, and more. I frequently present research at international conferences, and I have been invited to give talks and participate in symposia at the Whitney Humanities Center (Yale University), the University of Maryland, the Penn Humanities Forum, and the Slought Foundation.
My research projects and methods directly inform my teaching. I provide a wide range of courses, oscillating between historical surveys of different national and transnational cinemas, intensive studies of multiple genres and traditions, film theory surveys, and courses devoted to particular filmmakers and their influence. Whatever their topic, my courses show students how to write about films with precision, clarity, and nuance. My aim is not merely to expand their knowledge but also to improve their audiovisual literacy, honing their sensitivity to how film and television participate in larger intellectual, cultural, and political debates. As a founding editor, I oversee Aspect: Journal of Film and Screen Media, which highlights some of the best writing produced by our undergraduate film students.
The graduate students I supervise have focused on an array of dissertation topics, from the essay film and documentary to “weird horror” and postcolonial North African films. I administer a graduate student edition of the Triangle Film Salon, which gives our graduate students a forum within which to share their research with their peers and faculty.
My public engagement includes serving as a faculty consultant for Film Fest 919 and for the Chelsea Theater. With Allison Portnow Lathrop of the Ackland Art Museum, I program semester-long film series that are open to students, faculty, and the general public. As a member of the Arts Everywhere Campus Arts Council, I am committed to improving the local film culture, and to using the power of film to strengthen community ties between UNC and the town of Chapel Hill.
AWARDS, FELLOWSHIPS & GRANTS
Johnston Teaching Excellence Award, 2020
Schwab Academic Excellence Award, Institute for the Arts & Humanities, 2018
Institute for the Arts & Humanities Faculty Fellowship, Fall 2015
Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship, Annual Penn Humanities Forum, University of Pennsylvania, 2011-12
Andrew W. Mellon Dissertation Fellowship, 2009-10
Richard Tobias Dissertation Fellowship, 2008-09
Carolina Asia Center Grant, 2020
University of Pittsburgh Center for International Studies Travel Grant, 2006
PRINCIPAL EXPERTISE & INTERESTS
Film aesthetics / film history, in particular European, North American, East Asian / film theory / film in relation to other arts / film and philosophy / avant-garde cinema / documentary and essay film / performance / genre theory / media studies