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The seminar draws from the faculty of New York-area universities and independent scholars; regular participants come from as far away as Baltimore. Attendance varies from twenty to forty-five people, with thirty being average. Half of the speakers are from within the seminar, half are from outside. They present works in progress that generally address important groundbreaking topics in film and media studies within an interdisciplinary perspective. Most sessions have a respondent, often a regular member of the seminar. The seminar has an international reputation among film and media scholars and has become the center for ongoing face-to-face scholarly exchanges in the field.

Professor Cynthia Lucia

Professor William Luhr

Joseph Fischer

All seminars will meet over Zoom for the 2020-2021 academic year. Meeting links provided upon RSVP. Meeting dates and times are subject to change. 

Meeting Schedule

09/24/2020 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
Quick, Quick—Like a Bunny! The Ink and Paint Machine, Female Labor, and Color Production at Disney during the Classical Era
Kirsten Moana Thompson, Seattle University

Respondent: Joshua Yumibe, Michigan State University

10/08/2020 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
Perpetual Motion: Mobility, Precarity, and Slow Death Cinema
Pamela Wojcik, University of Notre Dame

Respondent: Dana Polan, New York University

11/05/2020 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
Vengeance is Mine: Considering Emotion and the Cinema
Lucy Fischer, University of Pittsburgh

Respondent: Krin Gabbard, SUNY Stony Brook

12/03/2020 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
Empathy in an Avant-garde Film: Sergei Eisenstein on Spectators’ Embodiment and Estrangement
Ana Hedberg Olenina, Arizona State University

Respondent: Michael Kunichika, Amherst College

01/21/2021 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
On Vivid Colors and Afrotypes in African and Diasporic Cinema
Joshua Yumibe, Michigan State University

Respondent: Kirsten Moana Thompson, Seattle University

02/11/2021 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
Montage and Ethnographic Method
Michael Kunichika, Amherst College

Respondent: Joan Neuberger, University of Texas at Austin

03/11/2021 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
Madea’s Baby, Tyler’s Maybe: Wrestling with the Heritage of the Mother
Miriam Joanna Petty, Northwestern University


This talk explores Tyler Perry’s rise to stardom as facilitated and complicated by his alter ego Madea. It draws upon his 1990s (pre-Hollywood) stage plays as the site for Perry’s development of a set of visual and narrative strategies designed to optimize and manage the Madea character. These strategies alternatively spectacularize and disappear her, betraying the profound ambivalence that characterized Perry and Madea’s relationship from these earliest moments of their conjoined career.

Respondent: Monica White Ndounou, Dartmouth College

04/08/2021 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
Trauma, Aesthetic Form and Healing in Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama
Elizabeth Ann Kaplan, Stony Brook University, SUNY


This talk challenges prior Trauma Studies’ assumptions regarding what aesthetic style is most appropriate for representing traumatic experiences. Following Cathy Caruth’s pioneering post-structuralist research, avant-garde, experimental and indirect modalities were said to best convey trauma in literature and film. I’ll argue that this insistence on indirection speaks only to certain trauma phenomena, and leaves aside the realist narrative modes through which trauma clinicians address their patients’ traumatic symptoms. But in an attempt to move beyond my setting up a perhaps unhelpful binary (i.e indirection/realism), I turn to a genre not much theorized by trauma scholars, namely graphic narrative. Despite the work on Art Spiegelman’s Maus, which inspired other comics authors to deal with weighty subjects, the vast possibilities for graphic narrative to represent trauma have not been sufficiently studied. After briefly rehearsing what’s unusual about comics as an aesthetic form, I offer a close reading of Alison Bechdel’s second graphic narrative, Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama. I argue that Bechdel’s text moves easily between indirection (relying on objects in the background of panels), and the realist strategies of a therapeutic narrative offered by the heroine’s therapists, and thus provides a way out of the binary. Arguably, Bechdel’s ability to show her heroine working through the traumas hindering her life was achieved via combining in direction and realism—something the graphic form is especially able to accomplish. Graphic narrative (non-fiction and memoir) offers fertile ground for the future of Trauma Studies.

Respondent: Lucy Fischer, University of Pittsburgh