Romance Languages and Literatures

Jennifer Wild

Associate Professor, Department of Cinema and Media Studies, the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, and the College. Affiliated faculty in the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality
(On leave 2019-20)


Classics 314B


Program(s): French and Francophone Studies

Research interests: History and theory of modernism and the avant-garde; experimental film; French cinema; the history of film exhibition; and the cinema’s relation to the other arts.

In my research and teaching I focus on the history and theory of modernism and the avant-garde; experimental film; French cinema; the history of film exhibition; and the cinema’s relation to the other arts. In each of these areas, I strive to show how the close study of films and their culture informs, and is informed by, a vast history of images and creative traditions from across the arts and literature. While I understand films as objects that participate in a multi-disciplinary lineage of formal, economic, and aesthetic resonance, in my work I also emphasize the historical dimension of projection, exhibition, and cinema-going as visual and cultural practices. These aspects allow me to explore aesthetic questions from an interdisciplinary but also deeply historical perspective. I am equally interested in historiography and in developing new methodological approaches to the history of film, cinema, visual culture, and artistic tradition.

In my book, The Parisian Avant-Garde in the Age of Cinema, 1900-1923 (The University of California Press 2015), I take the point of view of artists such as Pablo Picasso, Francis Picabia, and Marcel Duchamp in order to examine the formal and experiential components of the historical cinema experience in Paris before 1923. Understanding the early cinema as modernist space, form, and set of evolving addresses including projection, film exhibition, distribution, and stardom, I argue that it became a central component of the avant-garde’s revolution in visual form, artistic address, and aesthetic reception. On the one hand, I suggest that the early cinema supplied a dynamic alternative to traditional and idealized modes of aesthetic experience to modern artists and the mass public alike. On the other hand, I maintain that it also reframed culture as both a thoroughly modern aesthetic category, and as the most important site for aesthetic reception in the twentieth century—two aspects that became essential to the historical avant-garde's artistic enterprise. In this dual-focus history, avant-gardism and the early cinema experience emerge as adjacent iterations of early twentieth-century modernism, and as mutually inclusive structures for radical reception and display.

My broader research interests span the twentieth century and include the neo-avant-garde; contemporary European cinema; and time-based, moving image works and installations. My new project concerns a theory and a history of the arrival of the moving image into the gallery. Here, I am interested in the “shape of arrival,” or what I think of as a discursive structure that helps us examine both the formal problems of technological media, and the solutions provided by their implementation in art works. The “shape of arrival” reads like a map of these problems and solutions, and it expresses their history in spatial, conceptual, graphic, and also linguistic terms and patterns. My other projects include an underground ethnography of Surrealism and a history of darkness.
Before joining the faculty at the University of Chicago, I taught cinema courses at L’Université de Paris III and Le Centre Parisien d’Etudes Critiques. My research has received the support of a Fulbright Fellowship; the Harmon Chadbourn Rorison Fellowship, Institut Français de Washington; the Society for French-American Cultural Services Fellowship; and a Franke Institute for the Humanities Faculty Fellowship.


Graduate Seminars

Neo-Avant-Wave: Post War Film Experiment in France; The Silent Avant-Garde; The Cinematographic Turn: Film/Art Practice; The 7th Art; Seeing/Writing the Everyday in 20th-Century France (with Professor Alison James, Romance Languages and Literatures); History and Theory of the Avant-Garde.

Mixed Undergraduate and Graduate classes

La Nouvelle Vague/The French New Wave; Feminist Theory and Counter Cinema; French Cinema of the 20s and 30s; The Modern Body and the Cinema; A Topography of Modernity: Cinema in Paris 1890-1925.

Selected bibliography

  • The Parisian Avant-Garde in the Age of Cinema, 1900-1923 (The University of California Press, 2015). 
  • “The Length of a Wide Highway: On the Archive, the (Electronic) Marketplace, and the End of a Collection,” Cinémas: Revue d’études cinématographiques/Journal of Film Studies, vol. 24, no. 2-3, special issue L'attrait de l'archive (Summer 2014): 165-187.
  • “What Léger Saw: The Cinematic Spectacle and the Meteor of the Machine-Age,” La Ville: Fernand Léger and the Modern City (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2013): 145-151.
  • “Francis Picabia, Stacia Napierkowska, and the Cinema:  The Circuits of Perception,” in Dada and Beyond, eds. Elza Adomowicz and Eric Robertson (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2012): 57-76.
  • “Distance is (Im)material: Epstein Versus Etna,” in Jean Epstein: Critical Essays and Translations, eds. Sarah Keller and Jason Paul (Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam Press, 2012), 115-142.
  • “The Automatic Chance of the Modern Tramp: Chaplin and the Parisian Avant-Garde,” Early Popular Visual Culture Volume 8 Issue 3 (2010): 263-283.
  • “Modern Painting: Instruments in the History of Film Theory,” in Dall'inizio, alla fine. Teorie del cinema in prospettiva/In the Very Beginning, at the Very End. Film Theories in Perspective, eds. Francesco Casetti, Jane Gaines, Valentina Re (Udine, Italy: Forum, 2009), 539-546.
  • “The Cinematographic Geographies of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque,” Picasso, Braque and Early Film in Cubism (New York: PaceWildenstein Editions, 2007), 148-167.
  • “Feu sur le public. La balistique cinématographique de l’avant-garde en France,” CinémAction, special issue, Arts Plastiques et Cinéma, no. 122 (2007): 100-109.
  • "L'Hélice (Délice d') : Anémic Cinéma dans le champ de l'avant-garde", in Jean-Pierre Bertin-Maghit and Geneviève Sellier, eds., La Fiction éclatée. Volume 2 : Petits et grands écrans français et francophones : de l'esthétique à l'économie,  Actes du 4e Congrès de l'Afeccav ENS LSH Lyon 2004 (L'Harmattan, Paris, 2007): 231-240.
  • "Sur le déclin d’un dispositif culturel, la chanson illustrée,” 1895 no. 47 (December 2005): 9-37.
  • “An Artist’s Hands: Stella Simon, Modernist Synthesis, and Narrative Resistance,” Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media, Vol. 46, no. 1 (March 2005): 93-105.

Wild CV