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Jennifer Fay

Chair, Department of English
Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor, Cinema & Media Arts
Professor, English and German Studies
Coordinator, Film Theory and Visual Culture Seminar

(she / her / hers)
Benson 332
Website | CV



PhD – Film Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2001


  • Transatlantic Film and Media Theory
  • Media Aesthetics and Politics
  • Environmental Humanities
  • Comparative Film Histories


My research and teaching are broadly concerned with transatlantic film and media theory, environmental criticism (including critical Anthropocene studies), and the relationship between aesthetics and politics.

These interests are at the center of my third book Inhospitable World: Cinema in the Time of the Anthropocene (2018, Oxford University Press).  Chapters move from Buster Keaton’s weather designs to the Nevada atomic testing range and from China’s Three Gorges Dam to the icy shores of Antarctica. The book explores the relationship of media theory and aesthetics to the production of artificial worlds, weather, and climates in which hospitality and survival in the world are at stake. Film Quarterly  published an interview with me about this book, and extended reviews appear in  L.A. Review of Books and the  Hong Kong Review of Books. Inhospitable World was named a Choice “Outstanding Title” by the American Library Association, won Honorable Mention for the 2019 ASLE Ecocritical Book Award, was shortlisted for the 2019 Best Moving Image Award, Kraszna-Krauz Foundation, and was recognized at Vanderbilt in 2020 with the Chancellor’s Award for Research.

A recent essay in Representations, “Do I Know the Anthropocene When I See It?,” extends some of this research to contemporary documentary cinema and the political theory of Hannah Arendt. This essay is open access and available to download here. More public facing is the month-long film series entitled “Wir leben im Anthropozän” that I co-curated with Marius Kuhn at Zürich’s Kino Xenix. You can read an interview with me about the film series here.

A second line of inquiry focuses on sincerity, opacity, and the media of appearance across the writings of Stanley Cavell, Hannah Arendt, and James Baldwin. A few essays represent initial forays into this topic. “Must We Mean What We Film?: Stanley Cavell’s Candid Camera,” is my contribution to a special double issue of Discourse I co-edited with Daniel Morgan entitled “Cinema, Modernism and the Perplexing Methods of Stanley Cavell” which appeared in November of 2020. I examine the unlikely affinity between Arendt’s account of thinking and Cavell’s exploration of thought on film in an essay published in Critical Inquiry (Winter 2022).  Finally, a short meditation published in Screen entitled “Hollywood’s White Privacy” takes up the racialization of cinematic privacy in the writings of Cavell and Baldwin.

I serve on the editorial board of the Journal of Environmental Media and Film-Philosophy, and I coordinate the Film Theory and Visual Culture Seminar at Vanderbilt’s Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities.  Currently chair of the Department of English, I was previously first director and then chair of the Department of Cinema & Media Arts at Vanderbilt from 2011-2022. In the Spring and Summer of 2021, I was a Fellow at Cinepoetics: Center for Advanced Film Studies at the Free University, Berlin. I delivered a plenary entitled “Refusing the World” at the 2023 International Screen Studies conference (Glasgow) that focused on the theme of “Screen Worlds.” In October of 2023, I gave a series of talks and seminars at a week-long residency at the University of Zürich’s Film Studies Seminar.



  • Inhospitable World: Cinema in the Time of the Anthropocene   (Oxford University Press, 2018).
  • Theaters of Occupation: Hollywood and the Re-education of Postwar Germany  (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008).
  • Film Noir: Hard-Boiled Modernity and The Cultures of Globalization  co-authored with Justus Nieland (London & New York: Routledge Press, Film Guidebooks Series, 2010).

Edited Special Issues:

  • Discourse special double issue on “Cinema, Modernism, and the Perplexing Methods of Stanley Cavell.” Co-edited with Daniel Morgan. Vol. 42.1-2 (2020).
  • CR: New Centennial Review special issue on “The Cultures of Occupation.” Co-edited with Salah Hassan 8: 1 (2008).

Selected Articles:

  • “Coming to Terms with the Future,” Fiftieth Anniversary Special Issue: “Possibilities and Provocations.” New German Critique. 150 (November 2022): 61-69.
  •  “A Portal to Another World: On Cinema, Climate Change, and A Good Apocalypse,” in What Film Is Good For?  Julian Hanish and Martin eds. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2022), 13-23.
  •  “Thinking on Film with Arendt and Cavell,” Critical Inquiry 49:2 (Winter, 2022):227-250.
  • “Hollywood’s White Privacy: Stanley Cavell and James Baldwin” special dossier on Stanley Cavell. Catherine Wheatley and Kate Rennebohm, eds. Screen  Vol 63. No. 1 (Spring, 2022).
  • “Do I Know the Anthropocene When I See It?” for special issue “Media Climates.” Weihong Bao, Brian Jacobson, James Cahill, eds. Representations 157 (Spring 2022): 41-67.
  • “Bankers Dream of Banking: Or, Against the Interpretation of Dreams,” in Deep Mediations: Thinking Space in Cinema and Digital Cultures. eds. Karen Redman and Jeff Scheible (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2021), 123-142.
  • “Introduction” co-written with Daniel Morgan to special issue “Cinema, Modernism, and the Perplexing Methods of Stanley Cavell.” Jennifer Fay and Daniel Morgan, eds. Discourse. Vol.  42.1-2 (Fall 2020):  3-19.
  • “Must We Mean What We Film?: Stanley Cavell’s Candid Camera.” in “Cinema, Modernism, and the Perplexing Methods of Stanley Cavell.” Jennifer Fay and Daniel Morgan, eds. Discourse. Vol. 42.1-2 (Fall 2020): 112-139.
  • “Cinema’s Hot Chronology (5:29:21 Mountain War Time, July 6, 1945),” in “In Focus: Film and Media History in the Anthropocene.” Jennifer Peterson and Graig Uhlin, eds. Journal of Cinema and Media Studies (formerly Cinema Journal ) 58:2 (Winter 2019): 146-152
  • “Democratic Film and the Aesthetics of Choice,” German Life & Letters 13: 5 (2018). Special issue “Narratives of Identity and Nationhood in Occupied Germany.” Lara Feigel and Emily Oliver, eds.: 169-192.
  • “Atomic Screen Test.” Modernism/modernity.23:3 (September 2016) Special issue on “Modernist Inhumanisms.”Aaron Jaffe, ed.,611-630.
  • “The Talented Mr. Roosevelt” co-written with Scott Juengel in Film and the American Presidency. Jeff Menne and Christian B. Long eds. (New York: Routledge, 2015):    99-115.
  • “Buster Keaton’s Climate Change,” Modernism/Modernity21:1 (January, 2014):25-49.
  • Werner Herzog and Preposterous War,” CR: New Centennial Review 13:1 (Spring 2013) Special issue on “War and Peace”:241-264.
  • “Antarctica and Siegfried Kracauer’s Cold Love” Discourse 33:3 (Fall, 2011—published Fall 2012): 291-321
  • “Rubble Noir,” in William Rasch and Wilfried Wilms eds. German Postwar Films: Life   and Love in the Ruins (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008): 125-140.
  • “Seeing/Loving Animals: Andre Bazin’s Posthumanism,” The Journal of Visual Culture 7: 1 (2008): 41-64.
  • “Dead Subjectivity: White Zombie, Black Baghdad,” CR: New Centennial Review 8:1 (2008): 71-91.
  • “Germany is a Boy in Trouble,” Cultural Critique 64 (Fall 2006): 196-234.
  • “Becoming Democratic: Satire, Satiety, and the Founding of West Germany,” Film History 18: 1 (Winter 2006): 6-20.
  • “‘That’s Jazz Made in Germany!’: Hallo Fräulein and The Limits of Democratic Pedagogy,”Cinema Journal 44:1 (Fall 2004): 3-24.
  • “The Schoolgirl Reports and the Guilty Pleasure of History” in E. Mathijs and X. Mendikeds.Alternative Europe: Eurotrash and Exploitation Cinema Since 1945 (London: Wallflower Press, 2004): 39-52.