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Jennifer Fay

Associate Professor of Cinema and Media Arts | English
Director, Program in Cinema and Media Arts


I am an Associate Professor of Cinema & Media Arts and English as well as a member of the graduate faculty in German Studies. My research and teaching are broadly concerned with transatlantic film and media theory, environmental criticism, and the relationship between aesthetics and politics.

These interests are front and center in my forthcoming book Inhospitable World: Cinema in the Time of the Anthropocene (March 1, 2018, Oxford University Press). I offer a history of cinema as a history and an aesthetic practice of the Anthropocene epoch, a new geological period in which humans have come to reshape unwittingly both the climate and natural world. I consider examples of film production in which artificial worlds, unnatural weather, and deadly environments are produced for entertainment, scientific study, and devising military strategy. Filmmaking stages, quite literally, the process by which worlds and weather come into being and meaning, and it mimics the forces that are driving this new planetary inhospitality. Cinema, in other words, provides an image of "nature" in the age of nature’s mechanical reproducability. 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 chapters in this book explore the connection between media theory and aesthetics, on one hand, and the production of artificial worlds, weather, and climates, on the other, in which hospitality and survival in the world are at stake.I argue that cinema exemplifies the philosophical, political, and perhaps even logistical processes by which we can perceive our environmental predicament and begin to imagine a minimal hospitality that may emerge on a post-hospitable planet.

Inhospitable World builds on my previous work concerning globalization and politics: a co-authored book (with Justus Nieland) Film Noir: Hard-Boiled Modernity and the Cultures of Globalization and my first monograph Theaters of Occupation: Hollywood and the Re-education of Postwar Germany I have recently begun a new project on sincerity and media theory that has its origins in a graduate seminar I taught in the Spring of 2016 (Sincerity and the Media of Appearance).  As a first foray, I am writing an essay “Must We Mean What We Film?: Stanley Cavell’s Sincerity.” This will be my contribution to a special issue of Discourseentitled “Cinema, Modernism, and the Perplexing Methods of Stanley Cavell” that I am co-editing with Daniel Morgan.   

I also serve as co-editor of the Contemporary Film Directors series for University of Illinois Press, coordinator of the Film Theory and Visual Culture Seminar at Vanderbilt’s Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities, and sit on the board of directors for the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville.