Department of English


Jason Middleton

Research Interests

Jason Middleton's research focuses classical and contemporary film theory, documentary and experimental film, and cinematic affect and embodiment. His work often explores the affective and ideological dimensions of film and media that create difficult and uncomfortable modes of spectatorship, objects that provoke a simultaneous desire to look and to look away. His recent book, “Documentary’s Awkward Turn: Cringe Comedy and Media Spectatorship” (Routledge, 2014) examines moments in documentary film and media when an established mode of representation or reception is unexpectedly challenged, stalled, or altered. It makes visible the ways in which awkwardness connects and subtends a range of transformative textual strategies, political and ethical problematics, and modalities of spectatorship in documentary film and media from the 1970s to the present. Middleton’s current book project, “Volatile Visions,” explores the mimetic and affective qualities of moving images that depict bodies in transformation, or seek to transform bodies: experimental films and instructional videos about childbirth, political documentaries and activist videos depicting industrial food production, approaches to illness and dying in avant-garde film and art cinema.

Middleton’s recent scholarship also includes three related publications on the politics of representation in American film and media culture (including horror film and “mondo” video) in the context of the “war on terror.” Each seeks to understand how film and popular culture have responded to the fears and anxieties raised by the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. use of torture, and state surveillance of citizens. He has published work on gender and television spectatorship, sound and image in found-footage film and video, and negotiations of race in contemporary popular music and music video. His co-edited collection Medium Cool: Music Videos from Soundies to Cellphones (Duke UP, 2007) explores the transformations in music video as cultural form in relation to new technologies, modes of distribution, and the global production and consumption of music video. Middleton’s background in 16mm and Super 8 experimental film production informs his interest in the materiality of the medium and intersections of theory and practice. His films have screened at a variety of festivals and other venues in the U.S. and internationally, as well as on public and satellite television.

Fellowships, Honors & Awards

  • G. Graydon Curtis and Jane W. Curtis Teaching Award for Nontenured Faculty Teaching, University of Rochester, 2009.
  • James B. Duke Fellowship, Duke University, 1995-1999.

Courses Offered (subject to change)

Courses in film studies and film theory; affect theory; documentary film and media; gender and sexuality; horror film; theory and practice of experimental film and video

  • The Horror Film (Fall 2013)
  • Introduction to the Art of Film, (Fall 2013)
  • Documentary and Mock Documentary (Spring 2013)
  • Gender and Sexuality in American Cinema (Fall 2012)
  • Introductory Video and Sound (Spring 2010)
  • (Post) Cinematic Affect and Emotion (Spring 2014)
  • Modern Film Theory (Spring 2013)
  • Theorizing Documentary (Spring 2012)

Selected Publications

  • Documentary’s Awkward Turn: Cringe Comedy and Media Spectatorship (Routledge, 2014).
  • Medium Cool: Music Videos from Soundies to Cellphones, ed. Roger Beebe and Jason Middleton (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007).
  • “Something to Hide: The Ethics of Spectatorship in Saw,” in Cine-Ethics: Ethical Dimensions of Film Theory, Practice, and Spectatorship, ed. Mattias Frey and Jinhee Choi (Routledge, 2013).
  • “Spectacles of Atrocity: Mondo Video in the ‘War on Terror,’” Afterimage 39.1&2 (August 2011).
  • “The Subject of Torture: Regarding the Pain of Americans in Hostel,” Cinema Journal 49.4 (Summer 2010).
  • "The Audio-Vision of Found Footage Film and Video," in Medium Cool: Music Videos from Soundies to Cellphones, ed. Roger Beebe and Jason Middleton (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007).