Jason Middleton

Visiting Associate Professor of Cinema Studies

Teaching this semester

CINE 2263. Documentary and Experimental Documentary: Theory and Practice

Examines forms of nonfiction film and media that represent alternatives to the conventional expository documentary style famously associated with the PBS documentaries of filmmaker Ken Burns (“The Vietnam War,” “The Civil War,” etc.). Focuses instead on more experimental approaches in the history of documentary film, including: the city symphony, essay film, personal and autobiographical documentary, portrait film, found footage film, animated documentary, and hoax/fake documentary. Films/videos discussed may include: Dziga Vertov’s “Man with a Movie Camera,” Chris Marker’s “Sans Soleil (Sunless),” Agnès Varda’s “The Gleaners and I,” Ruth Ozeki’s “Halving the Bones,” Jonathan Caouette’s “Tarnation,” Nikolas Geyrhalter’s “Our Daily Bread,” Jenni Olsen’s “The Joy of Life,” Deborah Stratman’s “In Order Not to be Here,” Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis,” and others. Engages with these film and media forms through a variety of approaches: critical and theoretical readings and class discussion, written responses and longer analytical papers, and hands-on media projects including video essays. No previous media production experience is required, but students must be willing to critically and creatively explore nonfiction media as both scholars and makers. Note: Fulfills the film theory requirement for cinema studies minors.

CINE 2264. Film Genres in American Cinema

Examines significant films from a range of genres, including the western, gangster, musical, family melodrama, film noir, and horror. Seeks to understand not only the formal conventions and modes of spectatorship that constitute each of these individual genres, but also to comparatively analyze the concept of genre itself in the cinema. Surveys the development of film genre theory and serves as an introduction to some of the major texts of modern film theory. Explores genre theory’s intersections with other critical approaches, including auteurism, structuralism, critical race studies, queer theory, and feminism. Note: Fulfills the film theory requirement for cinema studies minors.

Jason Middleton’s research explores the distinct and forceful modalities of feeling produced in and by documentary film/media, analyzing the interventionist work of nonfiction media not simply in the conventional terms of rhetoric and persuasion but as a sensory and embodied site of transformation. His current book project, “Documentary’s Body: Instructional Aesthetics and Transmodal Affects,” examines film and media objects that depict processes that have consistently posed challenges to representation (childbirth, illness and dying, animal slaughter and meat production)—media that feature images that “cannot be unseen” (to use the popular idiom). Middleton’s research on embodiment in nonfiction media enables new approaches to longstanding questions in documentary studies about the relationship among media, activism, and social change.


  • Ph.D., The Literature Program, Duke University
  • B.A., Hampshire College; Amherst, MA

Selected Publications

  • Documentary’s Body: Instructional Aesthetics and Transmodal Affects (In
  • progress).
  • Documentary’s Awkward Turn: Cringe Comedy and Media Spectatorship (New York and London: Routledge, 2014).
  • Medium Cool: Music Videos from Soundies to Cellphones, ed. Roger Beebe and Jason Middleton (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007).
  • “A Rather Crude Feminism: Amy Schumer, Post-Feminism, and Abjection,” Feminist Media Histories Vol. 3 no. 2 (Spring 2017), special issue on Comedy, ed. Kristen Anderson Wagner and Maggie Hennefeld.
  • “Documentary Horror: The Transmodal Power of Indexical Violence,” Journal of Visual Culture 14.3 (December 2015), special issue, “The Design and Componentry of Horror,” ed. Eugenie Brinkema and Caetlin Benson-Allott.
  • “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 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).
  • “The Subject of Torture: Regarding the Pain of Americans in Hostel,” Cinema Journal 49.4 (Summer 2010).
  • Comic Book Melancholia,” Los Angeles Review of Books. 
  • Is That All There Is?” Avidly (Los Angeles Review of Books).