Jason Middleton

Visiting Associate Professor of Cinema Studies

Teaching this semester

CINE 1031. Introduction to Documentary Film Studies

The period since the advent of reality television has seen an unprecedented proliferation of film and media forms that claim to represent the “real.” When more conventionally serious fare like Citizenfour, Laura Poitras’ investigative portrait of Edward Snowden, shares the nonfiction media landscape with hoax films like Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop, television docudramas, and sensational short videos on YouTube, “documentary” has become increasingly hard to define. Examines major historical movements and styles in the documentary film tradition, with the goal of critically understanding documentary’s varying meanings and social and political functions. Studies the expository documentary, ethnographic film, the direct cinema and cinéma vérité movements, mock documentary and hoax films, personal and autobiographical film and video, animated documentary, and digital interactive documentary media. Films to be screened and discussed include: Fahrenheit 9/11, Nanook of the North, Titicut Follies, Man with a Movie Camera, Grizzly Man, The Act of Killing, Waltz with Bashir, The Watermelon Woman, and others.

CINE 1101. Film Narrative

An introduction to a variety of methods used to study motion pictures, with consideration given to films from different countries and time periods. Examines techniques and strategies used to construct films, including mise-en-scène, editing, sound, and the orchestration of film techniques in larger formal systems. Surveys some of the contextual factors shaping individual films and our experiences of them (including mode of production, genre, authorship, and ideology). No previous experience with film studies is required. Attendance at weekly evening screenings is required.

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).