Sharon Willis

Sharon Willis

  • Fanny Knapp Allen Professor of Fine Arts
  • Professor of Art and Art History
  • Professor of Visual and Cultural Studies

PhD, French Literature, Cornell University, 1984

517 Morey Hall
(585) 275-5757

Office Hours: Mondays, 12:45 to 1:45 p.m. and by appointment

Curriculum Vitae

Research Overview

Research Interests

  • Film history and theory
  • visual and cultural studies
  • women's studies and feminist theory
  • comparative literature and critical theory
  • French cinema
  • 19th and 20th century French literature

Graduate Courses Taught

  • AHST 411:  French Cinema: The New Wave
  • AHST 413:  Race and Gender in Popular Film
  • AHST 454:  Film History: 1959-1989
  • AHST 483:  Contemporary French Film
  • AHST 554:  The Films of Jean-Luc Godard
  • AHST 561:  Classical Film Theory

Undergraduate Courses Taught

  • AHST 100:  Intro to Visual and Cultural Studies
  • AHST 211:  French Cinema: The New Wave
  • AHST 213:  Race and Gender in Popular Film
  • AHST 253:  Film History: 1929-1959
  • AHST 254:  Film History: 1959-1989
  • AHST 283:  Contemporary French Film
  • AHST 354:  The Films of Jean-Luc Godard
  • AHST 361:  Classical Film Theory

Selected Publications


  • High Contrast: Race and Gender in Popular Film (Duke University Press, 1997)
  • Co-Editor, with Constance Penley, Male Trouble (University of Minnesota Press, 1993)
  • Marguerite Duras: Writing on the Body (University of Illinois Press, 1987)
  •  “The Poitier Effect: Melodramas of Racial Pedagogy,” manuscript under consideration (University of Minnesota Press)

Articles and Book Chapters

  • “Blasting Boundaries: Genre, Gender, and Sadism in Django Unchained,” solicited for Quentin Tarantino’sDjango Unchained: The Continuation of Metacinema, ed. Oliver Speck (Continuum, 2014)
  • “Moving Pictures: Spectacles of Enslavement,” solicited for The Cambridge Companion to Slavery and American Literature,” ed., Ezra Tawil (Cambridge University Press, 2014)
  •  “Keeping It Real: Media Memory in Talk to Me (Kasi Lemmons, 2007), under consideration
  • “Afterword,” Marguerite Duras, L’Amour, trans., Kazim Ali and Libby Murphy (Open Letter Press) forthcoming, July 2013
  • “‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater: Liquidating History in Inglourious Basterds,” in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds: Manipulations of Metacinema, ed., Robert von Dassanowsky (Continuum Press, 2012) 163-192
  • “2002: Movies and Melancholy” in American Cinema of the 2000s, ed., Timothy Corrigan, in the Screen Decades series (Rutgers University Press, 2012) 61-82
  •  “Lost Objects: The Museum of Cinema,” for The Renewal of Cultural Studies, ed., Paul Smith, (Temple University Press, 2011) 93-102
  •  “Jean-Luc Godard and Breathless,” segment of  “The French New Wave at Fifty,” program #276 of What’s the Word?, the Modern Language Association weekly radio series (2009)
  •  “A Cinema of Migrations: Ziad Doueiri’s West Beyrouth,” Shifting Landscapes: Film and Media in European Context, ed. Miyase Christensen and Nezih Erdogan (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2008) 132-152, reprinted 2009
  •  “1991: Movies and Wayward Images,“ in American Cinema of the 1990s, ed., Chris Holmlund, for Screen Decades series (Rutgers University Press, 2008) 45-69
  •  “(Re) Inventing Camera Obscura,” with Amelie Hastie, Lynne Joyrich, and Patricia White, in Inventing Film Studies: Essays Toward the History of a Discipline, ed., Lee Grieveson and Haidee Wasson (Duke University Press, 2008) 298-319, reprinted from “Camera Obscura At Thirty,” Camera Obscura 61 (2006) 1-25
  • Edited, with Constance Penley, “Sword and Sorcery, S/M, and the  Economics of Inadequation: The Camera Obscura Interview,” (Interview with Samuel R. Delany)  in Samuel R. Delany, Silent Interviews (Hanover and London: Wesleyan University Press, 1994) 127-163, reprinted from Samuel R. Delany, “The Column at the Market's Edge,” The Motion of Light in Water (London: Paladin, 1991) 535-78


  • Co-Editor, Camera Obscura, 1991-
  • Executive Committee, MLA Division for Literature and the Other Arts: 1996-99; MLA Division on Film, 2002-2005
  • Society for Cinema and Media Studies
  • American Studies Association
  • Film and Media Studies Program: Director, 1997-2001;  2002-2004; 2007-2013
  • Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies: Director, 1991-93; Steering Committee, 1987-88; 1990-91; Chair, Curriculum Committee, 1987-88; Curriculum Committee member, 1989-90; 2002-. Curriculum Director, 2006-2007
  • David O. Selznick Master’s Program in Preservation Studies, Academic Faculty, 2004-
  • Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies, Executive Committee, 2002-
  • Mellon Humanities Corridor Committee, 2008-2010

Current Projects

  • Book project: “Lost and Found: World War II and Cinematic Memory.”
  • “Precious Realism: The Help (2010), Precious (2009), and Monster’s Ball (2001).