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. This framework enables new approaches to longstanding questions in documentary studies about the relationship among media, activism, and social change. His current book project, “Documentary’s Body: Instructional Aesthetics and Transmodal Affects,” examines film and media objects whose intimate pedagogies of bodily transformation operate through their transmodal properties. Displaying images that “cannot be unseen” (to use the popular idiom) by depicting processes that have consistently posed challenges to representation (childbirth, illness and dying, animal slaughter and meat production), these media produce an experience of spectatorship that does not end when the video ends. Rather, through their production of affective intensities between bodies on and off the screen, they engender continuous processes of individual and collective realignment and becoming.
Middleton’s scholarship includes the monograph Documentary’s Awkward Turn: Cringe Comedy and Media Spectatorship (Routledge, 2014), the collection Medium Cool: Music Videos from Soundies to Cellphones (Duke UP, 2007), and articles in Cinema Journal, The Journal of Visual Culture, Popular Music, The Velvet Light Trap, and Afterimage. Middleton’s background in 16mm and Super 8 experimental filmmaking 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.