Brett Bowles


IU Bloomington

Full Biography

I have an interdisciplinary academic background, combining a B.A. and M.A. in French Language and Literature from the University of Virginia with a Ph.D. in French Civilization from Pennsylvania State University. Before coming to IU, I taught at Iowa State University (1998-2006) and The State University of New York at Albany (2006-2011).

My primary research field is twentieth-century social, political, and cultural history through film (fiction and documentary) and other mass media (mural posters, literature), with a focus on the 1930s through the 1960s. Methodologically, I am always interested in integrating formal analysis of the object or medium in question with contextual analysis related to its production, distribution, and reception. The combination of the two approaches allows us to assess the range of factors that influence how, why, and to what degree different forms of cultural production succeed in shaping political and social mentalities, practices, and institutions.

In addition to publishing a first book on Marcel Pagnol (Manchester University Press, 2012) as part of its "French Film Directors" series, I have written numerous journal articles about French and German newsreels and documentaries distributed during the Second World War, as well as post-war films that have shaped collective memory of the period. Expanding on those interests are two longer forthcoming projects: an edited collection of essays titled "The Politics of French and German Cinema, 1930-1945" to be published by Berghahn Books, and a monograph for Manchester UP that frames the documentary films of Marcel Ophüls (best known for The Sorrow and the Pity and Hotel Terminus: the Life and Times of Klaus Barbie) as a tool for working through the legacy of the Second World War and evaluating its role in shaping contemporary European political institutions.

My professional practice activities have included serving on the editorial boards of several journals, including Modern and Contemporary France (co-editor, 2007-2013), French Historical Studies (2010-2013), The Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television (associate editor, 2005-present), and French History (since 2007-present). I also work with International Historic Films in Chicago as academic consultant for DVDs related to the Second World War. The first such project was a restored and subtitled edition of Forces Occultes (Hidden Forces), an anti-Semitic, anti-Masonic propaganda film made by French collaborationists in 1942. More recent titles include Salut à la France / A Salute to France, a dual-language docu-drama that Jean Renoir made for the American Office of War Information in 1944 to promote American-British-French solidarity just prior to D-Day, and The Liberation of Paris, an English-language version of a newsreel made and distributed by French socialist and communist Resistance fighters in August 1944 to document the population’s armed revolt against the Nazi occupiers as the Allied armies advanced toward the capital.

At IU I teach a range of undergraduate and graduate courses on French and European film, history, society and culture, most of which are cross-listed with the Media School and/ or European Studies. Regular offerings include: Contemporary France, History of French Cinema, European Cinema and Society, French Documentary Film, Marginality in Contemporary French Cinema, and Echos of the New Wave.

In my spare time, operating under the pseudonym Professor Affiche, I enjoy backing and restoring original film, political, and advertising posters, with a focus on pre-1945 stone lithographs. Beyond perpetually expanding the over 300 designs—mostly French and American—in my own permanent collection, and I do jobs regularly for a dozen serious collectors scattered across North America, Europe, and Australia.