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Jason Sperb

Visiting Assistant Professor

Office: Morrill Hall 410
Phone: 405-744-2087


PhD, Communication and Culture, Indiana University
MA, English, Oklahoma State University
BA, English, Eastern Illinois University


Areas of Interest & Expertise
  • Film and Media Studies

Recent Courses Taught
  • ENGL 1113; Composition I

  • ENGL 1112: Composition II

  • ENGL 1313: Critical Analysis and Writing I (Honors)

  • ENGL 1413: Critical Analysis and Writing II (Honors)

  • ENGL 2453: Introduction to Film and TV

  • ENGL 3453: History of American Cinema

  • ENGL 3463: History of International Cinema

  • ENGL 3440: Studies in Film Genre

  • ENGL 3473: Race, Gender, and Ethnicity in American Film

  • HONR2890: Nostalgia and Memory (Honors)

Selected Publications
  • The Hard Sell of Paradise: Hawai’i, Hollywood, and Tourism (expected 2021)

  • “Clearing Up the Haze: Defining the ‘Nostalgia Film’ Genre,” in Was It Yesterday?: Nostalgia in Contemporary Film and Television, ed. Matthew Leggatt (forthcoming from SUNY Press, 2019)

  • “How (Not) to Teach Disney” in Journal of Film and Video 70.1 (Spring 2018): 47-60.

  • “From Nihilism to Nostalgia: Blackfish (2013) and the Contradictions of the Nature Documentary” in The Journal of Popular Film and Television 44.4 (Winter 2016): 206-219.

  • “The End of Detropia: Fordist Nostalgia and the Ambivalence of Poetic Ruins in Visions of Detroit” in Journal of American Culture 39.2 (June 2016): 212-227.

  • Flickers of Film: Nostalgia in the Time of Digital Cinema (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2015)

  • Blossoms & Blood: Postmodern Media Culture and the Films of Paul Thomas Anderson (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2013)

  • Disney’s Most Notorious Film: Race, Convergence and the Hidden Histories of Song of the South (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2012)

  • “Specters of Film / New Nostalgia Movies and Hollywood’s Digital Transition” in Jump Cut 56 (Winter 2014-2015):

  • “I’ll (Always) Be Back / Virtual Performance and Post-Human Labor in the Age of Digital Cinema” in Culture, Theory & Critique 54.3 (Oct. 2012): 383-397.

  • “Reassuring Convergence: Online Fandom, Race, and Disney’s Notorious Song of the South” in Cinema Journal 49.4 (Summer 2010): 25-45. (*Honorable Mention, 2012 SCMS Kovacs Essay Award)

  • “Islands of Detroit / Affect, Nostalgia and Whiteness” in Culture, Theory & Critique 49.2 (October 2008): 183-201.

  • “Empty Spaces: Remapping the Chaotic Milieu of the Modernist City in Sunrise” in Studies in the Literary Imagination 40.1 (Spring 2008): 77-89.

  • “Sensing an Intellectual Nemesis” in Film Criticism 32.1 (Fall 2007): 49-71.

  • The Kubrick Façade: Faces and Voices in the Films of Stanley Kubrick (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2006)

  • “Removing the Experience: Simulacrum as an Autobiographical Act in American Splendor” in Biography 29.1 (Winter 2006): 123-139.

  • “The Magic of Words: Voice-overs and Storytelling in Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (1964)” in Storytelling 5.4 (Summer 2006): 261-271.

  • “‘Take a Frown, Turn it Upside Down’: Splash Mountain, Walt Disney World and the Cultural De-rac[e]-ination of Disney’s Song of the South (1946)” in The Journal of Popular Culture 38.5 (Aug. 2005): 924-938.

  • “The Country of the Mind in Kubrick’s Fear and Desire (1953)” in Film Criticism 29.1 (Fall 2004): 23-37.

  • “Ghost without a Machine: Enid’s Anxiety of Depth(lessness) in Zwigoff’s Ghost World” in Quarterly Review of Film and Video 21.3 (Summer 2004): 209-217.

Selected Conference Presentations
  • Public Lectures, “Disney and WWII”—several guest lectures at local public libraries in the Chicagoland area (March 2017 to September 2018)

  • “‘Save That Gag for the Tourists’: Industrial Reflexivity and Post-Tourism Narratives in Hollywood’s Hawai’i Cycle of the 1930s”—2017 SCMS Conference (Chicago, IL. March 2017)

  • “‘Save That Gag for the Tourists’: Industrial Reflexivity and Post-Tourism Narratives in Hollywood’s Hawai’i Cycle of the 1930s” —2016 Film & History Conference (Milwaukee, WI. October 2016)

  • “The Hard Sell of Paradise: Hawaii Five-O, United Airlines, and the Rhetoric of Hawaiian Tourism in the 1960s”—2016 SCMS Conference (Atlanta, GA. March 2016)

  • “Auto-Biographies: Reflective Nostalgia, Archival Memories, and ‘Ruin Porn’ in Detroit Documentaries”—Race & Media Conference, University-Wisconsin: Madison (Madison, WI. Oct. 2014).

  • Invited Speaker, Song of the South Panel—Gund Gallery, Kenyon College (February 2014)

  • “Lost Track of Time / TRON, Retro-Blockbusters and Nostalgia in the Age of Transmedia Storytelling”—2013 SCMS Conference (Chicago, IL. March 2013)

  • Chair, “Affect in the Age of Transmedia Storytelling” panel—2013 SCMS Conference (Chicago, IL. March 2013)

  • “I’ll (Always) Be Back: Visual Effects, Virtual Performance and Post-Human Labor”—2012 SCMS Conference (Boston, MA. March 2012)

  • Chair, “Archaeologies of the Future” Digital Cinema Panel—2012 SCMS Conference (Boston, MA. March 2012)

  • Introduction, Screening—Punch Drunk Love, Doc Film Series (Chicago, IL. Feb. 2012)

  • Introduction, Screening—collection of Disney WWII-era short subject films, Michigan Historical Museum (Lansing, MI. Feb. 2012)

  • Chair and Organizer, “Brer Rabbit with a Switchblade: 35 Years with (and without) Ralph Bakshi’s Coonskin”—2010 SCMS Conference (Los Angeles, CA. March 2010)

  • “Our Most Requested Movie: Disney, Convergence, and the Reconstruction of Song of the South”—“Medium to Medium” Symposium (Northwestern. March-April 2009)

  • “Affecting Reassurance / On Utopia, Race and (Online) Disney Fandom”—2008 SCMS Conference (Philadelphia, PA. March 2008)

  • “Presence of Pleasure: The Work of Cinephilia in Age of Digital Reproduction”—2008 SCMS Conference (Philadelphia, PA. March 2008)

  • “Affecting Reassurance / On Utopia, Race and the Online Fandom of Song of the South”—2008 Affecting Representation / Representing Affect Conference (Columbus, OH. Jan. 2008)

Professional Appointments
  • Visiting Assistant Professor, English, Oklahoma State University, Department of English. August 2019 - Current.

  • Adjunct Professor, Media and Cinema Studies, DePaul University, College of Communication. September 2016 - June 2019.

  • Lecturer, Film and Media Studies, Benedictine University, Department of Communication Arts. August 2016 - May 2019.

  • Lecturer, Film and Media Studies, Northwestern University, Dept. of Radio/Television/Film. Sept. 2010 - July 2011; Sept. 2013 - August 2015.

  • Visiting Assistant Professor, Film and Media Studies, Indiana University, Dept. of Communication & Culture. Aug. 2012 - May 2013.

  • Assistant Professor (Fixed Term), Film and Media Studies, Michigan State University, Dept. of English. Aug. 2011 - May 2012.

Awards and Recognition
  • 2012 SCMS Katherine Singer Kovacs Essay Award (Honorable Mention)—“Reassuring Convergence: Online Fandom, Race and Disney’s Notorious Song of the South” (Boston, MA: Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference)

  • 2010 SCMS Graduate Student Travel Award

  • 2009 CMCL Graduate Travel Grant, Indiana University (Competitive department-wide award for conference travel)

  • 2007 Robert A. Gunderson Award, Indiana University (Top CMCL self-nominated seminar paper for calendar year 2006)

  • 2007 College of Arts & Sciences Travel Grant Award, Indiana University (Competitive college-wide award for conference travel

  • 2006 Virginia Gunderson Award, Indiana University (Top CMCL faculty-nominated graduate student seminar paper for calendar year 2005)

  • 2005-2006 First-Year Doctoral Fellowship, Indiana University (Award for Ph.D. Students)

  • 2004-2005 DeRoy Fellowship, Wayne State University (Doctoral fellowship—full teaching release, tuition waiver, and stipend)

  • 2004 E. P. Walkiewicz Contemporary Studies Scholarship, OSU (Outstanding graduate student research paper)

  • 2004 Audre Chapman Scholarship for Teaching Excellence in Composition, OSU (Selected as outstanding composition instructor in the Department of English)

  • 2003 Robberson Research Fellowship, OSU (for thesis research: Stanley Kubrick & the Country of the Mind) University-wide competition for outstanding graduate research projects

  • 2003 Harry M. Campbell Fellowship for Outstanding MA Student, OSU (Outstanding master’s student in the Department of English)

  • 2002 E. P. Walkiewicz Contemporary Studies Scholarship, OSU (Outstanding graduate research paper)

Current Research

My current book project traces representations of the Hawaiian Islands in popular US movies and TV programs during a crucial and controversial period (1930s-1970s) that saw Hawai’i’s transition from unwilling US-occupied territory to ambivalent 50th state, from agriculture to leisure-based economy, and from wartime military hub to postwar tourist destination. The project explores how Hollywood and other mass media engaged, reflected, and rewrote the rhetoric of the tourism industry during the mid-20th Century, and how those popular representations of Hawai’i negotiated complex questions in the United States’ collective cultural imagination, particularly involving the histories of race, labor, and neocolonialism. As prominent manufacturers of the key immaterial commodity of “experience,” Hollywood and mass tourism both operate as synergetic, mutually beneficial contributors to the origins of a post-industrial economy. The book looks at popular media representations of key historical moments, and the important industrial and cultural contexts informing them, such as pre-WWII elite tourism, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, debates around statehood, and the postwar popularity of Hawai’i as both a site for mass-packaged tourism and a pop culture symbol of baby boomer leisure. It also explores how companies affiliated with the Hawaiian tourism industry— such as United Air Lines, Matson Cruise Lines, and the Hawaii Tourist Bureau—directly and indirectly influenced representations of the Islands in mainstream American mass media.

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