Jonathan Foltz

foltz profile

Assistant Professor

BA, Bard College

MA, PhD, Princeton University


617-358-2553
Room 245
For CV click here

My research and teaching activities concentrate on modernist literature, film and media studies, philosophy, critical theory, visual culture, and aesthetics.  As a scholar of literature and film, I focus on how problems of aesthetic knowledge can be reimagined through analogy and antagonism with other arts.  For this reason, I find myself drawn to works of conflicted ambition with respect to their form, medium or genre: novels that would not like to be novels, poems obsessed with becoming the images they address to us, films that indulge their impatience with narrative in order to revel in a fascination with pure showing.  In clarifying the cultural work of these modes of experimentation, I think about the ways that storytelling has changed in response to the developments of technological modernity.

In the case of modernism, I am interested in how the character and task of literature was redefined in response to the emergence of cinema.  My book-in-progress, Modernism and the Narrative Cultures of Film, explores this by looking at the work of writers who sought to transform our understanding of the novel—among them Virginia Woolf, H.D., Aldous Huxley, and Henry Green—and who were also members of the first generation to address the challenge to aesthetic conventions posed by narrative film-making.  Connecting the public discourse about film as an art to the experiments of modernist fiction, I show how basic literary notions of subjectivity, language, irony, and omniscience were reconfigured in the shadow of a medium that seemed to make those categories at once obsolete and newly urgent.  The Russian critic Viktor Shklovsky once wrote that making literature in the style of film would be absurd, akin to making “ice-cream out of lilacs.”  This strikes me as a taunt and a caution, but also as a kind of thinking that is surprisingly desirous of the bad form it disavows.  I would like to understand how this kind of drift in aesthetic value and judgment might refocus our understanding of how literature has remade itself in the last hundred years or so.

I have published an article on H.D.’s prose fiction in the context of her film reviews, as well as an article on Carlos Reygadas’s film Silent Light. I have written book reviews for the Los Angeles Review of Books, as well as a number of film reviews. I currently teach courses on modern literature, film, narrative theory, and the unreliable narrator.  In my classes, I have taught experimental poetry alongside slapstick comedies, Freud’s case studies alongside film noir, and in one class used the poetic donkey from the movie Au hasard Balthasar to illustrate how the narrative treatment of bodies has been altered by the advent of cinematic representation.

Teaching and Research Interests
  • Twentieth-Century Literature
  • Film & Media studies
  • Modernist Literature & Culture
  • Formalism & Aesthetics
  • Philosophy & Critical theory
Selected Publications
  • “The Laws of Comparison: H.D. and Cinematic Formalism,” Modernism/modernity 18.1 (Winter 2011), 1-25.
  • “Betraying Oneself: Silent Light and the World of Emotion,” Screen 52.2 (Summer 2011), 151-172.
Work in Progress
  • Modernism and the Narrative Cultures of Film, a book that examines how the concept of literature was redefined in response to the emergence of cinema as a narrative art.
Awards and Honors
  • Mayers Fellowship, The Huntington Library (2013)
  • Visiting Researcher, Center for Modernism Studies Australia (2011-2012)
  • Quin Morton Teaching Fellowship, Princeton University (2010-2011)
  • McCosh Teaching Award, Princeton University (2010)
  • Annan Dissertation Fellowship, Princeton University (2009)
  • Charles Scribner University Fellowship in English Literature, Princeton University (2004-2005)