Brett Bowles

Brett Bowles

Associate Professor, French and Italian

Adjunct Associate Professor, History

Director, Institute for European Studies

Adjunct Associate Professor, The Media School


  • Ph.D., French Civilization, Pennsylvania State University, 1998
  • M.A., French Language and Literature, University of Virginia, 1994
  • B.A., French Language and Literature, University of Virginia, 1992

Research areas

  • Twentieth-century French cultural history
  • Film studies
  • Cinema, society, and politics

About Brett Bowles

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.

My primary research field is twentieth-century social, political, and cultural history through film (fiction and documentary), with a focus on the 1930s and 40s. In February 2012 my book Marcel Pagnol, the first comprehensive overview of the director's career in theater and cinema, was published by Manchester University Press as part of its "French Film Directors" series. An edited collection of essays titled "The Politics of French and German Cinema, 1930-1945" was published in 2012 with Berghahn Books. Another developing project under contract with the University of Illinois Press is a book on the documentary films of Marcel Ophüls.

My professional activities include serving as co-editor of Modern and Contemporary France (since 2007), associate editor of The Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television (since 2005), and as an editorial board member for French History (since 2007) and French Historical Studies (since 2010). I also work with International Historic Films in Chicago as academic advisor and producer of DVDs related to France during the Second World War. The first such project, published in 2011, was a restored and subtitled edition of Forces Occultes (Hidden Forces), an anti-Semitic, anti-Masonic propaganda film made by French collaborationists in 1942. A second title, in 2012, is 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.

Selected publications

  • Marcel Pagnol. In the series "French Film Directors." Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2012.
  • Cinema, Society, and Politics in France and Germany, 1930-1945. Edited collection under contract with Berghahn Books. 
Articles + book chapters
  • "Performing National Consensus: Populism in the Work of Marcel Pagnol, 1929-38," French History 26.3 (September 2012): 367-394.
  • "Historiography, Memory, and the Politics of Form in Mosco Boucault's Des "Terroristes" à la retraite." Sandra Ott and Santi de Pablo, eds., War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life in France, Spain, and the Basque Country, 1936-1946 (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2011): 191-223.
  • "Becoming a Franco-American: Jean Renoir, the Second World War, and A Salute to France." Studies in French Cinema 10.2 (June 2010): 111-24.
  • "Léon Poirier." In Yannick Dehée and Christian-Marc Bosséno, eds., Dictionnaire du cinéma populaire français, 2nd edition (Paris: Nouveau Monde Editions, 2009): 695-96.
  • "Accommodating Vichy: the Politics of Marcel Pagnol's La Fille du puisatier." Historical Reflections 35.2 (June 2009): 84-107.
  • "ça fait d'excellents montages: Documentary Technique in Le Chagrin et la pitié." French Historical Studies 31.1 (Winter 2008): 117-58.
  • "Luc Besson's The Messenger: Remaking Joan of Arc for the New Millennium." In Leen Engelen and Roel Vande Winkel, eds., European Perspectives on Film and History (Ghent: Academia Press, 2007): 52-73.
  • "The Attempted Nazification of French Cinema, 1934-1944." In Roel Vande Winkel and David Welch, eds., Cinema and the Swastika: the International Expansion of Third-Reich Cinema (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007): 130-47.
  • "Jean Renoir's Salut à la France: Documentary Film Production, Distribution, and Reception in France, 1944-45." The Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television 26.1 (March 2006): 57-86.
  • "Marcel Pagnol." In Mary Anne O'Neil, ed., Twentieth-Century French Dramatists, vol. 321 of Dictionary of Literary Biographies (Columbia, S.C.: Bruccoli, Clark, Layman, 2005): 276-86.
  • "Marc Allégret." In Ian Aitken, ed., Encyclopedia of Documentary Film (London: Routledge, 2005): 26-29.
  • "Léon Poirier." In Ian Aitken, ed., Encyclopedia of Documentary Film (London: Routledge, 2005): 1054-56.
  • "Medieval Modernism: the Political Aesthetic of Baudelaire's Danse Macabre." The Australian Journal of French Studies 42.2 (August 2005): 207-28. Reprinted in Kathy Darrow, ed., Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism, vol. 204 (Detroit: Gale Learning, 2009): 86-95.
  • "Marcel Pagnol's The Baker's Wife: a Cinematic Reinvention of the Charivari in Popular-Front France." The Historical Journal 48.2 (June 2005): 437-69.
  • "Politicizing Pagnol: Rural France, Film, and Ideology under the Popular Front." French History 19.1 (March 2005): 112-42.
  • "La Tragédie de Mers-el-Kébir and the Politics of Filmed News in France, 1940-1944." In "Cultural Practices," special issue of The Journal of Modern History 76.2 (June 2004): 347-88.
  • "Newsreels, Ideology, and Public Opinion under Vichy: The Case of La France en Marche." French Historical Studies 27.2 (Spring 2004): 419-63.
  • "Bruno Dumont's La Vie de Jésus."Film Quarterly 57.3 (Spring 2004): 47-55.
  • "German Newsreel Propaganda in France, 1940-1944."The Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television 24.1 (March 2004): 45-67.
  • "Comic Books as Literature and History." In Barry Rothaus, ed., Proceedings of the Twenty-Ninth Annual Meeting of the Western Society for French History (Boulder, Co.: University of Colorado Press, 2003): 212-16.
  • "Screening les Années Noires: Using Film to Teach the Occupation." French Historical Studies 25.1 (Winter 2002): 21-40.
  • "Poetic Practice and Historical Paradigm: Charles Baudelaire's Anti-Semitism." PMLA 115.2 (March 2000): 195-208.
  • "Images of the Peasantry and the Politics of Representation in Marcel Pagnol's Angèle and Regain." In Barry Rothaus, ed., Proceedings of the Twenty-Fifth Annual Meeting of the Western Society for French History (Boulder, Co.: University of Colorado Press, 1999): 207-18.
  • "Les Sept Vieillards: Baudelaire's Purloined Letter." French Forum 22.3 (January 1998): 47-61.
  • "Alfred Delvau's Slang Dictionaries: Vehicles of Lexical and Sociocultural Change in Second-Empire Paris." French Review 71.2 (December 1997): 213-24.
  • "Piloting through Turbulence: Griots, Islam, and the French Encounter in Four Epics about Nineteenth-Century West African Heroes." Co-authored with Thomas A. Hale. In Kenneth W. Harrow, ed., Marabouts, Mullahs, and Muses: Islam in African Literature (New York: Heinemann, 1996): 77-91.
  • "La République régionale: stade occulté de la 'synthèse républicaine'."French Review 69.1 (October 1995): 103-17.

Courses taught

  • F300: Reading and Expression in French
  • F311: Marginality in French Film
  • F561: Studies in French Civilization