Brett  Bowles

Brett Bowles

Associate Professor, French and Italian

Adjunct Associate Professor, History

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 early 2016 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” is forthcoming with Berghahn Books. Another developing project, under contract with Manchester University Press, is a book on the documentary films of Marcel Ophüls.

My professional activities include serving as co-editor of Modern and Contemporary France (2007-14), associate editor of The Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television (since 2005), and as an editorial board member for French History (2007-17) and French Historical Studies (2010-13). 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, 2016.
  • Cinema, Society, and Politics in France and Germany, 1930-1945. Edited collection under contract with Berghahn Books.
Articles + book chapters
  • Entry on Maurice Bardèche and Robert Brasillach, Histoire du cinéma (1935/1942) forthcoming in Kevin Hayes, ed., Reading with Godard (Montreal: Caboose Books, 2021).
  • “Aesthetics, Ethics, and World War I Poster Art in France and the United States”. South Central Review 34.3 (2017): 72-102.
  • “Putting the ‘Studies’ in French Studies: Historians and Social Scientists in Departments of French.” Contemporary French Civilization 40.1 (2015): 25-48. Coauthored with Jean-François Brière, Venita Datta, Julie Fette, et al.
  • “Résistance oblige? Historiography, Memory, and the Evolution of Le Silence de la mer, 1942-2012.” French Politics, Culture & Society 32.1 (Spring 2014): 68-100.
  • “Renoir and the Popular Front: Aesthetics, Politics, and the Complexities of Engagement.” In Ginette Vincendeau and Alastair Phillips, eds., A Companion to Jean Renoir (London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013): 398-424.
  • “Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie” and “Le Schpountz.” In Tim Palmer and Charles Michael, eds., Directory of World Cinema: France (London: Intellect Books, 2013): 47-49 & 264-66.
  • “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.

Courses taught

  • F225: Contemporary France
  • F300: Life Writing, Media, Identity
  • F311: Marginality in French Film
  • F317: French in the Business World
  • F561: Studies in French Civilization
  • F651: Race & Ethnicity in French Cinema