David Pettersen

  • Director of Film and Media Studies Program, Associate Professor of French

David Pettersen’s research and teaching focuses on transnational and transatlantic aspects of 20th and 21st century French literature, film, and culture, examining the ways in which texts, images, and ideas circulate across media and geographic borders with particular emphasis on the longstanding cultural exchanges between France and the United States. He has been principally interested in the role that transnational forms of mass culture can play in articulating and reimagining national belonging in France. 

His first book, Americanism, Media, and the Politics of Culture in 1930s France, published by the University of Wales Press in 2016, shows how a deep and systemic engagement with American mass culture allowed a new generation of French writers, filmmakers, and intellectuals to re-imagine modernism for a mass public during the politically divided 1930s. He is currently completely a second book entitled French B-Movies: Suburban Spaces, Universalism, and the Challenge of Hollywood in which he shows that Hollywood genre conventions have played a crucial role in mediating debates about identity, belonging, and marginalization in mainstream French films about the many communities that now constitute postcolonial France.

Professor Pettersen has published articles on Luc Besson and parkour, the use of the Hollywood interracial buddy comedies in Intouchables, and the influence of French poetic realism on Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine

He has set up an ongoing scholarly collaboration and exchange program with the Film and Media Studies Program at the University of Lyon 2, and in that context he has organized several conferences and co-edited two special journal issues of ÉcransPolitique des auteurs / Auteur theory : Lectures contemporaines (Fall 2016) and Le cinéma ou la nouvelle expérience de l’art(Fall 2018).

In 2017, he was inducted into the French Order of Academic Palms as a Knight.

Education & Training

  • PhD, French Literature with a Designated Emphasis in Film Studies, University of California at Berkeley
  • MA, French Literature, University of California at Berkeley
  • BA, French and Film and Television Production, University of Southern California

Representative Publications

Americanism, Media and the Politics of Culture in 1930s France (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2016)

“La politique des genres dans le cinéma « de banlieue »” Écrans 1, no. 8 (2018, forthcoming in Spring 2019).

“Maurice Tourneur’s Justin de Marseille (1935): Transatlantic Influences on the French Gangster,” Studies in French Cinema 17:1, March 2017, 1-20.

“Transnational Blackface, Neo-Minstrelsy, and the ‘French Eddie Murphy’ in Intouchables,” Modern & Contemporary France 24:1, February 2016, 51-69.

“Introduction” and “Corporate and Player Authorship in Contemporary Role- Playing Game Franchises,” Écrans 2, no. 6 (2016), pp. 11-19 and 227-244.

Research Interests

20th and 21st Century French literature and cinema; Film and Media Studies; French Americanisms; French suburban and cost-colonial cinema; transatlatic studies