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Jennifer Barker

Associate Professor    

PhD and MA, UCLA; BA, University of Iowa


Moving Image Studies


Jennifer M. Barker is co-Director of Graduate Studies and teaches in the Moving Image Studies area. She is the author of The Tactile Eye: Touch and the Cinematic Experience (University of California Press, 2009). Her work also appears in Cinema Journal, Discourse, Film-Philosophy, New Review of Film & Television Studies, Paragraph, Screen, and in anthologies on the iPhone, art and the senses, acting in moving image culture, performance theory, and feminist experimental film. Research interests include theories of spectatorship and embodiment, moving image aesthetics, the senses and synaesthesia, performance, and documentary.


Barker, Jennifer M. and Adam Cottrel. “Eyes at the Back of His Head: Precarious Masculinity and the Modern Tracking Shot.” Paragraph 38.1 (March 2015): 86-100. DOI: 10.3366/para.2015.0148 Special issue: Screening Embodiment, edited by Liz Watkins and Nicholas Chare. This paper examines masculinity in relation to the modern tracking shot in Daren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler (2009) and Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines (2012). These films make prominent use of a particular tracking shot where the camera seems to float behind a male character, his head neatly centered in the frame. This paper refers to these as “follow­shots” to distinguish them from shots that merely “track” alongside the character in profile. The analysis seeks to demonstrate that the follow­shot is not just “a shot,” but a complex pattern that includes the camera movement’s angle and duration to express the intimate distance and dissonance between mobile cameras and machinery, and the male body. The camera in these shots seems unmistakably but loosely tethered to the character’s body, and this paper attempts to ascertain the phenomenological nature and critical, conceptual significance of that relationship. Keywords: tracking shot, follow-shot, gender, masculinity, anxiety, phenomenology, bodies, technology

Barker, Jennifer M. “Be-hold: Touch, Temporality, and the Cinematic Thumbnail Image.” Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture 35.2 (Summer 2014): 194-211. Special issue: “Motion Pictures: Politics of Perception,” edited by Bettina Papenburg and Marta Zarzycka.

Barker, Jennifer M. “A Surrealist Turn: Transformative Gesture in The Birds.” In Acting in Moving-Image Culture: Bodies, Screens, and Renderings, edited by Jörg Sternagel, Deborah Levitt, Dieter Mersch, 211-231. Bielefeld, Germany: Transcript, August 2012. Also reprinted in the anthology Film’s Performance, edited by Jörg Sternagel, Deborah Levitt, and Dieter Mersch, currently under review with Columbia University Press. Abstract: In her BFI Classic on Alfred Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS (1963), Camille Paglia claims that what drew Hitchcock’s eye to Tippi Hedren initially was the way she walked across the studio set in a commercial for a diet drink (Paglia 1998: 13). I, too, am entranced by the way Tippi Hedren moves, model-like in its precision. This essay turns precisely on that aspect of Hedren’s performance, in order to bring together two familiar strains of conversation about Hitchcock: on one hand, his ambivalent relation to his female characters and his actresses (including the well-trod territory of his obsession with Hedren) and on the other, his films’ surrealist qualities. I argue that a specific gesture—a precise, pivoting “about face” performed over and over by Hedren and negotiated violently by the film itself—is a surrealist gesture. That gesture leaves some elbow-room for Ms. Hedren and casts her as something more than Hitchcock’s passive, posable, and much abused Barbie doll. Moreover, Hedren’s gestures in this film allow us to think through the role of embodied performance in conversations taking place at the intersection of phenomenological and Deleuzian moving image theory.

Kristopher L. Cannon and Jennifer M. Barker, “Hard Candy.” In Moving Data. The iPhone and the Future of Media, edited by Pelle Snickars and Patrick Vonderau, 73-88. New York: Columbia University Press, July 2012. This anthology won a Choice Award in January 2014. Abstract: Apple Inc.’s product interfaces and ad campaigns have cultivated an attitude of childlike wonder on the part of its consumer base, in part by shrewdly maintaining an atmosphere of mystery and magic surrounding the product and its inner workings. Indeed, part of the joy and pleasure in using the iPhone lies in the way it seems to work “as if by magic.” In this sense, Steve Jobs and the Apple designers recall Willy Wonka who, when asked how his glass elevator manages to move in any direction whatsoever and stay aloft without the use of cables or any visible support system, answers “‘Candy power! One million candy power!’” The parallel between Steve Jobs and Willy Wonka is instructive on many levels. Though a biographical and industrial comparison is tempting, we will entertain instead the idea that the phenomenon of the iPhone is itself like candy in that—like candy—it demands, provokes, and enables a kind of experience that is fundamentally contradictory, in ways that are variously productive and problematic. The iPhone designers and marketers share Willy Wonka’s profoundly ambivalent attitude toward the nature of childhood itself. For both Apple and Wonka, childlike play is idealized and feared at the same time, something to be celebrated—indeed, recruited—but it is also to be tamed. We will argue that the iPhone—as both machine and marketing campaign—trains us to be a particular kind of consumer, one who relishes the pleasure the iPhone has to offer with childlike amazement but who learns to enjoy in moderation and, ultimately, to keep one’s hands to oneself.

Barker, Jennifer M. “Sonic Bodies: Listening as Acting.” In Theorizing Film Acting, edited by Aaron Taylor, 243-255. Advances in Film Studies. New York: Routledge, June 2012.

Barker, Jennifer M. “Steven Peacock, Colour (Cinema Aesthetics Series) | Richard Misek, Chromatic Cinema: a History of Screen Color.” Screen 53.2 (Summer 2012): 185-189.

Barker, Jennifer M. “Chew on This: Disgust, Delay, and the Documentary Image in Food, Inc.” Special issue: “Disgust,” edited by Tina Kendall. Film-Philosophy 15.2 (2011): 70-89. This essay considers The Lives of Others (von Donnersmarck, 2006) as an instance of listening as a performative and ethical act that produces what Jean-Luc Nancy calls a “sonorous place . . . that becomes a subject.” A Stasi spy’s shift from eavesdropper to ethical listener parallels the work of the actor who plays him. Ulrich Mühe collaborates, by listening, with the technology of sound cinema to create not only an embodied character, but also a body that is encounter: a “sonic body” taken up by actor, apparatus, and spectator.

Barker, Jennifer M. “Touch and the Cinematic Experience.” In Art and the Senses, edited by David Melcher and Francesca Bacci, 149-159. Oxford: Oxford University Press, August 2011.

Barker, Jennifer M. “Blurring the Lines: Synaesthesia and Fleshy Vision.” In the Very Beginning, at the Very End, edited by Jane Gaines, Francesco Casetti, and Valentina Re, 185-194. Udine: Udine Film Forum, 2010. Proceedings from Udine XVI International Film Studies Conference.

Barker, Jennifer M. The Tactile Eye: Touch and the Cinematic Experience. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.

Barker, Jennifer M. “Neither Here Nor There: Synaesthesia and the Cosmic Zoom.” Special issue: “The Synaesthetic Turn,” edited by Tarja Laine and Wanda Strauven. New Review of Film and Television Studies 7.3 (September 2009): 311-324.

Barker, Jennifer M. “Out of Sync, Out of Sight: Synaesthesia and Film Spectacle.” Special issue: “Cinema and the Senses,” edited by Emma Wilson. Paragraph 31.2 (2008): 236–251. Translated and reprinted in Synästhesie-Effekte: Zur Intermodalität der ästhetischen Wahrnehmung, edited by Robin Curtis, Mark Glöde, and Gertrud Koch. 69-85. Translated by Sylvia Zirden. Munich: Fink Verlag, 2010, 69-86.ästhesie-Effekte-Zur-Intermodalität-ästhetischen-Wahrnehmung/dp/3770545877. Abstract: What might a synaesthetic cinema look like? Or, better, what might it sound, smell, taste and feel like? This essay approaches David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive as a means of thinking through conceptual but concrete descriptions of synaesthesia not as an artistic device, a metaphor, an historical trend, or a rare clinical condition, but as a way of being in space and time —and being in cinema —that is simultaneously abstract and very real. Lynch’s film becomes, as well, an opportunity to think about cinematic spectacle and ‘excess’ in sensorily specific ways. The hallucinatory sensual disjunctions that occur throughout the film reveal a double system of reference: vision and proprioception mutually informing and interrupting one another, in ways that recall Brian Massumi’s discussion of topological architecture. Those moments of cinematic, sensory ‘excess’ are sensual reminders of the degree to which vision is entangled with other senses in the experience of cinema.

Barker, Jennifer M. Review of Laura U. Marks, “Enfolding and Unfolding: An Aesthetics for the Information Age.” Vectors 2, no. 2 (Winter 2007). Issue title: “Perception.” Editors Tara McPherson and Steve Anderson.

Barker, Jennifer M. “The Feminine Side of New York: Travelogue, Autobiography, and Architecture in News From Home.” In Identity and Memory: The Films of Chantal Akerman, edited Gwendolyn Foster, 41-58. Wiltshire, England: Flicks Books, January 2000 and Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, January 2003. Abstract: The cosmic zoom is ontologically puzzling: neither a ‘zoom’ nor a ‘travelling’ or ‘tracking’ shot in the conventional sense of those terms, it exists somewhere in between. Faced with a well-executed cosmic zoom, the viewer is hard-pressed to distinguish between optical and kinetic movement; the difference is rendered obsolete. The cosmic zoom’s phenomenological ambivalence confounds as well the neat division between vision and the non-visual senses. As digital effect and sensory event, the cosmic zoom in this way bears some resemblance to synaesthesia, or the experiential mingling (perhaps even non-differentiation) of the sense modalities. Drawing examples from Moulin Rouge!, Sweeney Todd, and Perfume, which use the post-filmic cosmic zoom to depict pre-modern Europe in terms of hearing, taste, smell, and proprioception, the paper argues that the synaesthetic quality of these films ultimately has less to do with their explicit narrative focus on the senses and their overt attempt to represent acts of hearing, taste, and smell as fixed, metaphorical images than with the cosmic zoom’s visual rendering of the phenomenological process of synaesthesia itself, as a moving experience and an experience of movement.

Barker, Jennifer M. “Bodily Irruptions: The Corporeal Assault on Ethnographic Narration.” Cinema Journal 34.3 (1995): 57-76. (Winner, SCMS Student Writing Award)