David Pettersen

  • Associate Professor of French, and Film and Media Studies
  • Humanities Center Fellow in fall (2191) term


1328 G Cathedral of Learning

Area of Interest

20th and 21st century French literature and cinema; Film and Media Studies; French Americanisms; French suburban and postcolonial cinema; transatlantic studies



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

Research interests & Fields of study

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 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 completing a second book-length project about how 21st century postcolonial and suburban popular French cinema uses Hollywood cinema and American mass culture to visualize racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity in a country whose republican universalism tends to hide such differences.


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 contributed to Intellect’s Directory of World Cinema: France, edited by Tim Palmer and Charlie Michael, and to Éditions Garnier’s Signés Malraux: André Malraux et la question biographique, edited by Jean-Louis Jeannelle and Martine Boyer-Weinmann. Forthcoming essays include an article about the transatlantic gangster in 1930s French cinema and a book chapter assessing cinematic conceptions of auteurism in the context of contemporary video games.


Professor Pettersen also serves as the Associate Director of the Film Studies Program at Pitt and has set up an ongoing scholarly collaboration and exchange program with the Film Studies Program at the University of Lyon 2. 




  • France in the 21st Century 
  • French Conversation 
  • Debating French National Identity
  • Introduction to French Cinema 
  • French (Sub)urban Cinema
  • Advanced Grammar and Composition


  • The Politics of Realism in 20th Century French Literature 
  • Center and Periphery in Contemporary French Cinema
  • Sartre the Literary Critic
  • French Classical Cinema: The Cosmopolitan 1930s
  • ​Horror and the Question of Genre in French CInema
  • Film History/Theory 1 (Film Studies Program core seminar)
  • Media and Material Culture in 20th and 21st century France


Selected Publications

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

“Maurice Tourneur’s Justin de Marseille (1935): Transatlantic Influences on the French Gangster” (forthcoming at Studies in French Cinema)

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

“Echoes of Poetic Realism in Matthieu Kassovitz’s La haine,” Cincinnati Romance Review 39, Fall 2015, 27-57.

“Cinematic Designs on the French banlieue: Luc Besson and parkour,” Cinema Journal 53:3, Spring 2014, 26-51.


Selected Awards and Honors

Rhône-Alpes Regional Government COOPERA ACCUEIL PRO Grant, Fall 2015 

U of Pittsburgh A&S Type I Research Grant, Summer 2013

U of Pittsburgh A&S Type I Research Grant, Summer 2011