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David Pettersen

  • Associate Professor of French and Film and Media Studies
  • Director, Film and Media Studies Program
  • On research leave, fall 2023


  • 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 and Fields of Study

David Pettersen’s research and teaching focus on questions of national identity in French media, especially cinema and long-form serial television as these industries increasingly operate in a globalized media ecosystem. He is especially interested in how new modes of production, distribution, exhibition, and education are changing the position of France’s diasporic communities in French media industries. His work bridges film and media industry studies and the formal analysis of style with careful cultural, historical, and theoretical contextualization.

His first book, Americanism, Media, and the Politics of Culture in 1930s France (University of Wales Press, 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.

In Pettersen's second book entitled French B-Movies: Suburban Spaces, Universalism, and the Challenge of Hollywood (2023, Indiana UP), he shows that Hollywood genre traditions have played a crucial role in mediating debates about identity, belonging, and marginalization. This book argues that adapting genre traditions to the French context rearticulates what universalism means in mainstream French films about the many diasporic communities that are now a part of postcolonial France.

He is currently researching and writing about French television, especially the ways in which streaming platforms are changing the kinds of media made in France and distributed internationally. He is also working on a long-term project about the history of casting practices in the French film industry and about the history of film production education in France especially as these relate to efforts to increase the diversity of personnel in front of and behind the cameras.

Pettersen 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 international conferences and co-edited two special journal issues of Écrans: Politique des auteurs / Auteur theory : Lectures contemporaines (Fall 2016) and Le cinéma ou la nouvelle expérience de l’art (Fall 2018).

In terms of teaching, Pettersen particularly appreciates the chance to mentor students on their writing. He enjoys working with graduate students and advanced undergraduates researching in all areas of film and media studies and 20th/21st century French cultural studies. He has directed dissertations on a range of topics in 20th century literary studies and film and media studies. He also has a background in film and television production and digital humanities and is open to students who seek to share their research results in modalities other than the scholarly essay or book. Potential graduate students are invited to contact him. He coordinates the Film and Media research network in the department.

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

Selected Recent Publications

French B-Movies: Suburban Spaces, Universalism, and the Challenge of Hollywood (2023, Indiana UP)

“Purpose and Vocation: Rethinking the First-Year Graduate Proseminar,” in Joyful, Engaged, Sustainable: Graduate Education for a Thriving Humanities Ecosystem, Modern Language Association Publications, edited by Stacy Hartman and Yevgenya Strakovsky (forthcoming).

 “Les Revenants: Horror in France and the Tradition of the Fantastic,” French Screen Studies 21, no. 3 (July 2021): 239–57.

“Genre and Universalism in the Films of Rachid Bouchareb,” in The Films of Rachid Bouchareb, edited by Leslie Kealhofer-Kemp and Michael Gott, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2020, pp. 82-98.

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



  • Paris: Urbanism Past and Present
  • France in the 21st Century
  • History of French Cinema
  • French (Sub)urban Cinema
  • French Television


  • The French-Speaking Mediterranean
  • Horror and the Question of Genre in French Cinema
  • Universalism and its Others in the History of French Cinema
  • Center and Periphery in Contemporary French Cinema
  • Film History/Theory I
  • Proseminar
  • Dissertation Writing Workshop

Selected Awards and Honors

  • Pitt Humanities Center Fellow, Fall 2018
  • University of Pittsburgh A&S Type I Research Grant, Summer 2011 and 2018
  • Chevalier dans l’Ordre des palmes académiques, 2017
Research Interests

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