James Lastra

James Lastra
Associate Professor
  • Department of Cinema & Media Studies
  • Department of English
Rosenwald 418
(773) 702-9244
(773) 702-2495

I specialize in American film and have published extensively on sound in film, especially as it relates to the unfolding history of modernity and the aesthetics of both high and vernacular modernisms. Other sound interests include the material history of human sensory experience and how it conditions the emergence and normalization of representational technologies. My latest sound research deals with theories of asynchronous sound in film and with the Wagnerian aesthetics of modern sound design in American film. I have specific research interests in Surrealism both in Europe and in the United States, silent film comedy, American experimental film, and the films and writing of Luis Buñuel. Like most of the members of Cinema and Media Studies, I approach the American cinema as part of a global system of cultural production and exchange.


Graduate: Classical Film Theory; Sound Design in the longue duree; Methods/Issues in Cinema Study; Bunuel and Surrealism; Classical Film Theory.

Undergraduate: History of International Cinema I--Silent Era; Classical Film Theory; Introduction to Film.

Selected Publications

Sound Technology and the American Cinema: by James Lastra

  • Sound Technologies and the American Cinema: Perception, Representation, Modernity New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.
  • "'Why is this absurd picture here?': Ethnology/Heterology/Buñuel." October 88 (Summer, 1999).
  • "Standards and Practices: Aesthetic Norm and Technological Innovation in the American Cinema," The Studio System. Ed. Janet Staiger. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1995. 200-225.
  • "From the Captured Moment to the Cinematic Image: A Transformation in Pictorial Coherence." The Image in Dispute: Painting and Cinema in the Age of Photography. Ed. Dudley Andrew. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995. 263-291.
  • "Reading, Writing, and Representing Sound." Sound Theory/Sound Practice. Ed. Rick Altman. New York: Routledge/AFI, 1992. 65-86.


Ph.D., University of Iowa, 1992. Teaching at Chicago since 1991.