James Leo Cahill

Associate Professor
Innis College 323



Cinema Studies Institute

Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

  • • French Cinema History and Theory
  • • Surrealism
  • • Animal Studies
  • • Critical Theory
  • • Historiography


James Leo Cahill’s research focuses on French cinema and cultural history, nonfiction and experimental media, critical theory, and historiography. He has a special interest in scientific cinema and animals and moving image media. His first book, Zoological Surrealism: The Nonhuman Cinema of Jean Painlevé, is forthcoming from the University of Minnesota Press. He is working on projects on the postwar French cinema and literature of exploration and its conceptualizations of the world, the globe, and globalization in the contexts of collaboration, colonialism, and coca-colonisation as well as a set of essays on classical film theory and experiments in historical perception. He is general editor of Discourse: Journal of Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture. He has been residential fellow at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France and a visiting professor with the Franke Institute for the Humanities/Center for Disciplinary Innovation at the University of Chicago. Professor Cahill teaches courses on French cinema, international cinema history and theory, animals and cinema, and exploration and cinema. At the graduate level he teaches seminars on Surrealism and cinema, theories and practices of cinematic media, montage and/as historical method, film and media historiography, and the guillotine and barricade as cultural forms and figures of history.


James Leo Cahill, “Forgetting Lesson: Jean Painlevé’s Gay Science,” Journal of Visual Studies 12.2, special issue on Science and Documentary, eds. Oliver Gaycken and Joshua Matlinski (forthcoming, August 2012): pp tbd; and Ecce 3 (forthcoming in Japanese translation): pp tbd.

James Leo Cahill, “Hors d’œuvre / Science, the short-film, and the Perception of Life,Framework 52.1-2, special issue Things Fall Apart: Peter Whitehead, eds. Paul Cronin and Drake Stutesman (Summer 2011): 66-82.

James Leo Cahill, “How It Feels To Be Run Over: Early Film Accidents,” Discourse, 30.3, special issue on “Cinema and Accident” (Fall 2008): 289-316. (Appeared in 2009)

René Bruckner, James Leo Cahill, and Greg Siegel, “Introduction: Cinema and Accident,” Discourse, 30.3, special issue on “Cinema and Accident” (Fall 2008): 279-88. (Appeared in 2009)

James Leo Cahill, “Anacinema: Peter Tscherkassky’s Cinematic Breakdowns (Towards the Unspeakable Film),” Spectator, 28.2 (Fall 2008): 90-101.

James Leo Cahill, “… and afterwards? Martin Arnold’s Phantom Cinema,” Spectator 27, special issue on “Deaths of Cinema” (Supplement: Summer 2007): 19-25.

Books and/or Chapters

James Leo Cahill, “Substance Abuse, or, on the essence of cinema,” in The Prisoner’s Cinema, ed. Melvin Moti (Rotterdam: Artist’s Book, 2008), 4-35.

James Leo Cahill, “The Cineseizure,” in Martin Arnold: The Cineseizure (Vienna: Index; Paris: Re/Voir, 2006), 2-10. Distributed with the DVD Martin Arnold: The Cineseizure.

James Leo Cahill, “Between the Archive and Image-Repertoire: Amateur Commercial Still Life Photography on eBay” in Reading eBay: Culture, Consumption and Collecting Online, ed. Ken Hillis and Michael Petit with Nathan Epley (New York: Routledge, 2006), 185-200.

Non-refereed publications

James Leo Cahill, “DVD Reviews: Science is Fiction: The Films of Jean Painlevé and Michael Pilz: Facts for Fiction,” Film International, vol. 8, no. 1 (2010): 67-69.

James Leo Cahill, “Shadows, Specters, Shards: Making History in Avant-Garde Film by Jeffrey Skoller,” Octopus, 2 (2006): 71-74.

James Leo Cahill and Rachel Leah Thompson, “The Insurgency of Objects: A Conversation with Fred Moten” Octopus, vol. 1 (2005): 45-66.


PhD, University of Southern California
MA, UC Irvine
MA, UNC Chapel Hill
AB, Occidental College


Administrative Service

Director, Cinema Studies Institute, 2019-present