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This second volume celebrates 225 years of Rhetoric, Writing, Film, and Literature at UNC Chapel Hill. Visit for further details.


The Portrait Looks Back: Revising Hitchcockian Tradition in Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Halynna Snyder

How Céline Sciamma’s film redefines romance and subverts the myth of the muse


Vertiginous Memories: Traces of Hitchcock in La Jetée and Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Lexi Baird

How Chris Marker and Céline Sciamma respectively rework motifs from Vertigo



Matriarchy in The Birds: A Feminine Power Struggle between Melanie and Lydia 

Reanna Brooks

How Hitchcock’s horror-melodrama thematically explores a crisis within a makeshift family


Gender Performance as Sacrifice in Stella Dallas

Barbara Blaschke

How Barbara Stanwyck’s heroine navigates society’s loopholes through her sacrificial acts




Masculine Hierarchies, Voice, and the Clown-Cuckold Figure in The Blue Angel

Liam Bradford

How Sternberg’s melodrama spotlights emasculation vis-à-vis the rise of the “New Woman”




Jia Zhangke’s Emotional Questioning of Contemporary China

Tyler Kwok

How one of the world’s most resourceful independent directors meditates on mainland China’s social, economic, and political transformations



Hanging Out at the Movies: Nostalgia, Spectatorship, and Slowness in Tsai Ming-liang’s Goodbye, Dragon Inn

Josh Martin

How Tsai’s emblematic slow film stages a hangout session with its nostalgic audience


Infectious Atmospheres: The Horror of Japanese New Media in Ring

Ben Van Welzen

How this J-horror classic envelops the spectator with virally contagious forces



Political Monstrosity Framed as Normality: Romero’s Horror Aesthetics in The Crazies

Ben Newport-Foster

How Romero’s underseen horror film exposes the incompetence of state power



Homegrown: Short Horror Film

Evan Davison

A cinematic journey into houseplant horror and the gothic uncanny


Funneling Out: The Ever-Present Constriction on Black Filmmakers in Hollywood

Veronica Chandler

How Black creatives are striving to change how we discuss Black media



From Hurdanos to Hakua Cults: On Ethnographic Surrealism in Buñuel and Rouch Films

Macy Meyer

How two controversial documentaries use surrealism to enact ethical provocations



Couples Lost in Time: Hiroshima, mon amour and L’Eclisse

Dylan Caskie

How modern cinematic experiments by Resnais and Antonioni reconfigure the romantic couple




Affective Mood as a Narrative Tool in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood 

Julia Stamey

How Marielle Heller’s take on Mr. Rogers uses mood to teach and soothe its adult audience


Drama in the Dull: Journalistic Process and Moral Ambiguity in All the President’s Men

Ryan Wilcox

How Pakula’s cinematic treatment of investigative journalism negotiates between tiny details and infinitely large corruption







Our inaugural volume presents twelve critical essays, all written by current or former students in UNC-Chapel Hill film studies courses. While the authors collectively cover a wide range of topics and take different approaches, they each pay meticulous attention to formal detail, investigating the larger cultural and political stakes that bear on certain styles and genres, from horror to the essay film. By bridging the avant-garde and mainstream, putting theory in the service of close analysis, and approaching the moving image on a global stage, these essays together provide a solid foundation for the critical work that will be featured in Aspect going forward.


Surreal Exposures: Found Footage Experiments in Avant-Garde Cinema

Lexi Baird

How three filmmakers (Joseph Cornell, Martin Arnold, and Peter Tscherkassky) rework already existing films, unleashing new resonances



Cemetery of Splendor as New Queer Surrealism

Patrick Costley

How Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s slow, queer film from Thailand revises the political capabilities of surrealism



Earn ‘n’ Cash: Surrealist Comedy, Code-Switching, and Capitalism in Atlanta and Sorry to Bother You

Dylan O’Connor

How two surreal comedies authored by African American artists explore the topic of racial performance as it relates to capitalism



Suspense and the Supernatural in Personal Shopper and Let the Right One In

Hateya Foxx

How two arthouse thrillers convey suspense through offscreen space, sound, and the technique of “deframing”


Inhuman Violence of Capitalism in Alien

Josh Martin 

How Ridley Scott’s science fiction/horror masterpiece addresses capitalistic exploitation through its themes and atmospheric style


Fascism, the Phallus, and the Grotesque in Dr. Strangelove

Claude Wilson

How Kubrick’s endlessly relevant satire exposes the links between patriarchal and fascistic attitudes



Is this Some Kind of Joke? Surrealist Tragicomedy in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman and the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man

Felix Murithi

How two surreal tragicomedies draw us into their characters’ existential angst



Minds Full of Scorpions, Witches in the Wings: Probing the Liminal States and Marginal Spaces of Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood and Welles’ Macbeth

Timothy Dement

How two adaptations of Shakespeare’s tragedy use the witches as a pretext to explore the offscreen as a key cinematic resource



A Thousand-Year Enigma: Adapting The Tale of Genji

Carissa Roets

How two films inventively adapt one of the world’s oldest novels, an eternally important text in Japanese culture



The Unfixed Present of Memories of Underdevelopment

Miguel Penabella

How Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s landmark film from 1968 addresses the Cuban Revolution and its aftermath through reflective articulations of cinematic time



Agnès Varda: The Gleaner of All Things

Macy Meyer

How Varda’s seminal essay film, The Gleaners and I, conceptualizes gleaning as an artistic and political activity






Lili Zay

Video essay reflecting on how human and extra-human creatures are vitally intertwined