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Jason Gendler


  •   Ph.D. (2014) Film and Television, University of California, Los Angeles.  

  •   Dissertation: The Narration of Beginnings in Classical Cinema  


  •   M.A. (2007) Film and Television, University of California, Los Angeles.  

  •   B.A. (2004) Communication Arts – Radio, Television, Film, University of Wisconsin, Madison 

  •   Graduated with Distinction, Phi Beta Kappa 

Research Interests

Jason Gendler’s areas of expertise include narrative and narration in film and television, style and aesthetics, Hong Kong cinema, documentary, Hollywood film history, and humanistic applications of cognitive psychology. At root, the guiding questions underpinning his scholarly inquiries are poetic: he’s primarily interested in why and how media – particularly narratives – are designed and constructed, and the effects they have on their audiences. Oftentimes this involves searching for normative patterns either within individual works, across a range of works, or over a certain historical period, and proposing causes, purposes, and functions for them, be they aesthetic, industrial, economic, technological, or cultural. He’s strongly invested in empirical inquiry, and using evidence to support mid-sized arguments about film and television conventions and the purposes they serve.  


His forthcoming book, In the Beginning: The Narration of Beginnings in Classical Cinema, proposes a poetics of narrative beginnings. Two primary questions guide his approach: What sort of storytelling principles are normally found in the beginnings of films? What sort of comprehension processes do viewers bring to films that make the beginning important for understanding entire narratives? Focusing on classical beginnings in the films of the Hollywood studio era, he argues that the answers to these questions are interrelated: A beginning’s form strongly influences how viewers understand narratives while simultaneously the thought processes viewers use to process narratives often inform beginnings’ design. Films manipulate and distribute information to viewers, but viewers simultaneously perform mental activities on narratives. By combining both formal properties and comprehension processes, In the Beginning achieves new insights and a fuller understanding of the function of narrative beginnings, as well as a framework for analyzing narrative useful for both scholars and practitioners alike. 


Jason is a regular contributor to the Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image, frequently presenting at the annual conference and functioning as a peer reviewer for the Society journal, Projections, where he has also published numerous articles. In 2016, he published “The Rich Inferential World of Mad Men: Serialized Television and Character Interiority,” which examines a season of Mad Men to address how episodes of a contemporary serialized television program actually integrate serial and episodic narrative components, investigating the extent to which individual episodes call upon information from earlier in the series to enrich the psychology of a given scene. In 2012, he published “Where Does the Beginning End? Cognition, Form, and Classical Narrative Beginnings,” and article which argues that only by combining formal properties and cognitive processes can one arrive at comprehensive and flexible model for determining where a beginning ends.  


In addition to revising his book, he is also currently working on upcoming projects concerning Hong Kong action cinema and further subjects involving narrative in contemporary television.  


  •   Journal articles 

  •   “The Rich Inferential World of Mad Men: Serialized Television and Character Interiority,” Projections. Volume 10, No. 1 (Summer/Winter 2016). 

  •   “Where Does the Beginning End? Cognition, Form, and Classical Narrative Beginnings.” Projections. Volume 6, No. 2. (Winter, 2012). 

  •   “Primer: The Perils and Paradoxes of Restricted Time Travel Narration.” Nebula Volume 3, No. 4, December 2006/January 2007. 

  •   Book Chapters 

  •   “Are My Eyes Really Brown? The Aesthetics of Colorization in Casablanca.” Solicited for the Routledge AFI Reader Color and the Moving Image (New York: 
    Routledge, 2013). 

  •   Book Reviews 

  •   “Impossible Puzzle Films.” Projections. Volume 13, No. 1 (2019) 

Accomplishments and Awards

  •   Fellow of the Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image 

  •   British Society of Aesthetics Early-Career Award, 2015 

  •   UCLA 

  •   Dissertation Year Fellowship, 2013-2014  

  •   Kemp R. Niver Scholarship, 2013  

  •   Harold Leonard Fund, 2007-2010 

  •   Chancellor’s Prize Fellowship, 2007-2009  

  •   Graduate Summer Research Mentorship, 2008 

  •   University of Wisconsin, Madison 

  •   Dean’s List, four semesters 2000-2004 

  •   Christopher Neal Heinlein Scholarship, 2003