Jon Wagner

Jon Wagner

Teaching Interests: Film, Video, TV Theory; Critical Writing; Poetics

Jon Wagner (PhD, School of Cinematic Arts, USC) is a scholar, translator, and poet who helped establish the MFA Writing Program at CalArts in 1994 and served as its Associate Director or Director until 2005. He continues as a core faculty member of the Creative Writing Program and the School of Critical Studies at CalArts. He is also a Visiting Professor of Film Theory in the School of Cinematic Arts at USC. In October of 2010, he was a Visiting Scholar in Film Theory at Beijing Normal University. With writing partners Dr. Lynne Goodhart and Dr. Tracy Biga MacLean, he has published a number of books and articles in literary and cinema studies, as well as delivered many conference addresses. With Goodhart he edited, translated, and introduced the book of selected poetry AndrĂ©e Chedid: Fugitive Suns (Green Integer Books, 1999), and their application of Buddhist aesthetics to the French poetry of Yves Bonnefoy and Saint-John Perse (Texts for a Transition: The Poetry of Interbeing in Yves Bonnefoy and Saint-John Perse) is forthcoming. With MacLean he published a definitive analysis of the relationship between cinema and television: Television at the Movies; Cinematic and Critical Responses to American Broadcasting (Continuum, 2008). In another collaboration with Dr. Denise Spampinato, his book Reality’s Written Language: A Critical Anthology of Classical and Contemporary Film Theory (Cognella Academic Publishers) appeared in Preliminary Edition in the spring of 2015 and appeared in a First Edition with expanded commentary and filmographies in August 2017. Wagner has published a series of essays on “spectatorial decline” in magazines such as The USC Spectator, Quarterly Review of Film and Video Studies, Coil, Merge, and in the anthology Resolutions: A Critique of Video Art. His poetry has appeared in the journals Errant Bodies, Dreamworks, Trepan, [out of nothing], and in the anthologies Blind Date and Things That Quicken the Heart, as well as multi-media installations in Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. He is a frequent writer of reviews and catalogue essays, and most recently he has introduced the print anthology of articles from the journal [out of nothing] entitled Theoretical Perspectives on the Substance Preceding [nothing]. His meditation on the cinematic long take appears as an introduction to Janice Lee’s book inspired by the films of Bela Tarr, Damnation (Penny-Ante Editions, 2013).

Praise for Television at the Movies: Cinematic and Critical Responses to American Broadcasting

Having mated with its mother, radio, television set out to kill the father, movies—and this book by Jon Nelson Wagner and Tracy Biga MacLean chronicles the Oedipal standoff that’s raged between the two media ever since. Insightful, brilliant and not a little subversive, Television at the Movies is instantly definitive, with new revelations about both movies and TV revealed in each other’s glow.
—Steve Erickson, media critic for Los Angeles Magazine

Through brilliant analyses of a half century’s cinematic representations of TV, the authors offer a history of the idea of television; a history of the framing of its reception for audiences and academic analysts alike. Rather than condemning TV or cinema for their ideological instrumentality, Wagner and MacLean challenge us to accept the ‘fearsome work of enjoyment,’ to understand and appreciate television’s powers and its pleasures.
—Tom Lutz, author of A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers and Bums in America and editor of The Los Angeles Book Review