Colin Burnett

Colin Burnett

Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies
PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison
research interests:
  • History of French and francophone film style and culture
  • James Bond and serial/transmedia storytelling
  • Transnational trends in art cinema storytelling
  • Historiography of style in film studies and art history
  • Philosophy and film studies
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contact info:

mailing address:

  • WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
  • CB 1174
  • ONE BROOKINGS DR.
  • ST. LOUIS, MO 63130-4899
image of book cover

Colin Burnett's work focuses on the cultural marketplace—the ideas, sensibilities, languages, and social relations that shape how film and media circulate—and its effects on artistic practice, mainly in non-US contexts.

Burnett's first book, The Invention of Robert Bresson: The Auteur and His Market (2017), re-reads the elusive Bresson style as the product of a subtle form of exchange between the auteur and a confluence of recent aesthetic, literary, theoretical, and cinephilic trends. He is currently at work on a second book, titled Serial Bonds: The Multimedia Life of 007, which investigates the creative “play” the James Bond franchise has fostered among authorized and unauthorized writers and artists around the globe and how this play has resulted in one of the most complex experiments in serial storytelling in the history of the media franchise.

Serial Bonds will be the first in film, media, and literary studies to situate James Bond at a crucial hinge point in the history of modern serial culture. It demonstrates that the Bond franchise ushered in the contemporary era of media franchising by innovating a story production regime that could, for the first time, ensure a consistent output of serialized series in multiple, high-profile media. Novelist Ian Fleming and his partners in the film, comics, and gaming industries in effect modernized the franchise, laying the foundations for the current transmedia craze, even as they developed a multimedia storytelling form—until now, entirely unstudied in franchise scholarship—that differs markedly from the transmedia paradigm. In dialogue with scholarship that has recently begun to revise the historical narrative around modern franchising, Serial Bonds contends that since its inception the Bond franchise has not only relied on unified, transmedia story production—earlier than the internet age—but experimented with an entirely distinct multimedia approach derived in part from trends in early to mid-20th century franchising. Refining the creative practices of earlier franchises, in which licensed producers sought multiplicity across product lines, the Bond licensing network took disunity in a fresh direction, creating a new multimedia form called threaded media storytelling, which offers consumers numerous, mutually exclusive serialized series, each in its own medium. In other words, the horizontal rather than top-down production regime within the Bond franchise encouraged storytellers to compete with one another, creating a sub-market of rival, long-form continuities documenting the numerous “lives” of 007.

Here is a video lecture on Professor Burnett's James Bond research: Go To Video Lecture

Professor Burnett has advised numerous graduate and undergraduate research projects, on such topics as world-building in modern literature and media franchising, streaming (SVoD) services in contemporary France, the Indian New Wave as a transnational phenomenon, virtual reality as a personal identity problem, the representation of HIV/AIDS in US film, transgressive feminist cinema in the Soviet Union, and non-realist filmmaking during China's Urban Generation. You can sample some of the publications that have resulted from this research here: https://fms.wustl.edu/undergraduate-research. He has also served on several MFA thesis committees at Washington University's Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts.   

Selected Publications

Books

The Invention of Robert Bresson: The Auteur and His Market (Indiana UP, 2017)

Articles and Reviews

"Robert Bresson." In Oxford Bibliographies Online in Cinema and Media Studies, (Download Article).

"Realism's New Horizons: Roger Leenhardt’s Theoretical Shift after Trois portraits d’un oiseaux qui n’existe pas/Three Portraits of a Bird that Doesn’t Exist (Robert Lapojade, 1963)." Studies in French Cinema (2018): 1-21. (Download Article)

"French Film at the Turn of the Century: Spectacles de curiosité." Spectacle and Leisure in Paris: Degas to Mucha. Ed. Elizabeth Childs. Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, 2017. 40-51. (Download Article)

"Under the Auspices of Simplicity: Roger Leenhardt's New Realism and the Aesthetic History of Objectif 49," Film History 27.2 (2015): 33-75. (Download Article)

"The 'Albert Maltz Affair' and the Debate Over Para-Marxist Formalism in New Masses, 1945-6." Journal of American Studies (2013): 1-28. (Download Article)

"Perspectivism versus Realism." In The Routledge Encyclopedia of Film Theory, edited by Edward Branigan and Warren Buckland. London: Routledge, 2013.

"Vulgar Auteurism: Out with the New, In with the Old." Antenna: Responses to Media and Culture (June 2013): http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2013/06/11/vulgar-auteurism-out-with-the-new-in-with-the-old/.

"Transnational Auteurism and the Cultural Dynamics of Influence: Mani Kaul's 'Non-Representational' Cinema." Transnational Cinemas 4.1 (April 2013): 3-24. (Download Article)

"Cinema(s) of Quality." In Directory of World Cinema: France, edited by Tim Palmer and Charlie Michael, 140-148. Bristol, UK: Intellect, 2012.

"Hidden Hands at Work: Authorship, the Intentional Flux, and the Dynamics of Collaboration." In A Companion to Media Authorship, edited by Jonathan Gray and Derek Johnson, 112-132. Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. (Download Article)

“Bresson in the 1930s: Photography, Cinema, Milieu." (Download Article) In Robert Bresson Revised, edited by James Quandt, 202-225. Toronto: TIFF, 2012.

“Arnheim on Style History.” In Arnheim for Film and Media Studies, edited by Scott Higgins, 229-247. New York: Routledge, 2010. (Download Article)

“A New Look at the Concept of Style in Film: The Origins and Development of the Problem-Solution Model.” New Review of Film and Television Studies 6.2 (August 2008): 127- 149.

“Muting the Image: Lighting and Photo-Chemical Techniques of Bresson’s Cinematographers.” Studies in French Cinema 6.3 (2006): 219-230.

"In Search of the Pictorial Intelligence." Antenna: Responses to Media and Culture (December 2013) (Download Article)

From our podcast:

Hold That Thought Podcast
The Invention of Robert Bresson: the Auteur and his Market

The Invention of Robert Bresson: the Auteur and his Market

Challenging the prevailing notion among cinephiles that the auteur is an isolated genius interested primarily in individualism, Colin Burnett positions Robert Bresson as one whose life's work confronts the cultural forces that helped shape it. Regarded as one of film history's most elusive figures, Bresson (1901–1999) carried himself as an auteur long before cultural magazines, like the famed Cahiers du cinéma, advanced the term to describe such directors as Jacques Tati, Alfred Hitchcock, and Jean-Luc Godard. In this groundbreaking study, Burnett combines biography with cultural history to uncover the roots of the auteur in the alternative cultural marketplace of midcentury France.