Diane Wei Lewis

Diane Wei Lewis

​Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies
PhD, University of Chicago
research interests:
  • Japanese cinema
  • Early and silent cinema
  • Mass culture and modernity
  • Media and gender
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contact info:

mailing address:

  • WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
  • CB 1174
  • ONE BROOKINGS DR.
  • ST. LOUIS, MO 63130-4899
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Diane Wei Lewis's research focuses on Japanese cinema and media and their connections to mass culture, capitalism, and modernity.

Diane Wei Lewis received her Ph.D. in Cinema and Media Studies from the University of Chicago in 2011. Her work centers on the 1910s and 1920s—key decades for the industrialization of cinema, the expansion of mass media, and the introduction of new media technologies in Japan. Her scholarship and teaching combine historical research with theoretical inquiry and introduce interdisciplinary perspectives to the history of cinema. She examines Japanese cinema and media with an emphasis on histories and theories of labor, consumerism, emotion, and gender and sexuality.

Her first book, Powers of the Real: Cinema, Gender, and Emotion in Interwar Japan (Harvard University Asia Center, 2019), explores the cultural politics of cinematic realism in the 1920s and early 1930s. Beginning with the devastating 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, which heightened the stakes for thinking about cinema's ability to reach a mass audience and shape public sentiment, Lewis traces popular understandings of cinema's persuasive sensory realism in terms of emotion, identification, and pleasure. The book situates cinema within a broad media context, demonstrating cinema's imbrication in consumer culture and other forms of mass media. It interrogates images of women and ideas about femininity that figured prominently in discourses on media technology and commercial mass culture, highlighting the role that ideas about gender and sexuality play in vernacular theories of media.

Her current book project examines the rise of network technologies in 1980s Japan, their impact on the organization of work and especially the image of home-based labor, and the function that ideas about sexual difference play in theories of new media. This research explores how telecommuting, home automation, and office automation both challenged and were constrained by popular conceptions of gender identity and gendered labor, professionalism and domesticity, and urban and suburban space. She is also working on a social history of the Proletarian Film League of Japan (Prokino, 1929-1934).

Selected Publications

Books

Powers of the Real: Cinema, Gender, and Emotion in Interwar Japan. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2019.

Journal Articles and Book Chapters

“‘The Longed-For Crystal Palace’: Empire, Modernity, and Nikkatsu Mukōjima’s Glass Studio, 1913-1923.” In In the Studio: Visual Creation and Its Material Environments, edited by Brian Jacobson. Berkeley: University of California Press, forthcoming.

“Boundary Play: Truth, Fiction, and Performance in A Man Vanishes (1967).” In Killers, Clients and Kindred Spirits: The Taboo Cinema of Shohei Imamura, edited by Lindsay Coleman and David Desser. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019.

“From Manga to Film: Gender, Precarity and the Textual Transformation of Air Doll.” Screen 60:1 (Spring 2019): 99-121.

Blood and Soul (1923) and the Cultural Politics of Japanese Film Reform.” positions: asia critique 26:3 (August 2018): 451-82.   

Shiage and Women’s Flexible Labor in the Japanese Animation Industry.” Feminist Media Histories, special issue on “Labor,” edited by Denise McKenna, 4:1 (Winter 2018): 115-141. (listen to podcast)

“Media Fantasies: Women, Mobility, and Silent-Era Japanese Ballad Films.” Cinema Journal 52:3 (Spring 2013): 99-119.   

Fellowships and Awards

Washington University in St. Louis Center for the Humanities Faculty Fellowship, Spring 2017

Association of Asian Studies Northeast Asia Council Short-Term Research Travel Grant, Summer 2016

Washington University in St. Louis Roland Grimm Travel Award and Summer Faculty Research Grant, Summer 2014

Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2012-2013

Harvard University Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2011-2012

Fulbright-Hays DDRA Fellowship, Japan, 2009-2010