Research Projects

Research Interests

  • Contemporay American Popular Culture
  • Visual Culture
  • Studies of Popular Seriality
  • Film and Television Studies
  • Marxist Theory & Frankfurt School Critical Theory
  • Conspiracy Theories
  • Media Studies

Past Research Projects

Disorders and Synchronizations: Newspapers, Sunday Supplements, and the Temporalities of Modern Mass Culture, 1890 to 1920


The sub-project examines the ways in which mass-addressed print media from the four decades around the turn to the 20th century participated in a practical organization of readers' free time and recreational activities. In particular, the project zooms in on the role of newspapers and considers the interplay of their contents and characteristic medial aspects (such as publication schedules, page format and layout, practices of serialization) to interrogate how the periodical media of industrial modernity intervened in the everyday lives of consumers. In doing so, the project starts from the assumption that the period's Taylorist reorganization of the factory and the scientific management of work were accompanied by a mass-cultural management of consumers' leisure time that proceeded through the temporal routines of the modern mass media. In the case of periodical print media, this project involved not only the daily rhythm of newspapers and the divergent schedules of other (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.) publications, but also formats such as the Sunday supplement, whose colorful and cultured contents symbolically demarcated the free time of the weekend as distinct from the pressures of the workweek. By featuring a regularly recurring mix of contents that ranged from comics to long essays, to practical advice, to entertainment for children, Sunday supplements invited the adoption of ritualized reception practices that produced larger (regional and national) communities of readers. Beyond their productivity for such processes of "collective serialization" (Denson/Sudmann), however, the diverse contents of periodical media like the Sunday supplement also participated in a modern broadening of consumption choices, diversification of lifestyles, and other modes of cultural and social distinction. In inviting a number of different reading practices—such as quick browsing, deliberative contemplation, or attentive re-reading—the same contents furthermore established their own distinct temporalities and thereby complicated the synchronization effects of periodical print media. Engaging with these aspects of mass-cultural synchronization and desynchronization, the sub-project uses the study of newspaper supplements and their carrier media as a prism through which the larger routines and mechanisms of an emergent culture-industrial constellation of industrial modernity become accessible.

Dissertation: "Superhero Blockbusters: Seriality, Politics of Engagement, and the Spirit of 21st-Century Popular Culture”


My dissertation examines the wave of superhero blockbuster movies released in the twenty-year period between 1998 and 2018 and inquires how the specific aesthetic practice of this type of film—i.e. their investment in complex modes of serial and transmedial storytelling, their strategic courting of fan audiences and their structurally conservative thematic preoccupations, as well as their presentation of state-of-the-art visual spectacle—becomes productive for the current prominence and popularity of the genre. Centrally, it argues that superhero blockbusters films are emblematic for popular culture in the age of cognitive capitalism. Superhero blockbusters, in other words, are prime examples of a type of commercial popular culture that seeks to engage audiences over longer periods of time, attempts to exploit the ‘free labor’ of culturally productive media fans for promotional gain, and generally encourages public debate about its products. To make this case, the dissertation tracks the evolution of the genre’s storytelling strategies through the decades, examines how online marketing and PR campaigns for films like Logan, Deadpool, and Suicide Squad align themselves with the respective films’ aesthetics, and considers the cinematic populism of superhero blockbusters like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, its sequel Civil War or V for Vendetta. Finally, it suggests that the politics of these films cannot be disconnected from the ways in which they engage their viewers—and that contemporary superhero blockbuster cinema touts the values of “participatory culture” in order to capitalize on the culturally, socially, and textually productive work of other actors