American Studies home page

Jonna K. Eagle

Jonna Eagle

Jonna Eagle

PhD Brown University

Film and Media
Cultural and Gender Studies
U.S. Social and Cultural History
Critical and Feminist Theory

Jonna Eagle received her B.A. in Cultural Theory from the University of California at Santa Cruz and her Ph.D. in American Civilization from Brown University. Her teaching and research interests revolve around representations of war in American film and media; melodrama and American culture; theories of spectatorship; gender studies; ideologies of American imperialism; and American cultural, social, and intellectual history. Prior to her position as professor of film/media in the Department of American Studies at UH Manoa, she taught in the Program in Women’s Studies at Duke University, where her courses included Gender and Popular Culture, War and Media, Feminist Film Theory, Race, Gender, and Sexuality, and Feminism in Historical Context, among others. At UH, she regularly teaches a survey course in the history of American Cinema, alongside graduate and undergraduate topics in film and media, and core courses in themes and methods of American Studies.

Professor Eagle’s current research investigates the modes of affect and identification through which the popular imagination of American warfare takes shape. In particular, this project is focused on subjective vision as the dominant stylistic trend marking American war representation today. In analyzing an immersive first-person point of view as it operates across Hollywood war films, television news reporting, first-person shooter games, and viral videos, Professor Eagle interrogates the way contemporary images of war produce a sense of “being there” and the cultural and political implications of this production. Of particular concern in this analysis is the intensely visceral address through which war images position their spectator within the visual, sensory, and historical landscape of violence. In the context of the current military entertainment complex, in which the waging and the watching of war are aligned in newly elaborate and more emphatic ways, understanding the function of such images becomes an increasingly urgent concern. In a related argument, Professor Eagle’s analysis of the gendered fantasy of “being there” as it operates in the historical context of American imperialism can be found in “A Rough Ride: Strenuous Spectatorship and the Early Cinema of Assault,” appearing in the Spring 2012 issue of Screen, the leading international journal of academic film and television studies.

Professor Eagle is also at work on a book project, which explores questions of sensational melodrama, gender, and imperialism in American film across the twentieth century. With a focus on the early cinema of attractions, the western, and the action cinema, the book—Making a Spectacle of Himself: Melodrama, Masculinity, and Sensation in the American Cinema—probes the cinematic production of white masculinity through the persistent conjunction of victimization, virtue, and the “thrills” of onscreen violence. Key to this project is an analysis of the broader staging of national conflict in melodramatic terms—the cultural assertion of nationalist violence as morally authorized and the identification with an imagined national community constituted through the virtue of innocence assaulted. An article on this topic, “Virtuous Victims, Visceral Violence: War and Melodrama in American Culture,” will appear in the forthcoming anthology, The Martial Imagination: Essays on the Cultural History of American Warfare (ed. Jimmy Bryant, Texas A&M University Press).