Laura Mason

Laura Mason

Teaching Professor

Contact Information

Research Interests: French film; Constructions of masculinity; Women’s film making; History & Film

I bring my training as a cultural historian to critical film studies as part of my joint appointment in the Program in Film and Media Studies and the Department of History. My film courses and related writing treat films as primary sources that allow us to examine the history, politics, and cultural assumptions of the societies in which they are produced and consumed.

My written work includes a special issue of French Historical Studies co-edited with Flo Martin, “Film and History: Reimagining the Francophone Archives,” which considers how films– whether documentary or fiction– preserve evidence of and shape our relationship to the past. My essay “Intersectional Audiard: Masculinity, Gender, Race” analyzes two recent films by French director Jacques Audiard, arguing that they foreground Black and Brown characters to better reflect the cultural and racial heterogeneity of France but, at the same time, represent relationships between violence, race, and gender in sometimes troubling ways. As editor of Imaginaries, an on-line journal affiliated with H-France, I publish reviews of fictions (films, novels, bandes désinées) and other creative representations of the French-speaking world. I have also written numerous essays and reviews of films about the past that have been published in print or on-line.

I teach courses in Film and Media Studies that use a broad range of European and American films to investigate the history of contemporary Paris; analyze competing constructions of French Masculinity; help students develop sharper writing skills; and explore some of the astonishing work of female film makers. My Hopkins first-year seminar introduces students to global cinema in the 21st century. My film pedagogy extends beyond the classroom to public lectures on a wide range of films and filmmakers, including Claire Denis, Olivier Assayas, and Arnaud Desplechin. I organized the series “Young French Cinema in Baltimore,” which brought unreleased French films that address concerns shared in Baltimore to the Parkway theater. That project was underwritten by Johns Hopkins University and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. As a proponent of experiential learning, I created and run a course that offers Johns Hopkins students an opportunity to explore the culture and business of film festivals by attending one of the most important among them: the Cannes film festival.

My writing as a historian is concerned with media, the experience of common people, and the nature of violence during the French Revolution. My first book, Singing the French Revolution: Popular Culture and Revolutionary Politics in Paris, 1789-1799 (Cornell University Press, 1996) examines the evolution of popular singing practices and argues that revolutionary culture was a powerful means of expression by which ordinary men and women claimed their rights as citizens and voiced their aspirations for a new world. My most recent book, The Last Revolutionaries: The Conspiracy Trial of Gracchus Babeuf and the Equals (Yale University Press, 2022), explains how a controversial trial of 1797 helps us understand why France’s first republic collapsed less than a decade after its founding during the French Revolution. This book also considers how the experience of Gracchus Babeuf, a man who was both ordinary and extraordinary, illuminates the complex possibilities and constraints that shaped the lives of common people during the French Revolution.



Book cover for the second edition of THE FRENCH REVOLUTION: A DOCUMENT COLLECTION, edited and translated with an introduction by Laura Mason and Tracey Rizzo.

Edited Special Issues

“Film and History: Reimagining the Francophone Archive,” co-edited with Flo Martin, French Historical Studies 46 #2 (May 2023)

Select Film Articles

“Film and History: Reimagining the Francophone Archive,” co-authored with Flo Martin.French Historical Studies, 46 #2 (May 2023).

“Intersectional Audiard: Masculinity, Gender, Race,” in “L’Intersectionnalité au cinéma,” ed. Sabrina Bouarour & Héloïse Van Appelghem. Mise au Point 16 (oct-nov 2022).

“The Soul of France on the Boulevard du Crime: Marcel’s Carné’s Les Enfants du Paradis.” Fiction and Film for Scholars of France 10 #3 (May 2020)

“Celebrating Popular Revolution: Jean Renoir’s La Marseillaise.” Fiction and Film for Scholars of France 8 #3 (Dec 2017).

"We're just little people, Louis': Marie-Antoinette on Film,” Dena Goodman (ed) Marie Antoinette: Writings on the Body of a Queen. (Routledge, 2003).

"Looking at a Life: Biography on Film," Rethinking History 1 #3 (1997)


Imaginaries: Films, Fictions, and Other Representations of French-Speaking Worlds

a man standing on a bridge overlooking Paris

Conspiracy of Equals with Laura Mason on The Dig, with Daniel Denvir

Collage of five book covers