Bernadette Wegenstein

Bernadette Wegenstein

Professor of Media Studies; Director, Center for Advanced Media Studies

Program: Italian
Gilman 461
Tuesday, Thursday 10-11 a.m.
Curriculum Vitae
Personal Website

Bernadette Wegenstein is an Austrian-born linguist and documentary filmmaker. She received her PhD in Romance Languages and Linguistics from Vienna University, following her studies in Linguistics at the same University, Semiotics with Umberto Eco at the Università deglli Studi di Bologna, Anthropology at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and then completed a post-doc in Comparative Literature and Film at Stanford University.

Since 2015 she has been held the position of full professor of media studies, where she is also the founding director of the Center for Advanced Media Studies. Together with her Center she has programmed an annual feminist artist-in-residency program with the Baltimore Museum of Art, which has featured artist residencies with Sharon Hayes, Mary Reid Kelley, and Tamar Guimarães among others. The Center also gives out an annual fellowship for two PhD students in the Humanities whose dissertation incorporates a focus in media studies.

Bernadette is also a programmer for the first Austrian Human Rights Film Festival thishumanworld, an Executive Board Member for the Austrian WWTF Vienna Science and Technology Funding Programme, a project reviewer for the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the European Research Council, an Executive Board Member of International Comparative Literature Association, and a peer reviewer for Theory, Culture and Society. She will be the Vice-President of NeMLA (North Eastern Modern Language Association) as of 2019.

Bernadette Wegenstein is the author of the several books in the field of media studies, including Getting Under the Skin: Body and Media Theory (MIT Press, 2006), The Cosmetic Gaze: Body Modification and the Construction of Beauty, (MIT Press, 2012), the edited volume Reality Made Over: The Culture of Reality Television Makeover Shows (2008) and the internet book Living Books About Life: Cosmetic Surgery (2011).

She has published numerous articles on body criticism and media culture, among which Machinic Suture: Technologies of Beautification (2013), Seeing, Believing, Suffering: the Body as Medium in Religion and Contemporary Media Practice (2014), The Good and the Bad Breast: Cosmetic Surgery and Breast Cancer (2015), The Self as Artwork in the Age of Digital Capital (2015), Provoking the Truth: Applying the Method of Cinéma Vérité (2016), We are all Devoted! Making a Documentary about the Cult of Agatha in the Spirit of the Italian New Realists (2016), Breast Cancer and Body Modification, in Bodies in America (2017), Breasts on a Plate: Mutilation as Transformation and Liberation (2018), and Ideas of Physical Beauty (2019).

She is currently working on a monograph about the filmmaker Jane Campion.

In 2006 Bernadette Wegenstein expanded her work into the realm of independent documentary filmmaking. Her film work brings together her feminist thought, cultural critical, and anthropological research methods with the lived experience.

She produced and directed the documentaries Made Over in America (Icarusfilms, 2007) about the television makeover show The Swan and the genre of the “extreme makeover show.” Her second film, See You Soon Again (in collaboration with Austrian director Lukas Stepanik, The Cinema Guild, 2012) is a portrayal of Viennese Holocaust survivor Leo Bretholz and his life work to pass on his story of survival to Baltimore youth. The film was theatrically released in Austria, where it aired several times on Austrian Public Television and 3Sat. It also aired on MPT in the U.S. in 2008.

Her film The Good Breast (Icarusfilms, 2016) is a character-driven Cinéma Vérité portrayal of breast cancer culture in the U.S. Through the intimate stories of four women and their surgeon, the film explores the cultural roots and emotional impact of the loss of the breast. The Good Breast premiered in 2016 at the Bentonville Filmfestival founded by the Geena Davis Media and Gender Institute, which champions women and diverse voices in media. It has screened in several festivals in the U.S. and Europe since then.

Her current documentaries are Devoti tutti (in post-production), a feminist interpretation and retelling of the cult of Saint Agatha in Catania, Sicily, that will premiere at festivals in the Spring of 2019, and We Conduct, a feature documentary as well as a 52-minute TV film for Austrian broadcast about the work of Marin Alsop, the first female conductor of a major U.S. orchestra, at the height of her celebrated career.