Bernadette Wegenstein

Bernadette Wegenstein

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

PhD, Vienna University

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

Bernadette Wegenstein is an Austrian-born linguist, media theorist and documentary filmmaker living in the United States since 1999. She received her PhD in Romance Languages and Linguistics from Vienna University, studied semiotics with Umberto Eco at the Università degli Studi di Bologna, anthropology at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and comparative literature and film at Stanford University. Bernadette Wegenstein is a professor of media studies at Johns Hopkins University, where she created and currently directs the Center for Advanced Media Study. She is the author of several books in the field of media studies with MIT Press, including Getting Under the Skin: Body and Media TheoryThe Cosmetic Gaze: Body Modification and the Construction of Beauty, and Reality Made Over: The Culture of Reality Television Makeover Shows (Configurations special issues). She is currently working on a monograph about two women filmmakers: Jane Campion (Bloomsbury, 2021), and Naomi Kawase (Bloomsbury, 2022). Her anthology (together with Lauren Mushro) about a global feminist filmmaking tradition Radical Equalities: Global Feminist Filmmaking is forthcoming with Vernon Press, Spring 2022. Her numerous articles and book chapters include most recently “Media in the Age of Apophenia: Why the Study of Media Art and Theory is More Important Today Than Ever,” inaugural contribution to MAST: The Journal of Media Art, Study and Theory ; “Ideas of Physical Beauty”, in: A History of Beauty, Volume I The Modern Age,” ed. Paul Deslandes, Bloomsbury (2021); and  “Beauty Politics in the Age of #metoo,” in Beauty Politics, ed. by Maxine Craig, which has been translated into Portuguese for the Brazilian Revista Rosa.   

Bernadette Wegenstein is currently the President of the North Eastern Modern Languages Association, NeMLA, a position she will hold in 2022 during its annual conference to be held in Baltimore. 

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 and her interest in human-centric storytelling.Made Over in America (Icarus Films, 2007) is an essay-film about the female protagonists on the extreme makeover show The Swan. Her second film, See You Soon Again (in collaboration with Austrian director Lukas Stepanik, The Cinema Guild, 2012) is a portrayal of Viennese Holocaust survivors Leo Bretholz and Bluma Shapiro and their work to pass on the story of their survivals to Baltimore’s youth. The film was theatrically released in Austria, where it also airs on Austrian ORF and German 3Sat yearly every year on Yom Hashoah. The Good Breast (Icarus Films, 2016) is a character-driven Cinéma Vérité portrayal of breast cancer culture in the U.S. It premiered in 2016 at Bentonville Filmfestival founded by the Geena Davis Media and Gender Institute, which champions women and diverse voices in media. Since then it has screened in several festivals in the U.S., Europe and Shanghai, and came out on amazon’s streaming service in 2019. In 2020 Bernadette made a music film with women conductors about the pandemic called See Me: a Global Concert for the World Economic Forum’s inaugural Davos online concert. See Me won several film prices including “best editing” at the Hollywood Diversity Film Festival, and the “Premio Speciale Rive Gauche”. She is in post-production with the partly animated Devoti tutti, a feminist interpretation and retelling of the martyrdom of Saint Agatha in Catania, Sicily. Her latest film The Conductor about the life story of U.S. conductor Marin Alsop as the first woman to break the glass ceiling of an all-male canon of classical musical orchestra conductors. The Conductor held its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in June 2021, and has thus far played at 40 international festivals, winning 4 best prices including Audience Awards and the Focus on the Arts Award. It will be released on PBS “Great Performances” in March 2022.. In 2019 she also made a short version for television called Marin Alsop: Botschafterin der Musik. The film aired on ORF (Austria), and 3Sat (Germany) and arte (France, Belgium, Germany). She is currently in pre-production with a hybrid documentary film about the Austrian Jewish playwright Michael Feuerstein, and a documentary series about global women filmmakers and their film practice.