In Visible Man (1924), Béla Balázs predicted that the cinema would rescue the face from illegibility. Through the close-up, people would “relear[n] the long-forgotten language of gestures and facial expressions” and man would “become visible once again.” Now, it would seem, we have learned this language too well. Whether in the digitally created or altered faces of Hollywood cinema, or in the social media filters, “face apps,” and surveillance software of everyday life, reading “face language” — coding, decoding, and recognizing faces — has become the seemingly endless task of humans and machines alike. Recent “facial” controversies – from politicians in blackface to “deep fakes,” casting controversies,  and surveillance techniques — have made clear the need for a broader understanding of the face on screen, its history, and its varied techniques and effects. In contemporary culture, modifying, re-making, and fine-tuning the face on screen has become commonplace, and “face culture” has increasingly focused on the mutable, modular face. Yet, the face on screen has always been a highly constructed and changeable object. This CFP invites submissions for an edited volume organized around the face on screen. This volume will consider the screen face from a variety of perspectives, across time periods and media. Thus, we are open to submissions on any aspect of the face on screen, from early cinema to the face in contemporary screen culture. We are open to a variety of methodologies, from close readings and historical analyses to a variety of theoretical approaches to the face. We are interested in new approaches to the face on screen, especially those that consider the face from the perspective of construction, mutability, and transformation. Classic (and even contemporary) film theory has focused on the close-up, and in recent years, a number of scholars have returned to the face on screen as a site of inquiry. This collection welcomes essays that explore new approaches to the face on screen (broadly understood) and also those that re-visit earlier theories and eras in a new context. This collection is particularly interested in going “beyond the close-up” (though reconsiderations of close-up theory are welcome). The collection aims to re-think the face on screen by highlighting new work that brings together early, classic, and contemporary “face issues.” Areas of interest may include but are not limited to:

  • Makeup practices and the “construction” of the screen face
  • Issues surrounding digital manipulation and/or the creation of digital faces
  • Controversies surrounding racial disguise, skin tone, and other racially coded facial manipulation (digital or otherwise)
  • Questions of gender identity, sexuality, and the face
  • Questions of class, race, and the face on screen
  • The nonnormative face on screen
  • The face and animality; the face and conceptualizations of the human
  • Questions of transformation and disguise
  • Mutability and stardom
  • Legibility and facial expression
  • Appearances and reappearances of “photogénie,” “physiognomy” and other philosophies of or “systematic” approaches to the face.
  • Methods of facial measurement, facial recognition, and other technologies of the face
  • Intermedial approaches to the face
  • The screen face and the transnational
  • The face and modes of exchange
  • The screen face and affect theory
  • Questions of identity and surveillance

Please send an abstract of roughly 300 words, a short bibliography, and a brief bio to:

Abstracts should be sent by March 1, 2020.