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Dr James MacDowell

Associate Professor in Film & Television Studies

Departmental Examinations Secretary

Email: James dot MacDowell at warwick dot ac dot uk

Room 1.22 - Floor 1, Faculty of Arts Building

Tel: +44 2476 573041


James MacDowell holds an MA and PhD in Film Studies from the University of Warwick. Before assuming his post at Warwick he taught film studies at the Universities of Birmingham, Royal Holloway, and Reading. James is a member of the editorial board of Movie: A Journal of Film Criticism, he makes audiovisual essays for his YouTube channel The Lesser Feat, and his Twitter is here.


Research interests

My research primarily explores the aesthetic strategies of popular film and media, with a particular focus on the generic conventions, narrative strategies, and stylistic properties of mainstream and indie American cinema, as well as (most recently) YouTube. My approach is influenced by philosophical aesthetics, and by traditions in art criticism dedicated to exploring the interdependence of style and meaning. I have written books about the nature of irony in film and the Hollywood 'happy ending'. Current research interests include the aesthetics of YouTube, the role of intention in film interpretation, and the critical possibilities of audiovisual essays. I also make video essays on my YouTube channel, The Lesser Feat.


Selected publications



Audiovisual essays [see all here]:


Selected articles/chapters:

  • 'Parody, Pastiche and Millennial Socialism in the YouTube Video Essay', Screen, vol 65, no. 1 (2024), 121-31.
  • 'Ironies in Film', in The Cambridge Handbook of Irony and Thought, eds. Ray Gibbs Herbert L. Colston (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2023), 367-84.
  • 'Is The Room Worse Than Vertigo? The Aesthetic Philosophy of "So Bad it's Good"', in You Are Tearing Me Apart, Lisa! The Year's Work on The Room, the Worst Movie Ever Made, ed. Adam Rosen (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2022), 55-63.
  • 'Romance, Narrative, and the Sense of a Happy Ending in the Before Series', in Philosophers on Film: The Before Trilogy, eds. Hans Maes & Katrien Schaubroeck (London: Routledge, 2021), 174-93.
  • 'Comedy and Melodrama from Sunrise to Midnight: Genre and Gender in Linklater’s Before Series', in After “Happily Ever After”: Romantic Comedy in the Post-Romantic Age, ed. Maria San Filippo (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2021), 47-65.
  • 'Introduction: "So Bad it's Good": Aesthetics, Reception, and Beyond' (co-authored with Richard McCulloch), Continuum, 33:6 (2019), 643-52.
  • ‘Interpretation, Irony and “Surface Meanings” in Film’, Film-Philosophy 22.2 (2018), 261-80.
  • ‘To Be in the Moment: On (Almost) Not Noticing Time Passing in Before Sunrise’, in The Long Take: Critical Approaches, eds. John Gibbs and Douglas Pye (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2017), 147-61.
  • ‘The Metamodern, the Quirky and Film Criticism’, in Metamodernism: Historicity, Affect, and Depth after Postmodernism, eds. Robin van den Akker, Alison Gibbons & Timotheus Vermeulen (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), 25-40.
  • 'Quirky Culture: Tone, Sensibility, and Structure of Feeling', in A Companion to American Indie Film, ed. Geoff King (London: Blackwell, 2016), 83-105.
  • ‘The Andersonian, the Quirky, and “Innocence”’, in The Films of Wes Anderson: Critical Essays on an Indiewood Icon, ed. Peter Kunze (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 153–169.
  • ‘The Aesthetics of “So Bad it’s Good”: Value, Intention, and The Room(co-authored with Dr. James Zborowski), Intensities, Autumn/Winter 2014, pp. 1-30.
  • ‘Wes Anderson, Tone, and the Quirky Sensibility’, The New Review of Film & Television Studies, 10.1 (2012): pp. 1–22.
  • Britton on Film: The Complete Film Criticism of Andrew Britton’, CineAction, no.84 (2011): pp. 44–49.
  • ‘Notes on Quirky’, Movie: A Journal of Film Criticism, Issue 1 (2010), pp. 1-16.
  • ‘What we Don’t See and What we Think it Means: Ellipsis and Occlusion in Rear Window, The Hitchcock Annual, Vol. 16 (2010), pp. 77–101.


Teaching and supervision

I teach subjects covering classical and contemporary Hollywood cinema, ‘indie’ cinema, and - most pervasively - questions of film style and aesthetics.

Modules taught include 'Film Aesthetics', ‘Film Criticism’, 'Hollywood Cinema', 'Postclassical Hollywood Cinema', 'Romantic Comedy', 'Film Criticism, Film Style' and 'Screen Cultures and Methods'.

I am currently co-supervising Danielle Childs' doctoral thesis on the aesthetic and cultural significance of the motel in American cinema.

I am interested in supervising postgraduate projects related to my research interests - including YouTube, irony in film, intention and interpretation, the aesthetics/conventions of Hollywood/American independent cinema, and more broadly candidates who wish to pursue the detailed investigation of audiovisual style and meaning, and/or apply traditional questions in the philosophy of aesthetics to film and screen media.


National roles and professional associations

I am a member of BAFTSS (British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies) and SCMS (Society of Cinema and Media Studies).


Undergraduate modules

FI107 Film Criticism

FI 301 Film Aesthetics

FI351 Post-Classical Hollywood

Postgraduate modules

Film Criticism, Film Style

Feedback & Advice hours

 irony in film