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Dr James MacDowell

portraitAssistant Professor in Film & Television Studies

Tel: +44 2476 573041
Email: James dot MacDowell at warwick dot ac dot uk

Room A0.17
Millburn House
University of Warwick
Coventry, CV4 7HS


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, and the founder of Alternate Takes.

Research interests

My research is primarily concerned with exploring the aesthetic and cultural significance of popular filmmaking, with a particular focus on the generic conventions, narrative strategies, and style of American cinema, old and new (including Hollywood cinema, American ‘indie’ cinema, and cult film). While drawing on approaches from the fields of narrative theory, cultural studies, and the philosophy of aesthetics, my research is most strongly influenced by critical traditions dedicated to exploring the interdependence of style and meaning. My current work addresses film’s capacity for irony, and also investigates what a consideration of irony may bring to critical debates concerning intention, interpretation, and evaluation.

Selected publications


  • Irony in Film (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)
  • Happy Endings in Hollywood Cinema: Cliché, Convention and the Final Couple (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013) [Read the introduction here.]


  • 'To be in the Moment: The Long Take in Richard Linklater's Before Series', in The Long Take: Critical Approaches, eds. John Gibbs and Douglas Pye (London: Palgrave MacMillan); forthcoming.
  • 'The Metamodern, the Quirky, and Film Criticism', in Metamodernism: Historicity, Affect, and Depth after Postmodernism, eds. Robin van den Akker, Alison Gibbons and Timotheus Vermeulen (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield); forthcoming.
  • 'Quirky Culture: Tone, Sensibility, and Structure of Feeling', in A Companion to American Indie Film, ed. Geoff King (London: Blackwell, 2016), 83-105.
  • 'Buffalo '66: The Radical Conventionality of an Indie Happy Ending', in US Independent Filmmaking After 1989: Possible Films, eds. Claire Perkins and Constantine Verevis (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015), 35-44.
  • ‘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 2013, pp. 1-30.
  • ‘Quirky: Buzzword or Sensibility?’, in American Independent Cinema: Indie, Indiewood and Beyond, eds. Geoff King, Claire Molloy & Yannis Tzioumakis (New York: Routledge, 2013), 53–64.
  • ‘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.
  • Does the Hollywood Happy Ending Exist?’, in Happy Endings and Films, eds. Armelle Parey, Dominique Spière & Isabelle Roblin (Paris: Michel Houdiard, 2010), pp. 15–27.

Teaching and supervision

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

In 2016-17 I am teaching the core undergraduate 2nd-year module ‘Hollywood Cinema’, the 3rd-year option 'Hollywood Romantic Comedy', and the MA option 'Irony in Film'.

I am interested in supervising postgraduate projects related to my research interests, including studio- and post-studio-era Hollywood cinema, American independent cinema, cult film (especially ‘badfilm’), romantic comedy, the philosophy of interpretation, and more broadly candidates who wish to pursue the detailed investigation of film style and meaning.

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).