Photo of Laura Horak

Laura Horak

Associate Professor; cross-appointed with Women’s & Gender Studies; Undergraduate Supervisor; Practicum & Internship Coordinator

Degrees:MA and Ph.D. (UC-Berkeley), BA (Yale University)
Phone:613-520-2600 x 4010
Office:405 St. Patrick's Building
Website:Make an appointment with Professor Horak

Laura Horak investigates the history of transgender and gender-nonconforming film and media in the United States and Canada, as well as the history of sexuality in the U.S and Scandinavian cinema.

She is cross-appointed to the Pauline Jewett Institute for Women’s and Gender Studies and the Institute for Comparative Studies in Literature, Art, and Culture (ICSLAC). She is also on the Sexuality Studies Committee in the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies.

Supported by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant, Horak is researching the history of transgender, Two-Spirit, and gender-nonconforming filmmaking in Canada and the United States and creating a pilot online database to promote these filmmakers. In this moment when transgender people are disproportionately subjected to poverty, incarceration, violence and murder (particularly women of colour), media acts as a staging ground for the types of life that are permitted to become real and to shape reality in turn. When trans people create audiovisual media, rather than simply being represented in it, they help shape this reality. The worlds they make help change our collective world.

Horak recently co-edited a special journal issue of Somatechnics on “Cinematic Bodies” with Cáel Keegan and Eliza Steinbock. Read the introduction: “Cinematic/Trans*/Bodies Now (and Then, and to Come).”

Her co-edited anthology, Unwatchable  (Rutgers UP), with Nicholas Baer, Maggie Hennefeld, and Gunnar Iversen, will be published in January 2019. With over 50 original essays by leading scholars, artists, critics, and curators, this is the first book to trace the “unwatchable” across our contemporary media environment, in which viewers encounter difficult content on various screens and platforms. The volume offers multidisciplinary approaches to the vast array of troubling images that circulate in global visual culture.

Horak is also writing a book titled Cinema’s Oscar Wilde: Mauritz Stiller and the Production of Modern Sexuality (under contract with Rutgers UP) that investigates the ways that cinema participated in the Swedish project of modernizing sexuality via a case study of the gay, Jewish, Finnish-Swedish director Mauritz Stiller.

Girls Will Be Boys cover imageHer first book, Girls Will Be Boys: Cross-Dressed Women, Lesbians, and American Cinema 1908-1934 (Rutgers UP, 2016), uses archival research to overturn long-standing assumptions about gender and sexuality in American film history. It was one of the Huffington Post’s Top Film Books of 2016, a finalist for 2016 Richard Wall Memorial Award by the Theatre Library Association, and longlisted for the Kraszna-Krausz Best Moving Image Book of 2016.. Read Horak’s interview about the book in Film Quarterly or listen to her discuss it with Susie Bright.

Horak’s anthology, Silent Cinema and the Politics of Space (Indiana University Press, 2014), co-edited with Jennifer Bean and Anupama Kapse, won the 2015 Society of Cinema and Media Studies’ Award for Best Edited Collection.

Recent publications include:

“Trans Studies.” Special issue on Genealogies of Feminist Media History. Feminist Media Histories 4, no. 2 (April 2018): 201-206. 5pp.

Special issue on Cinematic Bodies. Somatechnics 8, no. 1 (March 2018). Co-edited with Cáel M. Keegan and Eliza Steinbock. 142 pp.

“Cinematic/Trans*/Bodies Now (and Then, and to Come).” Introduction to special issue on Cinematic Bodies. Somatechnics 8, no. 1 (March 1, 2018): 1–13. Co-written with Cáel M. Keegan and Eliza Steinbock. 14pp.

“Animating Antiquity.” In The Image in Early Cinema: Form and Material, edited by Tom Gunning, Scott Curtis, and Josh Yumibe, 47-57. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, March 2018. 11 pp.

“Cross-Dressing in Griffith’s Biograph Films: Humor, Heroics, and Edna ‘Billy’ Foster’s Good Bad Boys.” In A Companion to D.W. Griffith, edited by Charlie Keil, 284–308. Wiley Blackwell Companions to Film Directors. West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2018. 25pp.

 “Tracing the History of Trans and Gender Variant Filmmakers.” Special issue on Transgender Media. Spectator: The University of Southern California Journal of Film and Television Criticism37, no. 2 (Fall 2017): 9-20. 11 pp.

“Sense8 Roundtable.” Co-written with Roxanne Samer. With Moya Bailey, micha cárdenas, Lokeilani Kaimana, Cáel M. Keegan, Geneveive Newman, Roxanne Samer, and Raffi Sarkissian. Special issue on Transgender Media. Spectator: The University of Southern California Journal of Film and Television Criticism 37, no. 2 (Fall 2017): 74-88.

“The Nasty Women of Silent Cinema,” with Maggie Hennefeld. Ms. Magazine Blog. October 25, 2017.

“Cross-Dressing and Transgender Representation in Swedish Cinema, 1908-2017.” European Journal of Scandinavian Studies 47, no. 2 (2017): 377-397. 21pp.

“The Queer and Not-So-Queer History of Early Hollywood Revealed in New Book ‘Girls Will Be Boys.’” Women and Hollywood. August 4, 2016.

“Using Digital Maps to Investigate Cinema History.” In The Arclight Guide to Media History and the Digital Humanities, edited by Charles Acland and Eric Hoyt, 65-102. Falmer: REFRAME/Project Arclight (2016). 38 pp.

“The Global Distribution of Swedish Silent Film.” In A Companion to Nordic Cinema, edited by Mette Hjort and Ursula Lindqvist, 457-484. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers, March 2016. 28 pp.

“Trans on YouTube: Intimacy, Visibility, Temporality.” Special issue on Trans Cultural Production. TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 1, no. 4 (December 2014): 572-585. 14 pp.

“Sex, Politics, and Swedish Silent Film: Mauritz Stiller’s Feminism Comedies of the 1910s.”Journal of Scandinavian Cinema 4, no. 3 (September 2014): 193-208. 16 pp.

Silent Cinema and the Politics of Space. Co-edited with Jennifer Bean and Anupama Kapse. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014. 360 pp.

“Queer Crossings: Greta Garbo, National Identity, and Gender Deviance.” In Silent Cinema and the Politics of Space, edited by Jennifer Bean, Laura Horak, and Anupama Kapse, 270-294. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014. 25 pp.

“Swedish cinema’s use of the Bechdel test is a provocation that works.” Co-written with Anu Koivunen and Ingrid Ryberg. The Guardian. November 27, 2013.

“The Female Boy on the Frontier: The Strange Case of Billy and His Pal (1911).” Cinema Journal Afterthoughts and Postscripts 52, no.4 (Fall 2013)

“Landscape, Vitality, and Desire: Cross-Dressed Frontier Girls in Transitional-Era American Cinema.” Cinema Journal 52, no. 4 (Summer 2013): 74-98. 24 pp.

“‘Would you like to sin with Elinor Glyn?’: Film as a Vehicle of Sensual Education.” Camera Obscura 25, no. 2 74 (2010): 75-117. 42 pp.

“Osa Johnson.” In Women Film Pioneers Project, edited by Jane Gaines, Radha Vatsal, and Monica Dall’Asta. Center for Digital Research and Scholarship. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2013.