Photo of Laura Horak

Laura Horak

Assistant Professor, Film Studies; 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 gender and sexuality in film and media, transgender and queer cinema, and American and Scandinavian film history. She teaches courses on film theory, historiography, and methodology; cinema, gender, and sexuality; women directors; the history of sex in American cinema; and passing and masquerade in cinema.

Horak 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.

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Her 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 chosen as one of the Huffington Post’s Top Film Books of 2016 and a 2016 Choice Outstanding Academic Title. 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.

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

Horak is also co-editing an anthology called Unwatchable (also under contract with Rutgers) with Nicholas Baer, Maggie Hennefeld, and Gunnar Iversen. The book assembles short essays from 60 scholars, filmmakers, and cultural critics, including W.J.T. Mitchell, Vivian Sobchack, and Jonathan Crary. In addition, she is co-editing a special journal issue of Somatechnics (Edinburgh UP) with Cáel Keegan and Eliza Steinbock on the topic of “Cinematic Bodies,” with a focus on trans cinematic authorship and representation.

In July 2017, Horak received a SSHRC Insight Development Grant for her new project, “Imagining Transgender: Trans and Gender Variant Filmmaking in the United States and Canada.” Through interviews and archival research, she is investigating how films made by trans and gender-variant people have helped bring new communities and identity categories into being.

Recent publications include:

“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 Criticism 37, 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.

“Cross-Dressing and Transgender Representation in Swedish Cinema, 1908-2017.” European Journal of Scandinavian Studies. Accepted, in press, forthcoming October 2017.

“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.

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“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.