Photo of Laura Horak

Laura Horak

Director of the Transgender Media Lab and the Transgender Media Portal; Associate Professor of Film Studies

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

Laura Horak is Associate Professor of Film Studies at Carleton University and Director of the Transgender Media Lab and Transgender Media Portal. She investigates the history of transgender and queer film and media in the United States, Canada, and Scandinavia. She is author of Girls Will Be Boys: Cross-Dressing Women, Lesbians, and American Cinema, 1908-1934 (Rutgers UP, 2016) and co-editor of Silent Cinema and the Politics of Space (Indiana UP, 2014), Unwatchable (Rutgers UP, 2019), and a special issue of Somatechnics on trans/cinematic/bodies. Horak is a white cis queer settler scholar who is here to leverage her privilege and institutional resources for the revolution.

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) and a core faculty member of the Collaborative Specialization in Digital Humanities.

Supported by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant and an Ontario Early Researcher Award, Horak is researching the history of transgender, Two-Spirit, nonbinary, intersex and gender-nonconforming filmmaking in Canada and the United States and building the Transgender Media Portal, a website and database highlighting the work of trans filmmakers.

In March 2019, she curated an exhibit called “Trans Porn Imaginaries: A Half-Century of Transvestite Lawmen and Gendertrash from Hell” at the University of Toronto’s iSchool that drew from collections of the Bonham Center for Sexual Diversity’s Sexual Representation Collection (SRC) and the ArQuives: Canada’s LGBTQ2+ Archives. Read a conversation with Horak about exhibit here.

Her co-edited anthology, Unwatchable (Rutgers UP), with Nicholas Baer, Maggie Hennefeld, and Gunnar Iversen, was 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. Read an interview with Horak and her co-editors in Film Quarterly.

In 2018, Horak 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).”

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.

Horak is also on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Cinema and Media Studies and is a collaborator on the SSHRC Insight Partnership Grant “Archive/Counter-Archive: Activating Canada’s Moving Image Heritage.”

Selected publications on transgender media include:

“Visibility and Vulnerability: Translatina World-making in The Salt Mines and Wildness.” In The Power of Vulnerability: Mobilizing Affect in Feminist, Queer and Anti-Racist Media Cultures, edited by Anu Koivunen, Katariina Kyrölä and Ingrid Ryberg, 95-115. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 21 pp. (open access)

“The Many Faces of Trans Cinema.” Special issue on Trans Cinema. Z Filmtidskrift, December 2018. In Norwegian.

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

Special issue on Cinematic BodiesSomatechnics 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.

“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.

“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.

“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.

“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.

“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.