Michael Allan

alt=""Michael Allan
Associate Professor 
Department of Comparative Literature

316 Villard

Research Statement

My research addresses the relationship between colonialism and aesthetic form at the intersection of various languages (French, Arabic and English), textual traditions and media. My current book project, Picturing the World: The Global Routes of Early Cinema, traces the travels of the Lumière Brothers camera operators across North Africa and the Middle East from 1896-1903. Confronting the rival nationalist narratives that pit the American Edison Company against the French Lumière Brothers, I follow instead the complex histories of the camera operators themselves—from Gabriel Veyre in the United States, Mexico and Morocco, to Alexandre Promio in Italy, Russia, Spain and Algeria. What does it matter, my book asks, that basic principles of film form become visible at particular colonial sites? Each chapter couples one of these early films with a formal question: the close-up at the Jaffa Gate in Palestine, the question of framing in colonial Algiers, and duration at the pyramids in Egypt. Entwining film history and film theory, this study of the global dimensions of early cinema connects me directly to other aspects of visual culture. I have been investigating panoramas, photography and lithographs that inflect how colonial sites come to be seen through the cameras of the Lumière operators.

Recent Citations – Publications – Professional Work

  • "Queer Couplings: Formations of Religion and Sexuality in The Yacoubian Building." The International Journal of Middle East Studies, 44:4, 2013.
  • “Deserted Histories: The Great Pyramid and Early Film Form.” Early Popular Visual Culture, 6:2, 159-170, July 2008.
  • “The Location of Lebanon: Portraits and Places in the Videography of Jayce Salloum.” Parachute, 108. Beyrouth_Beirut, Fall 2002, Simultaneously published as “Le Lieu Liban: Portraits et Sites dans L’Art Vidéo de Jayce Salloum” translated by Denis Lessard.


  • COLT 103 "Thinking Through Images: Photography, Film, Video"
  • COLT 231 "Literature and Human Rights"
  • COLT 370 "Comics, Colonialism and Images of Empire"
  • COLT 462 "Orientalism"
  • COLT 470 "Multiculturalism and Empire"
  • COLT 616 "Transmedial Aesthetics"