Sarah Ann Wells

Position title: Associate Professor


Modernism, the avant-gardes, and theories of modernity; Latin American studies; film and media studies; science fiction and technology; labor; translation.

Degrees and Institutions

  • PhD, Comparative Literature, University of California, Berkeley
  • BA, Comparative Literature, Brown University

Teaching: Recent and Future Courses

  • EL 466: Gender and Technology (Fall 2020)
  • EL 822: Media Theory and Literary Studies (graduate seminar, Fall 2020)
  • CL 358: Global Science Fiction
  • CL 466: Surrealism 2.0
  • CL 771: Labor: Theory, Cinema, Literature

Select Publications

  • “Timing the Cinema-Labor Cycle: Brazil’s ‘Deferred ’68.’” South Atlantic Quarterly 119.3. (July 2020)
  • “The Panorama and the Pilgrimage: Brazilian Modernism, the Masses, and the Soviet Union in the 1930s.” Comintern Aesthetics, eds. Amelia Glaser and Steven Lee (University of Toronto Press, 2019).
  • “Sex Work in the Cinema: Lessons from the 1970s.” A Contracorriente 16.3. Spring 2019.
  • “Parallel Modernities? The First Reception of Soviet Cinema in Latin America.” In Cosmopolitan Film Culture in Latin America, 1896-1960, ed. Rielle Navitski and Nic Poppe. Indiana University Press, 2017.
  • “El trabajo en el cine brasileiro” (“Work in Brazilian Cinema.”) Vademécum de Hispanófila 177. June 2016.
  • “Jet Lag: Late Cinema in South America.” Revista de Estudios Hispánicos L.2. June 2016.
  • “Mass Culture and the Laboratory of Late Modernism in Patrícia Galvão’s Industrial Park (1933).” Luso-Brazilian Review 53.1. 2016.
  • “The Scar and the Node: Border Science Fiction and the Mise-en-Scène of Globalized Labor.” The Global South Vol. 8, No. 1, Spring 2014.
  • “Viaje a través del tiempo. Distopía e industria cultural en la película La Antena (Esteban Sapir, 2007).” Revista Iberoamericana LXXVIII, 238-239, 2012.
  • “Late Modernism, Pulp History: Jorge Luis Borges’ A Universal History of Infamy (1935).” Modernism/Modernity 18.2, April 2011.

Books and Book Projects

Media Laboratories: Late Modernist Authorship in South America (Northwestern University Press, 2017), examines late modernist literature in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay through its relationship to formerly new media such as cinema, radio, and the typewriter. I trace the transformation of the figure of the author during the period, from the avant-garde emphasis on originality and rupture to its late modernist reconfiguration as spectator and user. Media Laboratories recently won the Best Book (Humanities category) from the Southern Cone Section of the Latin American Studies Association.

With Jennifer Feeley, I am also the co-editor of Simultaneous Worlds: Global Science Fiction Cinema (University of Minnesota, 2015).

My second project, The Labor of Images: Work and Its Discontents in Brazilian Cinema, a study of the relationship between labor and film form, seeks to understand the boom in films about work in the age of labor’s ostensible immateriality. Taking as a starting point the films that emerged in the late 1970s to capture Latin America’s largest industrial strikes, this study explores their afterlives in contemporary documentary and fiction film, analyzing how cinema is uniquely poised to apprehend global capitalism. The Labor of Images has been supported by an ACLS Fellowship and by the Institute for the Research in the Humanities at UW-Madison.

I have also begun research for a book on the intersection of surrealism and eroticism in postwar literature and visual arts in the Americas. My corpus includes poetry, painting, photography, film, and sculpture by artists Alejandra Pizarnik, Marosa di Giorgio, Maya Deren, Leonor Fini, Remedios Varo, Maria Martins, and Hilda Hilst. The most provocative legacy of surrealism, I wager, can be found in the work of women artists and writers who saw historical surrealism’s focus on bodily liberation as an incomplete promise. A preliminary discussion of this project will appear in the Cambridge Companion to Latin American Literature: Transitions (1930-1980).

  • Wells (Co-editor), S. A. Simultaneous Worlds. Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2015.

    Simultaneous Worlds challenges the notion that science fiction cinema is largely a Western genre by focusing on cinemas and cultures from Cuba to North Korea that are not traditionally associated with science fiction. This is the first volume to bring a transnational, interdisciplinary lens to science fiction cinema.

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  • Wells, S. A. Media Laboratories: Late Modernist Authorship in South America. Northwestern University Press, 2017.

    Media Laboratories explores a pivotal time for South American literature of the 1930s and ’40s. Cinema, radio, and the typewriter, once seen as promising catalysts for new kinds of writing, began to be challenged by authors, workers, and the public. What happens when media no longer seem novel and potentially democratic but rather consolidated and dominant?

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