Sarah Ann Wells

Position title: Associate Professor


Modernism, the avant-gardes, and theories of modernity; film and media studies, including world cinema studies; labor resistance and collective movements; Latin American studies; science fiction and technology; translation. I am on the editorial boards of Hispanic Review and the Latin American Literary Review, a member of the international working group on Cultures of World Socialisms, and I serve on the Steering Committees of the Center for Visual Cultures and Havens Wright Center for Social Justice at UW-Madison.

Degrees and Institutions

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

Teaching: Recent and Future Courses

  • English 466: Reproductive Justice in World Literature and Film
  • English 822: The Labor of Images
  • English 141: Global Science Fiction
  • English 466: Gender and Technology
  • EL 822: Media Theory and Literary Studies
  • CL 466: Surrealism 2.0
  • CL 771: Global Modernisms

Select Publications

  • “Work’s Figures, Work’s Forms” in The Routledge Companion to Twentieth and Twenty-First-Century Latin American Literary and Cultural Forms (2022).
  • “At the Shores of Work.” Comparative Literature 73.2 (2021)
  • “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 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 book-in-progress, The Labor of Images, aims to be the first study of labor strikes as both a representational problem and opportunity in world cinema. Radiating outward from the unprecedented boom in strike films in South American cinema and political theory of the 1960s and 1970s, I analyze the strike film as a world cinema form that apprehends the constitutive representational challenges of the strike, including its spatial, temporal, iconographic, sonic, and corporeal dimensions. This project has been supported by an ACLS Fellowship, the Institute for the Research in the Humanities at UW-Madison and a Society for the Humanities Fellowship at Cornell University (2023-2024). This book project dovetails with a special issue I am currently editing for Hispanic Review on the problem of the collective in contemporary Latin American literature, culture, and critical theory.

I am also translating and writing about the Argentine poet and essayist Tamara Kamenszain (1947-2021).  I am also beginning research on two additional book projects:

The first examines 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 appears in the Cambridge Companion to Latin American Literature: Transitions (1930-1980) as “Eros After Surrealism and Before the Revolution.”

The second, Brazil: In Theory, explores two currents: in the first, I trace the ways in which “Brazil” has been deployed with surprising frequency by European writers as an engine for generating philosophical and theoretical claims that hinge on alterity. The second analyzes the production of theories and experiments of social, aesthetic, and political emancipation from Brazil itself.

  • Wells (Co-editor), Sarah Ann.“Simultaneous Worlds.” 2015: n. pag. Print.

    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, Sarah Ann.“Media Laboratories: Late Modernist Authorship in South America.” 2017: n. pag. Print.

    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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