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Professor Joe Kember



01392 724332

Joe Kember is a Professor in Film and Visual Culture. His research interests include early and silent cinema, Victorian and Edwardian popular entertainments including the magic lantern, theories of film affect, and issues concerning the representation of the human face. He teaches film, literature, and cultural theory, and has supervised postgraduate research concerning topics ranging from Victorian freak show to contemporary Scottish cinema. He is currently completing a book concerning the exhibition of popular screen entertainments, 1840-1914.




Research interests

My research is in popular and visual culture throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and especially in early and silent cinema. My book, Marketing Modernity: Victorian Popular Shows and Early Cinema (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2009), provides an expansive analysis of the institutional development of early film in relation to emergent models of self-identity and personality at the turn of the century.  Other notable publications in the field of silent film studies include Early Cinema 1895 - 1914: From Factory Gate to Dream Factory (London: Wallflower, 2004), co-authored with Simon Popple.

A second strand of my research is in popular entertainments, exhibitions, and displays between 1850 and 1914.  From 2007 I led, with Professor John Plunkett, the AHRC funded project, Moving and Projected-Image Entertainment in the South-West 1840-1914.  The co-authored book, Picture Going: Popular Visual Media in the South-West 1840-1914  will be the major published output for the project, to be published by Oxford University Press. Among my  other books, articles and chapters, are publications that have tackled spectatorship, performance and screening practices in exhibition sites such as Victorian freak shows, lecture theatres, public halls, and the magic theatre. I was the UK Principal Investigator in the project, A Million Pictures: Magic Lantern Slide Heritage as Artefacts in the Common European History of Learning,  funded in the UK by the AHRC and co-funded by the European Commission. I was also the Partner Invesrtigator in Audralian Reserach Council project, 'Heritage in the Limelight: The Magic Lantern in Australia and the World.' Following these projects, I have puclished extensively on the magic lantern.

Among my other interests, my new projects concern representation of the human face in visual cultures of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the development of a transnational circuit of lantern lecturers between 1870 and 1940.


Research supervision

I have supervised PhD students in the fields of  cinema history and theory, nineteenth-century shows and popular culture, and film practice. In addition to these areas, I am also interested in supervising PhD theses on any aspects of film and popular entertainment exhibition practices, histories of acting and performance, representation of cities and other spaces on film, and theories of film, including studies of cognition, emotion, and embodiment.

I also use Exeter's Bill Douglas Cinema Museum ( widely in my research and would be very interested in working further with doctoral students on the substantial mass of materials held by the Museum concerning film history and nineteenth- and twentieth-century visual and popular culture.

Research students

First Supervisor (completions indicated with a *).

*Ros Leveridge, Dignified and Discreet’: The Development of Popular Entertainment in Devon Coastal Resorts, 1870-1914 [AHRC Project Studentship] (f/t, 2008-11).

*Fiona Petit, Freak Shows in Britain 1870-1900: Interactions of Popular Entertainment and Medical Curiosity (f/t, 2008-12).

*Adam Whybray, Animating Dissent: The Political Object of Czechoslovakian Stop-Motion Film (f/t, 2011-15).

*Jamie Chambers, The Strange Home Project: Towards a Distinctive, ‘Authentic’ Contribution to Scottish Cinema Grounded in Community Folklore (f/t PhD by Practice co-supervised with LFS, 2012-17).

*Jane Devoy, Methods of Writing, Production and Exhibition in Contemporary Filmmaking: How Modes of Working Affect Final Product (f/t PhD by Practice co-supervised with LFS, 2012-17).

*Edward Falvey, Reading the Cinematic City: Iconography, Transformations, and the Birth of New York City (f/t, 2013-17). [Awarded 6 month visiting AHRC scholarship in the Library of Congress, February-July 2015].

*Chris Grosvenor, Cinema on the Frontline: A History of Military Cinema Exhibition during WWI and WWII  (f/t, 2015-18)

*Tony Lidington, The Itinerant British Showman: the exploration and evolution of ‘Seer Performance’ [co-supervisor, PhD by publication, f/t, 2016-18)

Barbara Santi, Representing local Cornish cultural identity: Community collaboration, archives and emerging documentary practices (PhD by practice, p/t, 2015-)

Amelia Seely, Creativity and Constraint in the British Film Industry: A Case Study on Bill Douglas (co-supervisor, f/t, 2018-)

Lisanne Moliné, Cognition and Light in Contemporary Cinematography (co-supervisor, PhD by practice, f/t, 2019-)

Second Supervisor.

Phil Wickham, British Situation Comedy and the Culture of New Capitalism (f/t, 2009-12)

*Christopher Davies, History, Fantasy and Reality: The Influence of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on Contemporary Historical and Fantasy Films since 2004 (f/t, 2010-16).

*Gillian Moore, The Life and Work of Charles Victor Alexander Peel (p/t, 2008-18).

*Alice Levick, Narrative Representations of American Urban Space from 1920-1960 (p/t, 2011-18).

*Richard Wells, The Apple Paradigm: Food for Thought (f/t, 2011-18).

*Will Barrett, Digital Interaction with Heritage (f/t, 2012-19).

*Laura López Martín doctorial Visiting Scholar, British and Spanish Collaboration in the Silent Era (2014-17).

Bogna Starczewska, Woody Allen and the European City: Representations of Globalisation and the American Tourist in Europe (f/t, 2017-)

Irene Gomez Emilsson, Cinematography and Landscape: the example of contemporary Icelandic moving image (f/t, 2019-)

External impact and engagement

I am the author of an Impact Case Study concerning heritage collections of magic lantern materials in the UK. Across two major projects, I have worked extensively with the Lucerna Magic Lantern Web Resource, the world's largest targeted database of magic lantern slides. Working within a series of Museums and other public collections across the UK, I have sought to improve knowledge and dissemination of magic lantern slide imagery within collections, as well as curating new forms of exhibition in relation to this often-forgotten medium. As a result of these projects, Lucerna has grown dramatically, and provides information and images to a global audience on an open access basis.


I have taught modules of all kinds across the film studies programme, as well as the English programme, at all levels. In my MA module, Sense, Sensation and Cinema, I teach various models of 'affect theory', considering phenomenological and cognitive patterns of thought in relation to film.

Modules taught

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