As an undergraduate student at Michigan State University, Josh Guilford majored in English and completed a certificate in the Film Studies Program. Now an Assistant Professor of English in Film and Media Studies at Amherst College, Guilford teaches courses that are cross-listed between the English Department and the Film and Media Studies Program.
The courses Guilford teaches cover a broad range of subjects.
“Some of my courses introduce students to the study of cinema and draw on films and readings from diverse genres, historical periods, and national cinemas,” he said, “while others focus on core themes (such as intimacy in cinema), or on topics and figures central to the study of experimental film, which is my main area of research.”
Guilford says his approach to teaching has been deeply informed by the film faculty he had at MSU.
“I still think about their courses and my experiences as a student whenever I teach,” he said. “The kinds of questions they asked, the ways they read and responded to student writing, the ways they facilitated group discussions, the ways they encouraged, supported, pushed, and challenged student thought – I try to continue a lot of these practices when I’m in the classroom here at Amherst.”
Three MSU professors in particular have been instrumental to the success of Guilford’s career.
“I lucked out by being present on campus at a moment when three brilliant faculty members were teaching film and media: Judith Roof, Jennifer Fay, and Justus Nieland,” he said. “These professors taught me a lot about film, but I was also amazed by the depth of their investment in cinema. They made me think, really deeply, about something I already loved (the movies), but which I hadn’t yet learned to examine from a critical position.”
Guilford also credits Roof, Fay, and Nieland with introducing him to the idea of graduate school and helping him out in that process.
“I lucked out by being present on campus at a moment when three brilliant faculty members were teaching film and media: Judith Roof, Jennifer Fay, and Justus Nieland. They made me think, really deeply, about something I already loved (the movies), but which I hadn’t yet learned to examine from a critical position.”
“It was mainly because of their courses – film criticism, film theory, film and gender, the Film in Britain study abroad program – that I began to think about applying to graduate school, so I could continue researching film,” he said. “And when I expressed interest, they helped me develop a list of relevant schools and departments to apply to and helped me strategize the best approach for my application materials. I got accepted to grad school in large part because of the support provided by Professors Roof, Fay, and Nieland.”
After Guilford graduated from MSU with a BA in English in 2004, he went on to earn his MA and PhD, both in Modern Culture and Media from Brown University. He says the work he was able to do at Michigan State University provided him with a solid foundation for graduate school.
“My experience in the Film Studies Program at Michigan State was pretty life-changing,” he said. “My coursework gave me a strong foundation in the study of film culture, film history, and film form. I learned a lot about critical writing and developed a real affection for research.”
Guilford’s current book project, focusing on the 1960s film culture, the New American Cinema, also can be traced back to the work he did as an undergraduate student at MSU.
“I actually began the research for my current book project while I was an undergrad at MSU,” he said. “Justus Nieland gave me a great opportunity during my senior year to take a graduate course he was teaching, called ‘Modernism’s Visual Culture.’ Within the context of that class, I began researching an experimental film movement called the New American Cinema, which is still my main area of focus. The training that I received in Professor Nieland’s graduate seminar has stuck with me and continues to inform my research.”
“My experience in the Film Studies Program at Michigan State was pretty life-changing. My coursework gave me a strong foundation in the study of film culture, film history, and film form. I learned a lot about critical writing and developed a real affection for research.”
In addition to his scholarly writing, Guilford also curates film programs and make films as an outlet for his research. At Amherst, this interest led him to begin a film series devoted to experimental media, called X (Unknown Quantity). It was at MSU where Guilford was first exposed to experimental media.
“Professors Roof, Fay, and Nieland introduced me to experimental film,” he said, “which I had never heard of before MSU.”
Prior to Amherst, Guilford assisted with programming at the Film-Makers’ Cooperative in New York City and co-organized Magic Lantern Cinema in Providence, Rhode Island. Programs that he curated or compiled for these organizations have screened at Microscope Gallery, Anthology Film Archives, Pacific Film Archive, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Union Docs, Balagan, and other venues.
(TOP PHOTO is an aerial image of Amherst College where Josh Guilford is an Assistant Professor of English in Film and Media Studies.)
Written by Alec Parr