Vanessa Schwartz

Professor of Art History and History
Vanessa Schwartz
Email Office THH 355 Office Phone (310) 804-7849

Research & Practice Areas

Modern Visual Culture, especially film; photojournalism; Modern Europe, France; Urban History, Paris, Aviation, Jets, Airports.

Center, Institute & Lab Affiliations

  • Visual Studies Research Institute, Director
  • Visual Studies Graduate Certificate, Director


Vanessa R. Schwartz is Professor of Art History, History and Film and Director of the Visual Studies Research Institute. An historian of modern visual culture, she was trained in Modern European History with a concentration on France and urban culture at Princeton (Phi Beta Kappa, 1986) and UC Berkeley where she received her Phd in 1993. She is the recent recipent of a Guggenheim and Cullman Center at the NYPL Fellowships to complete a new book called, “Jet Age Aesthetics: The Glamour of Media In Motion.” With Daniela Bleichmar, she organized a Mellon Sawyer Seminar in 2016-2017, “Visual History: The Past in Pictures.” She co-edited, with Jason Hill, Getting the Picture: The Visual Culture of the News (Bloomsbury, 2015), and wrote Modern France: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford UP, 2011). She is also the author of  the prize-winning It’s So French! Hollywood, Paris and the Making of Cosmopolitan Film Culture (University of Chicago, 2007) and Spectacular Realities: Early Mass Culture in fin-de-siècle Paris (University of California, 1998). She has co-edited two volumes, Cinema and the Invention of Modern Life (California, 1995) and The Nineteenth Century Visual Culture Reader (Routledge, 2004). She co-edited a special issue of The Journal of Visual Culture on “Visual History” with Lynn Hunt (2010) and Urban History (Cambridge, 2006) with Phil Ethington, called “Urban Icons” which includes a multi-media companion.


  • Ph.D. History, University of California, Berkeley, 5/1993
  • M.A. History, University of California, Berkeley, 5/1989
  • B.A. History, Princeton University, 6/1986
  • Tenure Track Appointments

    • Professor, History and Art History, University of Southern California, 01/01/2007 –
    • Associate Professor of History, University of Southern California, 01/01/2000 –
    • Associate Professor of History, The American University, Washington, D.C., 01/01/1999 – 01/01/2000
    • Assistant Professor of History, The American University, Washington D.C., 01/01/1993 – 01/01/1999

    Visiting and Temporary Appointments

    • Carl and Marilyn Thoma Visiting Professorship in the Arts and Humanities, Art History Department, Stanford University,
    • Visiting Distinguished Professor, Sorbonne, Paris, Spring Spri
  • Summary Statement of Research Interests

    Professor Schwartz is a historian of modern visual culture, whose research and writing in has concentrated on the emergence of film in the crucible of the urban culture of late nineteenth century Paris, on photojournalism, on transportation and the jet age and visual culture and on Disneyland. Her interests reach across fields into art history, photo history, communications and journalism, urban studies, and cinema studies. “‘It’s So French’: Hollywood, Paris and the Making of Cosmopolitan Film Culture” (University of Chicago Press, 2007) looks at film culture in the 1950s between France and America in order to re-think the history of the globalization of culture. She published Modern France: A Very Short Introduction in 2011 (Oxford UP). She runs a research institute and graduate program dedicated to the interdisciplinary field of Visual Studies. She is an expert on historians using visual materials as evidence.

    Research Keywords

    France, urban, visual culture, film, twentieth century, transatlantic culture, entertainment, aviation and history of transportation and technology

  • Contracts and Grants Awarded

    • Visual History: The Past In Pictures, (Mellon Sawyer Seminar), Vanessa Schwartz $175,000, 2016-2017
    • Caught In the Act: History of Photojournalism Conference, (Borchard Foundation), Vanessa Schwartz $35,000, 2008-2009
    • Digital Dove Project, (California Council for the Humanities), Covenant House $80,000, 2006-2008

    USC Funding

    • Successful Funding Proposal. Visual Studies Research Institute $300,000, 2010-2011
    • USC Provost’s Office, Advancing Scholarship in the Humanities and Social Sciences. The Dawn of the Jet Age $17,500, 2008-2010
    • Graduate Dean Funding. Grant-Writing Workshop $6,800, 2008-2009
    • Shoah Foundation Grant. Teaching with the Oral Testimonies $5,000, 2008-2009
  • Conference Presentations

    • “”Material Culture Meets the Jet Age”” , ObjectingLecture/Seminar, Center for European Studies, Yale, Invited, New Haven, 2010-2011
    • “There’s Always a Tomorrowland” , Urban History AssociationTalk/Oral Presentation, Urban History Association, Las Vegas, 2010-2011
    • “”Cinéhistoire”” , Film and History in Honor of Marc FerroLecture/Seminar, Ecole des Hautes Etudes, Invited, Paris, 2009-2010
    • “Plenary Speaker “Who Killed Brigitte Bardot? Reassessing the New Wave” ” , Plenary Speaker “Who Killed Brigitte Bardot? Reassessing the New Wave” International Conference in CKeynote Lecture, King’s College, French Institute, Invited, London, 03/06/2009 – 03/08/2009
    • “Choreographing Space: Speed and Fluid Motion in the Jet Age” , International History of Aviation ConferenceKeynote Lecture, Arts et Metiers, Air France, Ecole des Ponts, Invited, Paris, 11/08/2008 – 11/11/2008
    • “The Historians’ Eye” , Gift of History: Celebration on Natalie DavisTalk/Oral Presentation, Radcliffe Institute, Invited, Harvard, 11/06/2008 – 11/08/2008
    • “Choreographing Space: Speed and Fluid Motion in the Jet Age” , Intermedial CitiesKeynote Lecture, Media at McGill, Invited, Montreal, 10/05/2008 – 10/07/2008
    • “Comment on Celebrity” , Celebrity in Nineteenth Century EuropeComment, NYU, Spring 2007

    Other Presentations

    • “The Long Belle Epoque”, Weiss Endowed Seminar, State College, PA, 2008-2009
    • “Around the World with Mike Todd”, Lecture, Montreal, 2008-2009
    • “Distinguished Guest: Walter Benjamin and Seeing Past History as Usual”, Transvisuality Workshop, Heidelberg, 2008-2009
    • “”The Cannes Film Festival and the Origins of Paparazzi Photography””, Getty Research Institute, Works in Progress Series , Los Angeles, 2007-2008
    • “”The Cannes Film Festival” “, Invited Lecture, Los Angeles, 2007-2008
    • “”The Long Half-Life of Nineteenth Century Paris” “, Invited Lecture, UBC, Vancouver, 2007-2008
    • “Film Festivals: Cannes”, Panel Participant, Philadelphia, 2007-2008
    • “”The Spectacle of the Dead””, Special Lecture, Vienna, 2006-2007
    • “It’s So French”, Invited Lecture, Williamsburg, 2006-2007
    • “Seeing Past History as Usual”, Historical Institute, Ann Arbor, 2006-2007
    • “Plenary Comment”, Transport, Technologie et Mobilite, Paris, 2006-2007
  • Book

    • Schwartz, V. R. (2010). A Very Short Introduction: Modern France. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    • Schwartz, V. R. (2008). French Translation of “It’s So French!”. Editions Complexe, Paris.
    • Schwartz, V. R. (2007). It’s So French! Hollywood, Paris and the Making of Cosmopolitan Film Culture. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.
    • Schwartz, V. R. (1998). Spectacular Realities: Early Mass Culture in fin-de-siècle Paris, University of California Press, 1998. Berkeley: University of California Press.
    • Schwartz, V. R. (1995). Co-Editor, with Leo Charney: Cinema and the Invention of Modern Life, University of California Press, 1995. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Book Chapter

    • Schwartz, V. R. (2008). Guide to Graduate Student Dissertation Writing, “Bowling for Dollars: On Grant-Writing”. American Historical Association.
    • Schwartz, V. R. (2007). Film and History in Sage Handbook to Film Studies. pp. pp.199-215.

    Journal Article

    • Schwartz, V. R. (2006). Urban Icons. Urban History/Cambridge University Press. Vol. Vol. 33 (No. 1), pp. May 2006.
    • Schwartz, V. R. (2006). Afterword: The Promise and Perils of Visual Culture’s Big Tent. Visual Resources. Vol. Vol. XXII (No. 1), pp. March 2006, pp. 81-85.
    • Schwartz, V. R. (2001). Walter Benjamin for Historians. American Historical Review/Indiana University. Vol. v.106, pp. n.5 1721-1743..
    • Multi-Media Journal, “Urban Icons” is a multi-media web project about cities and visual culture. Please see the link at Also co-designed the creation of a multi-media companion to the special issue, currently available for review at, 2005-2006
    • Web Project, Visualizing the Past Project: resource on how to use, study and cite images.,
    • Guggenheim Fellowship Recipient, 2017-2018
    • Cullman Center, New York Public Library, 2015-2016
    • USC Raubenheimer Outstanding Senior Faculty Award, Fall 2009
    • Mellon Graduate Mentoring Award, Spring 2009
    • Social Science Research Council DPDF Workshop, 2007/05/01-2007/09/01
    • Visual Culture Project, 2004-2005
    • Gamma Sigma Alpha, Professor of the Year, 2004
    • USC Center for Interdisciplinary Research, 2002-2003
    • Popular Culture/Visual Culture, 2001-2002
    • Fellow, Humanitie Research Institute, UCI, 1997
    • Fellowship, 1990-1991
  • Administrative Appointments

    • Director, Visual Studies Graduate Certificate, 09/01/2006-07/01/2009


    • University Research Committee, 2006-2007
  • Committees

    • “University Research Committee”, 2006-2007

    Conferences Organized

    • Co-Organizer with Lynn Hunt, Capturing the Moment”,
    • Organizer, Caught in the Act”,

    Editorships and Editorial Boards

    • Editorial Board, Journal of Urban History”, 01/01/2009 –
    • Editorial Board, Journal of Visual Culture”, 01/01/2009 –
    • Editorial Board, Etudes Photographiques, Paris”, 01/2007 –
    • Editorial Board Member, American Historical Review”, 2004 – 2007

    Media, Alumni, and Community Relations

    • DVD Bonus Feature, Season Two: Mad Men,