Scott Combs

Associate Professor
Ph.D. 2006, University of California, Berkeley, Rhetoric and FilmM.A., 2001, University of California, Berkeley, Rhetoric and FilmB.A., 1998, The University of Chicago, Cinema and Media Studies

Scott Combs began teaching at St. John’s in the fall of 2007.  He received his B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies with Honors from the University of Chicago in 1998, and his M.A. (2001) and Ph.D. (2006) from the University of California, Berkeley.  In the year prior to joining the St. John’s faculty, Professor Combs taught at Berkeley and Stanford University.  He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on international film history, American film genres (noir, melodrama, horror, westerns), novel-to-film adaptation, and death, dying, and modern medicine.  His research has focused primarily on the cinematic nature of death both on and off the screen.  He is currently preparing a book manuscript on the ways American cinema sees dying, tracing film death across a range of technological innovation, from the coming of story films, to early synchronized sound, to the medical use of body imaging devices.  Recently he has begun researching the political formation of the white rural poor as a category of denigration in popular culture.  He is also a published poet under the pseudonym Harlan Mackey.

“The Other Within:  Poor Whites and the Purging of American National Identity”  Vietnam panel on Bringing the War Back Home (session moderator and presenter )
Society of Cinema and Media Studies Annual Conference
March 2007

“Final Moments:  Death Scenes in Early American Silent Film” (invited lecturer)
Claremont Graduate University
October 2006

“The Movie Camera as a Death Technology.”  (invited speaker)
Death and Dying Potluck, Berkeley
November 2005

“Goodbye’s Sound Space” 
Visual Cultures Working Group, UC Berkeley
October 2005

“The Lady from Shanghai’s Enigmatic Plot of the Self” 
Pacific Film Archive
April 2005

“The Range of Death’s Cinematic Motion”
Death in American Culture Annual Conference
November 2003

“Edison, Early Film, and the Dying Body” 
Identifiable Remains:  The Body and the Moving Image Conference
October 2003

“Insecure Movies:  Hollywood’s Representations of Execution” 
2003 Society of Cinema and Media Studies Annual Conference
May 20003

“The Return of Silent Cinema:  John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln and the Suppressive Cut” 
Pacific Film Archive
October 2002

“Brief Flesh:  Suicide, Code-Era Hollywood, and the Jury” 
Society for Cinema and Media Studies Annual Conference
March 2002

“The Jazz Singer or the Corpse.”  Music and the Moving Image Conference, New York University.  May 15, 2011.
“White Face, Redneck:  Performance and White Trash Eroticism.”  2010 Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference, UCLA.
“Every Afternoon.”  Invited Lecture for St. John’s College Annual Faculty Symposium, November 2, 2009.
“Screening Dying.”  2009 American Comparative Literature Association Conference, Harvard University.
“Bringing the War Back Home:  Allegorizing Vietnam in Film and Television.”  Panel Chair, 2007 Society for Cinema and Media Studies, Chicago, Il.


  • Literature and the Other Arts
  • The History of Silent Film
  • The History of Sound Film to 1975
  • Introduction to Film and Media Studies
  • Film Genre
  • Introduction to Literary Theory
  • Film Auteur
  • The Gothic


  • Noir Politics and Paranoia
  • Film Theory
  • Death, Dying, and the Moving Image
  • The Films of David Lynch
  • The Horror Film

Deathwatch:  American Film, Technology, and the End of Life (forthcoming, Columbia University Press).

“Mobile Endings:  Screen Death, Early Narrative, and the Films of D.W. Griffith.”  Cinema Journal (Fall 2012).

The Jazz Singer or the Corpse:  Al Jolson, Diegetic Music, and the Moment of Death.”  Music and the Moving Image 5:3 (Fall 2012).

“The Screen Kallikak:  White Trash for White Guilt in Post-Vietnam American Film,” in Beyond the Plantation:  Southern Identities in Contemporary Films, ed. Andrew Leiter (McFarland Press, 2011).

“Cut:  Editing, Execution, and Instant Death.”  Spectator 28:2 (Fall 2008), 31-41.