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Professor of Media Studies; Director, Center for Advanced Media Studies
I am an Austrian-born linguist and independent documentary filmmaker specializing in European media and Italian cinema. After studying general linguistics in Vienna, semiotics in Bologna with Umberto Eco, medical anthropology in Paris, and comparative literature at Stanford University, I specialized in the field of media theory and the history of the body (see my books Getting Under the Skin: Body and Media Theory and The Cosmetic Gaze: Body Modification and the Construction of Beauty, both published with MIT Press). I am currently a research professor at Johns Hopkins, where I also founded the Center for Advanced Media Studies.
I have produced and directed the documentaries Made Over in America (55 min Icarusfilms, 2008) and See You Soon Again (co-directed with Lukas Stepanik, 65 min The Cinema Guild, 2012), which was theatrically released in Austria and aired on PBS and on Austrian and German national television in 2013. The Good Breast, a film about breast cancer and how it affects women’s bodies, is my first feature documentary, which will be released in 2015. I am currently working on Devoti tutti, a documentary entirely in the Sicilian and Italian languages, filmed in the spirit of the Italian New Realists, about the breast cult of Sicilian Saint Agatha of Catania (to be released in 2016).
Her first book, on the representation of AIDS in the European Media, Die Darstellung von AIDS in den Medien, appeared in 1998 with Vienna University Press. She is the author of Getting Under the Skin: Body and Media Theory (The MIT Press 2006), The Cosmetic Gaze: Body Modification and the Construction of Beauty, (2012, The MIT Press), the edited volumes Reality Made Over: The Culture of Reality Television Makeover Shows (special volumes of Configurations, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Spring issue 2008), and the web book Living Books About Life: Cosmetic Surgery (2011). Wegenstein has also published numerous articles on body criticism, performance art, and film theory, among which Machinic Sutures: From Eighteenth-Century Physiognomy to Twenty-First-Century Makeover, in Throughout— Art and Culture Emerging with Ubiquitous Computing, 2013.