Dr Oliver Gruner
I joined the University of Portsmouth as a Lecturer in Visual Culture in 2013 and was made Senior Lecturer in 2015. I teach across the Visual Culture programme, with a particular focus on politics, history and identity. I currently coordinate the first year undergraduate module “Introduction to Visual Culture”, a second-year module “Performing Identity”, which draws on my research interests in 1960s and 1970s politics and visual culture, and a third year module devoted to popular forms of art writing. I also supervise dissertations, research projects, MRes and PhD students.
My research focuses on historical representation, cultural memory and the politics of visual culture. In particular, I am interested in the 1960s and 1970s as a period of profound political, social and cultural transformation. My monograph Screening the Sixties: Hollywood Cinema and the Politics of Memory (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) explored filmic representations of the “long sixties” in the United States and the ways in which filmmakers engaged with wider public debates on the meaning and legacy of this era. This research also developed into several book chapters and journal articles pertaining to sixties representation, film and visual historiography. Collaborations with colleagues in illustration and graphic design led to a series of practice-research outputs based on the subject, including “Steal This History: Historiography, the Sixties and the Comic” (published in Rethinking History), which explored the potential of the comic as a conduit for sixties histories, and “Gettysburg Inc.: The Use and Abuse of an Historical Icon” (published in journal The Poster), which examined graphic design as a political form of history-telling. I continue to be interested in the intersection of history, theory and practice and, in 2019, was invited to co-run (with graphic design colleague Dan McCabe) a workshop on this subject at Merz Akademie in Stuttgart. That year I also organised “Visualising the Past”, a daylong symposium held in Portsmouth, which brought together artists, designers and historians in a discussion of the role, potential and impact of visual histories.
More recently, my research has explored the relationship between words and images and the role of the script (in both films and graphic novels) in visualising historical and political ideas. An article on screenwriter Waldo Salt was published in the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. I have been awarded a Harry Ransom Fellowship (2020-2021) from the University of Texas, Austin, to undertake research into Hollywood screenwriters of the 1960s and 1970s, which will feed into a book project on the subject.
I have organised a number of public events devoted to visual culture, politics and humour, including “This Is the Week That Is”, a weeklong celebration of political satire, which featured talks and workshops by comedians, writers, illustrators and historians and was funded by Film Hub South East, a satellite of the British Film Institute. A second FHSE-funded series featured talks from comedians and an exhibition created by University of Portsmouth colleague Eva Balogh and devoted to the cinema usherette.
My first degree was in English and Communication Studies at the University of Liverpool and I completed an MA and PhD in Film Studies at the University of East Anglia. I have previously taught at UEA, Middlesex and London Metropolitan Universities. I would be interested in supervising postgraduate projects related to visual histories, 1960s and 1970s US visual culture, cultural memory and the historical film.