Thomas Elsaesser Former Senior Fellow

Thomas Elsaesser
May - December 2012


Thomas Elsaesser was professor emeritus of film and television studies at the University of Amsterdam and visiting professor at Yale University since 2006. Born in Berlin in 1943 and educated at the universities of Heidelberg, Sussex and Paris, he taught comparative literature and film at the University of East Anglia until 1991, when he was asked to set up and head a Department of Film and Television Studies at the University of Amsterdam, which he did until 2000. From 2000-2005, he headed the international research program “Cinema Europe”. He is also the general editor of the series “Film Culture in Transition”, published by the Amsterdam University Press. He has held visiting positions at many US universities, as well as senior research fellowships in Vienna (IFK), Stockholm (Ingmar Bergman Foundation), Cambridge (Leverhulme Professorship), Tel Aviv (Sackler Institute for Advanced Studies), Berkeley (Center for European Studies), Ferrara (Copernicus Scholar), and Berlin (Exzellenzcluster FU Berlin, Languages of Emotion). In 2005, he was made Knight of the Dutch Lion by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, and in 2008 received the Honorary Life Membership Award from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies.

Dated from 2012

Fields of research

Film theory; film history; film genre; German and European cinema.

IKKM Research Project

Cinema Before and After Film

The practice of film studies is currently divided between trying to embed film theory in philosophy or art history, and integrating the cinema into various discrete disciplinary fields, such as cultural and gender studies, new media studies and image anthropology. The resulting disparity of methods and diversity of theoretical objects reflects the uncertain status of film and the cinema in the post-photographic era. My research is aimed at re-mapping key notions of the filmic and the cinematic, such as projection, temporal succession, spatial extension, narrative, evidence and presence. By including questions of storage and memory, and new work on the idea of dispositif and diegesis, the project hopes to trace genealogies of the projected and the moving image that can help renew film and cinema studies without having to reinvent them.



The Persistence of Hollywood: Cinephile Moments, Classical Narrative and Blockbuster Authorship: From Cinephile Moments to Blockbuster Memories. New York: Routledge (forthcoming 2011).
Hollywood heute: Geschichte, Gender und Nation im postklassischen Kino. Berlin: Bertz + Fischer, 2008.
Terror und Trauma: Zur Gewalt des Vergangenen in der BRD. Berlin: Kadmos, 2007.
Weimar Cinema and After: Germany's historical imaginary. London: Routledge, 2000.
New German Cinema: A History. Basingstoke: Macmillan and Rutgers University Press, 1989.

Edited Books

Harun Farocki: Working on the sightlines. Amsterdam: AUP, 2004.
With Alexander Horwarth and Noel King: The last great American picture show: New Hollywood cinema in the 1970s. Amsterdam: AUP, 2004.
A Second Life: German Cinema’s First Decades. Amsterdam: AUP, 1996.


“Freud as media theorist: mystic writing-pads and the matter of memory”. In: Screen Vol. 50, No. 1, 2009, S. 100-113.
“Archaeologies of Interactivity: Early Cinema, Narrative and Spectatorship”. In: Klaus Kreimeier and Annemone Ligensa (eds.): Film 1900: Technology, Perception, Culture. Luton: John Libbey, 2009, S. 9-22.
“The New Film History as Media Archaeology”. In: Cinémas: Journal of Film Studies Vol. 14, No. 2-3, 2004, S. 75-117.