About Thomas Elsaesser

Born in Berlin in 1943, I was educated at Heidelberg University and the University of Sussex (U.K.), where I received a B.A. in English Literature in 1966, and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature in 1971. After working as a film critic in Brighton, then London and editing the international film journal Monogram, I taught European Romanticism and Literary Modernism in Comparative Literature at the University of East Anglia from 1972 onwards. In 1976 I initiated Film Studies at the University of East Anglia, chaired Film Studies until 1986, and was in charge of the Master's and Ph.D. programme in Cinema from 1980 to 1991.

Appointed to the University of Amsterdam to build up an undergraduate and graduate programme in Film and Television Studies (the first in The Netherlands), I was from 1991-2001 the Chair of the Department of Film and Television Studies (now Media and Culture), which has approx. 1200 students majoring in Film, TV and Digital Media. During that period I was also director of a one-year international M.A. Programme in Film Studies and Visual Culture. From 2001 to 2008 I was Research Professor, and responsible for a PhD Programme ‘Cinema Europe’, offered in conjunction with ASCA, the Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis, of which I was a Founding Member and on the Executive Board until 2005. In 2008 I took mandatory retirement as Emeritus Professor and have since been teaching as Visiting Professor at Yale University (2006-2012) and Columbia University (since 2013). I am also General Editor of the series Film Culture in Transition, published by Amsterdam University Press, and distributed worldwide. Sixty volumes have so far appeared under my editorship.

My books as author include New German Cinema: A History (London: Macmillan and New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1989, reprinted 1994) which received the Jay Leyda Prize (NYU) and the Kovacs Book Award (SCMS), Fassbinder's Germany: History Identity Subject (Amsterdam: AUP, 1996), Weimar Cinema and After (London/ New York: Routledge, 2000 [winner of the Kovacs Book Award of  SCMS]), Metropolis (London: BFI, 2000; 2nd edition 2012), Studying Contemporary American Film (with Warren Buckland, London/NY, 2002), Filmgeschichte und Frühes Kino (Munich, 2002), European Cinema: Face to Face with Hollywood (Amsterdam: AUP 2005) winner of the Lumina Prize, Film Theory: An Introduction through the Senses (with Malte Hagener, NY: Routledge, 2010), The Persistence of Hollywood (NY: Routledge, 2012) and German Cinema - Terror and Trauma: Cultural Memory since 1945 (NY: Routledge, 2013). I also edited and co-edited some twelve volumes on Early Cinema, Quality Television, Digital Cinema, Harun Farocki, New Hollywood Cinema. Books of mine have been translated into German. French, Italian, Czech, Hebrew, Hungarian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Lithuanian.

I have published over two hundred essays in multi-authored volumes, and have articles in American Film, Cinema Journal, Cinetracts, Critical Inquiry, Discourse, Film Comment, Framework, Grey Room, Hors Cadre, Iris, Kinoschriften, Medienwissenschaft, montage a/v, New German Critique, New Literary History. October, Persistence of Vision, Positif, Screen, Sight and Sound, Theory and Event, Trafic, Word and Image, Wide Angle as well as in several other foreign language journals.

See also my University of Amsterdam website and full list of publications.

For my retirement from the University of Amsterdam, my colleagues presented me with Mind the Screen and for my 60th birthday my friends surprised me with Die Spur durch den Spiegel

My acceptance speech for the Distinguished Career Achievement Award from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies in 2008 was published in Cinema Journal.

In 2017 I completed The Sun Island, a documentary essay film, on behalf of the Martin Elsaesser Foundation, using home movies, photographs and letters from the family archive. It was broadcast on German television (3Sat) on April 16, 2018 and has been screened at over 25 international festivals, venues and locations. 


Thomas Elsaesser • Reguliersgracht 20 • 1017 LR Amsterdam, The Netherlands • Email: elsaesser@uva.nl
Copyright © 2013, Thomas Elsaesser