Film Theory: An Introduction through the Senses (2nd ed.)

This new and updated edition of Film Theory: An Introduction through the Senses (2015) has been extensively revised and rewritten throughout. It incorporates discussion of contemporary films like Her and Gravity, and includes a greatly expanded final chapter, which brings film theory fully into the digital age. A Companion website provides extracts from the Introduction, sample text from each chapter, video essays, and a list of further visual resources


Film Theory: An Introduction Through the Senses

Thomas Elsaesser with Malte Hagener, Film Theory: An Introduction Through the Senses (Routledge, 2009) 232pp.

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What is the relationship between cinema and spectator? That is the central question for film theory, and renowned film scholars Thomas Elsaesser and Malte Hagener use this question to guide students through all of the major film theories – from the classical period to today – in this insightful, engaging book. Every kind of cinema (and film theory) imagines an ideal spectator, and then imagines a certain relationship between the mind and body of that spectator and the screen. Using seven distinctive configurations of spectator and screen that move progressively from ‘exterior’ to ‘interior’ relationships, the authors retrace the most important stages of film theory from 1945 to the present, from neo-realist and modernist theories to psychoanalytic, ‘apparatus’, phenomenological and cognitivist theories.

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The Persistence of Hollywood

Thomas Elsaesser, The Persistence of Hollywood (Routledge, 2011) 408pp.

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While Hollywood’s success – its persistence – has remained constant for almost one hundred years, the study of its success has undergone significant expansion and transformation. Since the 1960s, Thomas Elsaesser’s research has spearheaded the study of Hollywood, beginning with his classic essays on auteurism and cinephilia, focused around a director’s themes and style, up to his analysis of the "corporate authorship" of contemporary director James Cameron. In between, he has helped to transform film studies by incorporating questions of narrative, genre, desire, ideology and, more recently, Hollywood’s economic-technological infrastructure and its place within global capitalism.

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Thomas Elsaesser, Metropolis (Britisch Film Institute, 2012) 112pp.

book cover Metropolis is a monumental work. On its release in 1925, after sixteen months' filming, it was Germany's most expensive feature film, a canvas for director Fritz Lang's increasingly extravagant ambitions. Lang, inspired by the skyline of New York, created a whole new vision of cities. One of the greatest works of science fiction, the film also tells human stories about love and family. Thomas Elsaesser explores the cultural phenomenon of Metropolis: its different versions (there is no definitive one), its changing meanings, and its role as a database of twentieth-century imagery and ideologies.

In his foreword to this special edition, published to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the BFI Film Classics series, Elsaesser discusses the impact of the 27 minutes of 'lost' footage discovered in Buenos Aires in 2008, and incorporated in a restored edition, which premiered in 2010.

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German Cinema - Terror and Trauma: Cultural Memory since 1945

Thomas Elsaesser, German Cinema - Terror And Trauma: Cultural Memory Since 1945 (Routledge, 2013) 352 pp.

book coverIn German Cinema – Terror and Trauma: Cultural Memory Since 1945 Thomas Elsaesser re-evaluates the meaning of the Holocaust for postwar German films and culture, while offering a reconsideration of trauma theory today. Elsaesser argues that Germany's attempts at "mastering the past" can be seen as both a failure and an achievement, making it appropriate to speak of an ongoing 'guilt management' that includes not only Germany, but Europe as a whole.

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German Cinema: Seven Decades, Seven Films

Thomas Elsaesser, German Cinema: Seven Decades, Seven Films (London: Goethe Institute, 1985) 32 pp. ill.

book coverGermany looks back on as long and important a film history as Italy, France or Great Britain. And yet, during the past seven decades, its cinema has seemed ambivalent even in its achievements, subservient to political pressures, eclipsed by Hollywood and financially precarious more often than that of any of its European neighbours. The discontinuities and contradictions of German history this century have left their mark on the cinema, but even more so on the way it is perceived.

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New German Cinema: A History

Thomas Elsaesser, New German Cinema: A History (London/Basingstoke: Macmillan, and New Bruns­wick: Rutgers University Press, 1989) 430 pp, ill. (2nd edition, 1994).

book coverThe simultaneous international success in the 1970s of such film-makers as Fassbinder, Herzog and Wenders led critics to talk of a 'New German Cinema'. Thomas Elsaesser's book is the most comprehensive and illuminating study yet produced of this major movement in world cinema.

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Double Trouble

Thomas Elsaesser, Robert Kievit, Jan Simons (eds), Double Trouble: Chiem van Houweninge on Writing and Filming (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1994) 197 pp.

book coverDouble Trouble highlights the career of Dutch scriptwriter and television producer Chiem van Houweninge, well-known for his long-running TV comedy series and as author of episodes for TV detective series. Double Trouble gives Van Houweninge's own views on writing and filming in television prime importance, in the context of the history of popular television and his scriptwriting classes at the University of Amsterdam. This is completed by a round-table discussion with other writers about the double tasks of scriptwriting and producing.

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Writing for the Medium

Thomas Elsaesser, Jan Simons and Lucette Bronk (eds), Writing for the Medium: Television in Transition (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1994) 220 pp.

book coverThis collection of essays, by well known writers on the subject of writing for television, is divided into three sections, with the first one devoted to the debates on quality television. The second one focuses on literature and television. The final section examines 'Science on television', with series editors from Britain and Germany giving first-hand accounts of the scope for serious science reporting on television.

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A Second Life

Thomas Elsaesser (ed.), A Second Life: German Cinema's First Decades (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1996), 352 pp.

book coverGerman cinema is best known for its art cinema and its long line of outstanding individual directors. The double spotlight on these two subject has only deepened the obscurity surrounding the popular cinema. German Cinema performs a kind of archaeology on a period largely overlooked: the first two decades of German cinema. This collection of essays by established authors refocuses the terms of a debate that will develop in the years to come concerning the historical and cultural significance of popular cinema in Wilhelmine Germany.

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