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This seminar is devoted to exploring interdisciplinary influences in the ever-changing, ever-expanding field of cinema and media studies. Internationally acclaimed scholars—from the New York metropolitan area and well beyond—have presented their works in progress, sharing their innovative and often groundbreaking insights, and often receiving valuable input from seminar members. These presentations have led to numerous pioneering publications, as well as further presentations at international conferences. As a center for ongoing face-to-face and hybrid scholarly exchanges in the field, the seminar enjoys an international reputation among film and media scholars.

Professor Cynthia Lucia

Professor William Luhr

Bjorn Long

Meeting Schedule

09/23/2021 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
The Apocalypse Documentary: The Future is Already Here
Alisa Lebow, University of Sussex (England, UK)


Focusing on a few prime examples, this talk introduces the concept of the ‘apocalypse documentary,’ an admittedly minor but potent strain of the advocacy oriented environmental documentary. An apocalypse documentary is premised upon the demise of the human race, if not all life on earth, and operates simultaneously in the present and future tense, inherently positing that the catastrophic future imagined already inheres in the present. Films discussed will include Lessons of Darkness (Werner Herzog,1992), Homo Sapiens (Nikolaus Geyrhalter, 2016), and Into Eternity: A Film for the Future (Michael Madsen, 2010).

Respondent: Topiary Landberg, University of California, Santa Cruz

10/14/2021 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
When Hollywood Came to Greece, 1957-1967
Yannis Tzioumakis, University of Liverpool (England, UK)


In 1957, Hollywood made its first “runaway” film production in Greece, Boy on A Dolphin. The film made extensive use of locations that highlighted the country’s ancient past, including the Parthenon, which appeared for the first time in a Hollywood production. It also paved the way for other such films, most famously Zorba the Greek, also a 20th Century Fox production. While since the 1940s the major Hollywood studios had been producing routinely a large number of their films outside the US in search of appealing stories, exotic locations, cheap labour, foreign government subsidies, opportunities for collaboration and several other elements that would enhance their films’ commercial potential, they nonetheless did not come to Greece until the late 1950s. This talk examines the phenomenon of runaway production in Greece in the decade from 1957 to 1967 and, in part, draws upon Professor Tzioumakis's forthcoming book When Hollywood Came to Greece, 1957-1967.

Respondent: Tino Balio, University of Wisconsin-Madison

11/04/2021 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
Rebooting the System: Hollywood in the Streaming Era
Thomas Schatz, University of Texas at Austin

Respondent: J.D. Connor, University of Southern California

12/02/2021 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
Changing the Subject: Lynn Nottage’s By the Way, Meet Vera Stark and the Making of Black Women’s Film History
Samantha Noelle Sheppard, Cornell University


Lynn Nottage’s 2011 satirical play By the Way, Meet Vera Stark stages the life and legacy of the fictional Vera Stark, a Black maid and struggling actress during Hollywood’s golden age. Nottage, a two-time Pulitzer prize-winning playwright and screenwriter, was inspired in part by the career of African American actress, singer, and dancer Theresa Harris. A tale of Black women’s cinematic representation and social erasure, Nottage’s fabrication of film history extends beyond the staged plot to also include a digital archive documenting Vera’s celebrity and career. In this talk, Professor Sheppard examines how Nottage’s play and paratexts produce a speculative fiction and archive about Black women’s media histories, staging what she calls a phantom cinema—an amalgam of real and imagined film histories that haunt, trouble, and work with and against cinema histories to creatively illuminate archival gaps in visual culture and the public imagination.

Respondent: Charlene Regester, University of North Carolina

01/27/2022 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
Giving Camp a New Name: Todd Haynes, the Carpenters, and Superstar
Caryl Flinn, University of Michigan


In this talk, Caryl Flinn argues that Haynes’s 1989 film on The Carpenters offers an example of a transitional notion of “camp.” When the Carpenters emerged in the early 1970s, critics and culture commentators were almost unanimous in considering them “camp” as it had been influentially formulated by Susan Sontag in 1964. Haynes’s treatment of the group, its music, and most especially, Karen’s struggle with anorexia creates a very different camp effect, one that, Caryl Flinn argues, helped pave the way to a new conception of it – what one 21st century critic is calling “Camp 2.0.”

Respondent: Steven Cohan, Syracuse University

02/10/2022 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
A Childhood at the Movies: Latency Fantasies, the Family Romance, and Juvenile Spectatorship
Patricia Erens, Dominican University and School of the Art Institute of Chicago


Patricia Erens’ presentation will take a look at several films from the 1940s, including Leave Her to Heaven, The Seventh Veil, The Red Shoes and The Secret Garden, that impacted on her youthful viewing, using psychoanalytic theory and family history to analyze these works. Erens will argue that films, especially of this period, often provided children with a means of resolving unfinished Oedipal issues and dealing with pressing, personal and developmental problems.

Respondent: Dana Polan, New York University

03/10/2022 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
The Problem of Visible Sousveillance
Kelly Ross, Rider University


By relying on Foucauldian panopticism as a universally explanatory theory, surveillance studies has collapsed two separate issues: the power relations between watcher and watched and the visibility or nonvisibility of the watcher. The presumption that the watcher's visibility or nonvisibility is irrelevant is especially dangerous for observers of color, who are already more vulnerable because of racial hypervisibility.

Respondent: Sarah Blackwood, Pace University

04/21/2022 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
meeting cancelled