Nicholas Baer is a scholar of film and media, critical theory, and intellectual history. He earned his BA in Cinema and Media Studies from the University of Chicago and his MA and PhD in Film & Media from the University of California, Berkeley, with a Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory. Before joining the Society of Fellows, he was Visiting Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies and Philosophy at Purchase College, State University of New York. Bringing together multiple disciplines, his research examines the history and theory of moving-image media in relation to broader aesthetic and philosophical debates of the modern era.
In his book project, Cinema and the Crisis of Historicism, Baer places films of the Weimar Republic in conversation with the "crisis of historicism" that was widely diagnosed by Central European intellectuals in the interwar period. The study issues a critique of New Film History and proposes an approach to studying cinema in conjunction with questions of the philosophy of history. Baer's research has been supported through yearlong fellowships from the Fulbright Program, German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and Leo Baeck Institute / Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes.
Baer coedited The Promise of Cinema: German Film Theory, 1907–1933 (University of California Press, 2016), which reconceives the history of film theory for our present era of media change and renders over 275 early film-theoretical writings available in English, including Baer's own translations of texts by Rudolf Arnheim, Béla Balázs, Lotte Eisner, Siegfried Kracauer, László Moholy-Nagy, Hans Richter, Joseph Roth, and Walter Ruttmann. The volume won the Limina Award for the Best International Film Studies Book and the Award of Distinction for Best Edited Collection from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies.
He is also the coeditor of Unwatchable (Rutgers University Press, 2019), which theorizes the “unwatchable” as a key concept in today's media environment, where viewers encounter difficult content on various screens and platforms—from cinema, television, and video games through museums and classrooms to laptops, smartphones, and social media. Gathering over 50 original essays by scholars, artists, critics, and curators, the collection offers multidisciplinary approaches to the vast array of troubling images that circulate in global visual culture.
A regular columnist for Film Quarterly, Baer has also published in Cinéma & Cie, Film & History, Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television, Leo Baeck Institute Year Book, Public Seminar, and October, along with numerous volumes. His writings have been translated into Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, and Italian, and his honors include UC Berkeley's Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award, the Young Scholars Excellence Award from the Society for Multi-Ethnic Studies: Europe and the Americas, and the Karsten-Witte-Preis for best film essay of the year from the Gesellschaft für Medienwissenschaft.
For a list of his publications, please click here.