Tom Gunning

Edwin A. and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor, Department Cinema and Media Studies, Department of Art History, and the College.
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Special Interests

International early and silent cinema; American avant-garde cinema; Hollywood film genres; film and narrative theory; classical film theory; film and still photography; Japanese cinema; early cinema and the experience of modernity; directors' styles (especially, Lang, Griffith, Von Sternberg, Hitchcock, Godard, Bresson, Borzage); Film historiography; Film exhibition and spectatorship; Modernist cinema of the twenties (Soviet, French, and German)

Tom Gunning works on problems of film style and interpretation, film history and film culture. His published work (approximately one hundred publications) has concentrated on early cinema (from its origins to the WW I) as well as on the culture of modernity from which cinema arose (relating it to still photography, stage melodrama, magic lantern shows, as well as wider cultural concerns such as the tracking of criminals, the World Expositions, and Spiritualism). His concept of the "cinema of attractions" has tried to relate the development of cinema to other forces than storytelling, such as new experiences of space and time in modernity, and an emerging modern visual culture. His book D.W. Griffith and the Origins of American Narrative Film traces the ways film style interacted with new economic structures in the early American film industry and with new tasks of story telling. His forthcoming book on Fritz Lang deals with the systematic nature of the director's oeuvre and the processes of interpretation. He has written on the Avant-Garde film, both in its European pre-World War I manifestations and the American Avant-Garde film up to the present day. He also also written on genre in Hollywood cinema and on the relation between cinema and technology. The issues of film culture, the historical factors of exhibition and criticism and spectator's experience throughout film history are recurrent themes in his work.

Selected Publications:


The Films of Fritz Lang: Allegories of Vision and Modernity  (London: British Film Institute, 2000) (winner CINEMA & Cie award, 2003)


 “Shooting into Outer Space: Reframing Modern Vision” in    Fantastic Voyages of the Cinematic Imagination: Georges Méliès Trip to the Moon ed. Matthew Solomon (Albany: SUNY Press, 2011), pp. 97-114.

“The World in its Own Image: ”The Myth of Total Cinema” in Opening Bazin ed. Dudley Andrew and Herve Joubert-Laurencin (Oxford University Press, 2011),  pp.  119- 126.

 “Landscape and the Fantasy of Moving Pictures: Early Cinema’s Phantom Rides” in Cinema and Landscape ed. Graeme Harper and Jonathan Rayner (Chicago: Intellect Books, 2010) pp. 31-70.

“Mechanism of Laughter: The Devices of Slapstick”  in Slapstick Comedy ed. Tom Paulus and Rob King (AFI, 2010), pp. 137-151.

“The Long and Short of it: Centuries of Projecting Shadows From Natural Magic to  the Avant-Garde” The Art of Projection ed. Stan Douglas & Christopher Eamon (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2009), pp. 23-35.

“Brought to Light: Photography and the Invisible 1840-1900” ed. Corey Keller (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), pp. 51-64.

“What’s the Point of an Index? Or Faking Photographs” Still/Moving: between Cinema and Photography ed. Karen Beckman and Jean Ma  (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008) pp. 23- 40.

“Uncanny Reflections, Modern Illusions: Sighting the Modern Optical Uncanny” Uncanny Modernity: Cultural Theories, Modern Anxieties ed. Jo Collins, John Jervis (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) pp.  68-90.

"In and Out of the Frame: Paintings in Hitchcock" in  Casting a Shadow: Creating the Alfred Hitchcock Film, ed. Will Schmenner and Corine Granof  (Northwestern University Press, 2007), pp. 29-47

“Cinema and the New Spirit in Art within a Culture of Movement” In Picasso Braque and Early Film in Cubism (New York; Pace Wildenstein, 2007)  p. 17-33.

"Modernity and Cinema: A Culture of Shocks and Flows" in Cinema and Modernity ed. Murray Pomerance (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2006), pp. 297-315.

“On Knowing and Not Knowing on Going and Not Going, Loving and Not Loving: I Know Where I  Am Going and Falling in Love Again” in The  Cinema of Michael Powell ed. Ian Christie and Andrew Moor  (British Film Institute, London, 2005) pp.  94-116.

”The Desire and Pursuit of the Hole: Cinema’s Obscure Object of Desire”  Erotikon  ed. Shadi Bartsech & Thomas Bartescherer  (University of Chicago Press, 2005), pp. 261-277.

"The intertexuality of Early Cinema: A Prologue to Fantomas" in A Companion to Literature and Film ed. Robert Stam and Alessandra Raengo (Oxford, Blackwell Publishing, 2004), pp. 127-143.

 “Pictures of Crowd Splendor: The Mitchell and Kenyon Factory Gate Films”   The Lost World of Mitchell & Kenyon: Edwardian Britain on Film  ed. Vanessa Toulmin. Simon Popple & Patrick Russell  (British Film Institute, 2004) pp.  49-58.

“Systematizing the Electric Message” American Cinema’s  Transitional Era: Audiences, Institutions. Practices ed. Charlie Keil and Shelly Stamp (Berkeley : University of California Press, 2004), pp. 15- 50.

“Flickers: On Cinema’s Power for Evil” in Bad: Infamy, Darkness, Evil and Slime on the Screen ed. Murray Pomerance (SUNY Press: Albany, 2004),pp. 21-37.

 “Never Seen this Picture Before; Muybridge in Multiplicity”  in  Time Stands Still: Muybridge and the Instantaneous Photography Movement ed. Phillip Prodger  (Oxford University Press, 2003) pp. 222-272.

“Re-Newing Old Technologies: Astonishment, Second Nature, and the Uncanny in Technology from the Previous Turn-of -the-Century” in Rethinking Media Change The Aesthetics of Transition eds. David Thorburn and Henry Jenkins (Cambridge: MIT Press 2003), pp. 39-59.

“Loïe Fuller and the Art of Motion” in Camera Obscura, Camera Lucida: Essays in Honor of Annette Michelson ed. Richard Allen and Malcolm Turvey University of Amsterdam Press pp. 75-90.

“New Thresholds of Vision: Instantaneous Photography and the Early Cinema of the Lumière Company” in Impossible Presence: Surface and Screen in the Photogenie Era ed. Terry Smith (Sidney: Powers Publications, 2001), pp. 71-100.

“Doing for the Eye What the Phonograph Does for the Ear” in The Sounds of Early Cinema ed. Rick Altman and Richard Abel  (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press: 2001), pp. 13-31

 “Embarrassing Evidence: The Detective Camera and the Documentary Impulse” in Collecting Visible Evidence eds. Jane M. Gaines and Michael Renov (Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press, 1999), pp.46-65.

"Tracing the Individual Body aka Photography, Detectives, Early Cinema and the Body of Modernity" in Cinema and the Invention of Modern Life ed. Vanessa R. Schwartz and Leo Charney (University of California Press, 1995)

"Phantom Images and Modern Manifestations: Spirit Photography, Magic Theater, Trick Films and Photography's Uncanny" in Fugitive Images from Photography to Video ed. Patrice Petro (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995)

"The Horror of Opacity: The Melodrama of Sensation in the Plays of André de Lorde" in Melodrama - Stage, Picture, Screen BFI ed. J.S. Bratton, Jim Cook and Christine Gledhill, 1994


“To Scan A Ghost: The Ontology of Mediated Vision”  Grey Room Winter 2007 no. 26, pp. 94-127.

“Moving away from the Index: Cinema and the Impression of Reality”  differences 18, 1 Spring 2007, pp. 29-52.

"Lynx-eyed Detectives and Shadow Bandits: Visuality and Eclipses in French  Detective Stories and Films before WWI" in Yale French Studies no. 108, 2005, pp 74-89.

 “The Exterior as Interieur: Benjamin’s Optical Detective”  boundary 2 Vol. 30 no. 1 Spring 2003, pp. 105-130.

“Doubled Vision: Peering through Kentridge’s Stereoscope” Parkett no. 63, 2001 pp. 66-81.

“From Kaleidoscope to the X-Ray: Urban Spectatorship,          Poe, Benjamin and Traffic in Souls (1913)  Wide Angle       Vol. 19, no. 4, pp. 25-63.

“In Your Face: Physiognomy, Photography and the Gnostic Mission of Early Film”  Modernism/Modernity  Volume 4 Number 1 January, 1997, p. 1-30.

"Animated Pictures: Tales of Cinema's Forgotten Future" Michigan Quarterly Review, Fall 1995

"The World as Object Lesson: Cinema Audiences, Visual Culture and the St. Louis World's Fair, 1904" Film History Winter, 1995

"'Now You See it, Now You Don't': The Temporality of the Cinema of Attractions" Velvet Light Trap No. 32, Fall, 1993

"Attractions, Detection, Disguise: Zigomar, Jasset and the History of Genres in Early Film" Griffithiana 47 May, 1993

"Heard Over the 'Phone: The Lonely Villa and the De Lorde Tradition of Terrified Communication" Screen, 32/2, Summer 1991

"An Aesthetic of Astonishment: Early Film and the [In]Credulous Spectator" Art and Text, Fall 1989

"Primitive Cinema, a Frame-up? or The Trick's on Us" Cinema Journal, 28/2 Winter, 1989 pp. 3-12.

"Like Unto a Leopard: Figural Language in Todorov's The Fantastic and Lewton's Cat People", Wide Angle, July 198

"Signaling through the Flames: Ernie Gehr's Signal -- Germany on the Air", Millennium Film Journal, Winter, 1987

"The Cinema of Attractions: Early Film, Its Spectator and the Avant-Garde", Wide Angle, Vol. 8, nos. 3 & 4 Fall, 1986.

"Dr. Jacobs' Dream Work: Ken Jacobs' The Doctor's Dream, Millennium Film Journal, Fall-Winter, 1981-82

"Weaving a Narrative: Style and Economic Background in Griffith's Biograph Films", Quarterly Review of Film Studies, Winter, 1981.