Tom Gunning

Tom Gunning
Professor Emeritus in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies, Department of Art History, and the College
Research 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


Emeritus faculty; retired in Autumn 2018

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.

The Attractions of the Moving Image: A Celebration of Tom Gunning

With presentations from an exciting array of scholars and filmmakers, the Department of Cinema and Media Studies and Film Studies Center celebrated Tom Gunning's career over the course of two days with a unique conversation around the art of the moving image, in all its historical, theoretical, and aesthetic registers. 

Gunning_Moving Image


  • Speakers included - Dudley Andrew, Noa Steimatsky, Murray Pomerance, Jan Olsson, Thomas Elsaesser, Jennifer Bean, Giovanna Fossati, Synne Bull + Dragan Miletic, Travis Preston, Marketa Uhlirova, William Paul, Vivian Sobchack (Friday October 25); André Gaudreault, Chalres Musser, Yuri Tsivian (Saturday October 26)
  • 35mm screening of Frank Borzage's 7th Heaven (1927)
  • Screenings of original works on Saturday October 26 by Ken Jacobs (Joan Mitchell: Departures, 2019), Ernie Gehr (Wait, 1968), Jodie Mack (Razzle Dazzle, 2014 and Wasteland No. 2: Hardy, Hearty, 2019), Marc Downie + Paul Kaiser (Revolution Machine, 2019), Lewis Klahr (Daylight Moon, 2002 and Monogram, 2019)

This event was made possible through the generous support of the Division of the Humanities; the Office of the Provost; the Film Studies Center; the Franke Institute for the Humanities; the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry; the Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture; the Nicholson Center for British Studies; the Center for East Asian Studies; Critical Inquiry; the Committee on Social Thought; the Committee on South Asian Studies; the Committee on Theater and Performance Studies; the Department of Art History; the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations; the Department of English Language and Literature; the Department of German Studies; the Department of Music; the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures; and the Department of Cinema and Media Studies.



Courses taught at the University of Chicago include:

Post-War American Avant-Garde (CMST 21810 / 31810), Films of Josef von Sternberg (CMST 26000 / 46000), Contemporary Theory (CMST 67203), History of International Cinema, Part I: The Silent Era (CMST 28500 / 48500), Framing, Reframing, and Unframing Cinema (CMST 27805 / 37805), The Detective Film (CMST 25505), and Special Effects (CMST 67810)