European Film History as Research Subject: Areas and Perspectives

Prof. in charge Fernando RAMOS ARENAS
Typology Seminar


The course explores the different possibilities that Film History offers as research field in a broader media landscape. It goes beyond a Film History as “history of films” and focuses on other important and innovative areas such as film reception, film heritage and preservation and archival work; it also explores the development of film cultures within a broader network of cultural and political influences and pays special attention to a transnational comparative approach.


Syllabus (Main subjects)

  1. Introduction. Goals and subjects: On film history. Presentation of the course plan and material.
  2. Classical Approaches. Goals and subjects: Illustration of different historiographical approaches to the history of cinema (“Film history as history of big names and famous works”). Transformations from the 1950s to the 1980s. New Film History as a way of rethinking the relation of film history to film theory.
  3. Cinema and the creation of collective imaginary. Goals and subjects: How to approach the idea of ‘representation’ while dealing with cinema fictions? Methodological alternatives. Comparative approaches in different European countries: “Cinema, political intervention and terrorism in Spain, Germany and Italy in the long 68.”
  4. Film History as Institutional History. Goals and subjects: European Institutions and film culture.. Between Film Theory and History: Where is the spectator? Critical reading of case studies: How can we research audiences?
  5. Film History as Cultural History. Goals and subjects: After institutions and reception, how can we approach film culture? Comparative studies in the European context (Spain and the GDR during the 1960s). Institutions and institutional discourses in the creation of cinema taste and canon. Discussion of case studies.
  1. Film History as Media Archaeology. Goals and subjects: From the New Film History to a New Cinema Archaeology in a broader media landscape (Benjamin, Foucault, Elsaesser) Rethinking Cinema History as a recuperation of the materiality of film and its cultural contextualisation. Media archaeology and digital cinema. Media archaeology as a way of refocussing contemporary digital culture? Film heritage; preservation and transmission.
  1. Cinema and digital dispositif. Goals and subjects: Mobility, portability and convenience. Contemporary alternatives to cinema theatres. Cinema at the museum. Guided visits to Museo Nacional de Arte Contemporáneo Reina Sofía or La Casa Encendida (Madrid).



This is a highly specialized course. However, with our clear focus on European examples and on subjects that are common to similar masters in other European leading universities (Potsdam, Amsterdam and Paris) we would like to strengthen the already existing continental collaboration networks.


We will seek a closer cooperation with the National Film Archives (Filmoteca) in order to develop new lines of work regarding the conservation non filmic cinematographic heritage.


We also seek the integration of the students and two Master Thesis in already existing research projects (see therefore the following point under Deliverables)


We are also planning a stronger collaboration with an already existing master at the Department for Art History at Complutense University on Art Heritage: Máster Estudio Avanzados Museos y Patrimononio Histórico-Artístico ( through the organization of joint activities such as lectures and workshops and museum visits.