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Scott Curtis
Associate Professor
NUQ Communication Program; Radio/Television/Film

1920 Campus Drive
Room 212
Evanston, IL 60208

Scott Curtis

Scott Curtis studies the history of film, especially early and silent-era cinema. He is particularly interested in how experts in science, medicine, and education use motion picture technology as a research tool or teaching aid. His book on this topic, The Shape of Spectatorship: Art, Science, and Early Cinema in Germany (Columbia University Press, 2015), explores the collision between expert vision and moving images in science, medicine, education, and aesthetics. He has published extensively on the use of motion pictures in a variety of scientific fields, such as biology, physics, psychology, and medicine. He has also written on more traditional topics in film history, including animation; early German film and theory; industrial film; the Motion Picture Patents Company; film sound; Alfred Hitchcock; and Douglas Fairbanks. He has held posts as the medical photographer for Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene, Oregon; the research archivist for the Special Collections Department of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library; and a lecturer for the Cinema and Media Studies program of the University of Southern California. He is also the founder of Block Cinema, former co-chair of Chicago Film Seminar, former President of Domitor, the international society for the study of early cinema, and former Director of the Communication Program at Northwestern University’s campus in Doha, Qatar. He is currently stationed at the Doha campus.


PhDCommunication, University of Iowa
MACommunication, University of Iowa
BAFilm and Telecommunication, University of Oregon

Selected Publications


The Shape of Spectatorship: Art, Science, and Early Cinema in Germany. Columbia University Press, 2015.

Animation (Series: Behind the Silver Screen). Edited by Scott Curtis. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2019.

The Image in Early Cinema: Form and Material. Edited by Scott Curtis, Philippe Gauthier, Tom Gunning, and Joshua Yumibe. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2018.

Performing New Media, 1890-1915. Edited by Kaveh Askari, Scott Curtis, Frank Gray, Louis Pelletier, Tami Williams, and Joshua Yumibe. New Barnet, U.K.: Libbey, 2014.

Selected essays on film and the history of science or medicine

“Grob und glatt. Über eine relationale Theorie des wissenschaftlichen Animationsbildes.” Scientific Fiction: Inszenierungen der Wissenschaft zwischen Film, Fakt und Fiktion, edited by Luisa Feiersinger, 30-40. Bildwelten des Wissens, volume 14. Berlin and Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2018.

Between Photography and Film: Early Uses of Medical Cinematography.” REMEDIA: The History of Medicine in Dialogue with Its Present. (19 January 2016).

(with Robert Lue): “Bridging Science, Art, and the History of Visualization: A Dialogue between Scott Curtis and Robert Lue.” Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture 37, no. 3 (Fall 2015): 193-206.

“Objectivity in Early Scientific and Medical Film Viewing.” Objectivity and the Effects of Truth: Early Cinema and the Realist Tradition, edited by Àngel Quintana and Jordi Pons, 33-40. Girona, Spain: Fundació Museu del Cinema/Ajuntament de Girona, 2015.

“Science Lessons.” Film History 25.1-2 (2013): 45–54. [pdf]

“Dissecting the Medical Training Film.” In Beyond the Screen: Institutions, Networks and Publics of Early Cinema, edited by Marta Braun, Charlie Keil, RobKing, Paul Moore, and Louis Pelletier, 161-167. Eastleigh and Bloomington: John Libbey/Indiana University Press, 2012. [pdf]

“Photography and Medical Observation.” In The Educated Eye: Visual Culture and Pedagogy in the Life Sciences, edited by Nancy Anderson and Michael R. Dietrich, 68-93. Hanover, N.H.: Dartmouth College Press, 2012. [pdf]

“Vergrösserung und das mikroskopische Erhabene [Magnification and the Microscopic Sublime].” Zeitschrift für Medienwissenschaft 5 (2/2011): 96-110. [pdf]

“Tangible as Tissue: Arnold Gesell, Infant Behavior, and Film Analysis.” Science in Context 24.3 (2011): 417-442. [pdf]

“Between Observation and Spectatorship: Medicine, Movies, and Mass Culture in Imperial Germany.” In Film 1900: Technology, Perception, Culture, edited by Klaus Kreimeier and Annemone Ligensa. Eastleigh and Bloomington: John Libbey/Indiana University Press, 2009. 87-98 [pdf]

“Images of Efficiency: The Films of Frank B. Gilbreth.” In Films that Work: Industrial Film and the Productivity of Media, edited by Vinzenz Hediger and Patrick Vonderau. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2009. 85-99 [pdf]

“Die kinematographische Methode. Das und die Brownsche Bewegung [The Cinematic Method: The “Animated Image” and Brownian Motion].” montage/av: Zeitschrift für Theorie & Geschichte audiovisueller Kommunikation 14, no. 2 (2005): 23-43.

“Still/Moving: Digital Imaging and Medical Hermeneutics.” In Memory Bytes: History, Technology, and Digital Culture, edited by Lauren Rabinovitz and Abraham Geil. Duke University Press, 2004. 218-254. [pdf]

Selected essays in traditional film studies

(with Jocelyn Sage Mitchell) “Old Media, New Narratives: Repurposing Inconvenient Artifacts for the National Museum of Qatar.” Journal of Arabian Studies 8, no. 2 (December 2018): 1-34.

“Münsterbergs Missing Link? Die ästhetische Theorie Ethel Puffers und The Photoplay [Münsterberg’s Missing Link? Ethel Puffer’s Aesthetic Theory and The Photoplay].” montage/av: Zeitschrift für Theorie & Geschichte audiovisueller Kommunikation 27, no.1 (2018): 31-46.

“Tex Avery’s Prison House of Animation, or Humor and Boredom in Studio Cartoons.” In Funny Pictures: Animation and Comedy in Studio-Era Hollywood, edited by Daniel Goldmark and Charlie Keil, 211-227. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011. [pdf]

“Douglas Fairbanks: Icon of Americanism.” In Flickers of Desire: Movie Stars of the 1910s, edited by Jennifer M. Bean, 218-241. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2011. [pdf]

“Douglas Fairbanks: King of Hollywood.” In Idols of Modernity: Movie Stars of the 1920s, edited by Patrice Petro. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2010. 21-40 [pdf]

“The Last Word: Images in Hitchcock’s Working Method.” In Casting a Shadow: Creating the Alfred Hitchcock Film, edited by Will Schmenner and Corinne Granoff. Evanston, Ill.: Block Museum of Art, in association with Northwestern University Press, 2007. 15-27. [pdf]

“A House Divided: The MPPC in Transition.” In American Cinema’s Transitional Era, edited by Charlie Keil and Shelley Stamp. University of California Press, 2004. 239-264. [pdf]

“The Making of Rear Window.” In Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, edited by John Belton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. 21-56. [pdf]

“‘If It’s Not Scottish, It’s Crap!’: Harry Lauder Sings for Selig.” Film History 11.4 (December 1999): 418-425. [pdf]

“The Taste of a Nation: Training the Senses and Sensibility of Cinema Audiences in Imperial Germany.” Film History 6.4 (Winter 1994): 445-469. [pdf]

“The Sound of the Early Warner Bros. Cartoons.” In Sound Theory, Sound Practice, edited by Rick Altman. New York: Routledge, 1992. 191-203. [pdf]

Selected Awards and Honors

  • Fulbright U.S. Scholar Grant, University of Innsbruck, Austria, March – June 2013
  • Visiting Fellow, Graduiertenkolleg Mediale Historiographien, Bauhaus-Universität, Weimar, Germany, Spring 2011
  • Faculty Honor Roll, Associated Student Government, Northwestern University, 2008 – 09
  • Faculty Honor Roll, Associated Student Government, Northwestern University, 2007 – 08
  • Faculty Honor Roll, Associated Student Government, Northwestern University, 2006 – 07


Graduate seminars

  • Film Theory
  • An Introduction to Film and Media Historiography
  • Close Analysis and Film Historiography
  • The Historiography of Film and Media Exhibition
  • The Concept of National Cinema
  • Early Cinema and Modernity
  • Medicine and the Moving Image
  • Media Technology and the Body
  • Useful Cinema: Research, Educational, and Sponsored Films

Undergraduate lectures and seminars

  • Analyzing Media Texts (Introduction to Film Study)
  • History of Film to 1939
  • History of Film from WWII to the Present
  • History of Animation
  • Japanese Cinema
  • German Cinema
  • Martin Scorsese
  • Alfred Hitchcock
  • Film Criticism and Authorship
  • The Western
  • Cinephilia, Curating, and Criticism