Casetti named Sterling Professor of Humanities and Film and Media Studies

Francesco Casetti
Francesco Casetti

Francesco Casetti, a foundational figure in the field of film studies, has been appointed the Sterling Professor of Humanities and Film and Media Studies, effective April 17.

The Sterling Professorship is awarded to a tenured faculty member considered one of the best in his or her field and is one of the university’s highest faculty honors.

He is a member of the Faculty of Arts and Science and is an affiliated faculty member at the Yale School of Architecture (YSOA).

While initially trained as a semiotician under the mentorship of Christian Metz, Casetti has shaped the trajectory of film and media studies through work that is methodologically and theoretically expansive. His early work, which includes essays on the films of Visconti, De Sica, and Bertolucci, provided a scholarly blueprint for the analysis of film and the moving image. He then turned his attention to questions of spectatorship. In his field-defining monograph, “Inside the Gaze” (1986), Casetti was the first to argue that films provide more than gratification to viewers: instead, they actively create their spectators. In this work, Casetti deftly wove together concepts from semiotics and psychoanalysis, offering a wholly original take on the interrelationship between film and viewer. 

Casetti’s work on television — exemplified by “Tra me e te” (1988), and “L'ospite fisso” (1995) — which introduced the concept of “communicative negotiations,” combines media analysis with ethnography; while his historical and historiographic scholarship on film theory advanced new understandings of the role of cinema in shaping concepts of modernity (“Theories of Cinema, 1945-1995” (1993), and “Early Film Theories in Italy, 1896-1922,” (2017)). In his historical research, Casetti ranges adventurously across the 20th and 21st centuries, comparing recent cinema to early-20thcentury cinema, as in his much-lauded book “The Lumiére Galaxy: Seven Key Words for the Cinema to Come” (2015). His current research focuses on three topics: early film theory and cinephobic stances in the first half of the 20th century; the re-location of cinema in new spaces and on new devices and the persistence of an “idea of cinema” in the digital epoch; and the screen as an optical and spatial apparatus. 

Casetti’s work is has influenced global understandings of the history and meaning of moving images. He publishes in English, in Italian, and in French, and his books and essays have been translated into Spanish, Hungarian, Czech, Chinese, Korean, Slovenian, and other languages; his work has been recognized at international convenings in Geneva, Rotterdam, Naples, Frankfurt, Berlin, Venice, and other cities around the world. 

An enthusiastic collaborator and convenor, he has launched cross-disciplinary projects at Yale, including a Mellon- Sawyer seminar on Genealogies of the Excessive Screen, with colleagues in Comparative Literature, German, History of Art, and other fields. In 2021, Casetti was one of the first faculty members to participate in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences cross- divisional courses initiative, for which he developed a new course on Cinema and Physics in collaboration with Michel Devoret. In 2018 he co-taught a seminar on Truth and Media in collaboration with the Poynter Fellowship in Journalism. 

Casetti currently serves as the director of graduate studies in Film and Media Studies and served as program chair from 2015 to 2019. His contributions to university committees have been substantial: he is currently a member of the Humanities Doctoral Education Advisory Working Group, and previously served on the Humanities Strategic Committee, the Creative Arts Advisory Committee, the Advisory Board of the Poynter Fellowship, and other key administrative bodies. 

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