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Dr Elisabetta Girelli

Senior Lecturer in Film Studies

My research focuses on stardom, performance, cultural analysis and discourses, sexuality and gender in film, subversion and difference. My current sphere of interest is silent cinema. Prior to this development, I concentrated on the creation of identity on screen, and its link to cultural analysis. I especially worked on queer theory and theories of representation; on queer stardom and cinema; on screen constructions of normativity, and the demarcation of the ‘normal’ and abject body. A thread throughout all my research, past and present, is the interest in textual analysis, and in revisionist readings of filmic texts, to identify conflicting strands of available meaning and/or the formation of oppositional configurations.

My latest monograph is Montgomery Clift, Queer Star, a study of Montgomery Clift as a queer star and signifier. The book spans the whole of Clift’s career, providing a theoretically-informed analysis of the range of subversive configurations he brought to the screen. Read some reviews here:



I then worked on Fred Zinnemann’s The Men (1950), a ground-breaking, creatively ambiguous film dealing with paraplegic WWII veterans; it is also Marlon Brando’s screen debut. My piece looks at the film’s representation of the disabled male body, in the light of gender theory.

My next project was a study of Rudolph Valentino’s erotic identity before his ‘Sheik’ persona, and centres on a close reading of his screen performance; it rests on a theoretical framework including the work of Leo Bersani and Sigmund Freud. Here’s Valentino with Alice Terry in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921):


I am continuing to expand my interest in the creation of meaning in silent film performance; one of my latest completed project focuses on John Gilbert in The Merry Widow (1925), exploring the ways he performatively negotiates his dominance of the film text. Here he is with Mae Murray in the film:

Gilbert Murray

I have recently completed an essay on director/actor Erich von Stroheim in two of his silent films, Blind Husbands (1919) and Foolish Wives (1922, below).


I’m currently working on the film Hotel Imperial (Mauritz Stiller, 1927) and on the function of its star, Pola Negri, in the film’s anxiety-ridden WWI narrative: here she is:

1927 Pola Negri in Hotel Imperial

My past work has centred on the representation of Italianness in British film history; on transnational and orientalist issues in the work of the Turkish/Italian director Ferzan Özpetek; on spatial relationships and their relation to place in Czechoslovak and Estonian film; and on cinematic renditions of the Cambridge Spies, especially of Guy Burgess.


Recent publications:

'Just Plain Danilo Petrovich': John Gilbert's Performance as Negotiation in The Merry Widow (1925)' in Screening the Past, 41.


'Before The Sheik: Rudolph Valentino and Sexual Melancholia' in Film International, 13:2.

Essay submitted for publication:

'Beauty in the Lap of Horror': the Gothic Appeal of Erich von Stroheim in Blind Husbands (1919) and Foolish Wives (1922)'.

Essay submitted for publication:

'The Male Body as Vacillation: Disability, Gender and Discourse in Fred Zinnemann's The Men (1950)'.

Latest monograph: Montgomery Clift, Queer Star

Research supervision

I am interested in supervising doctoral theses on these broad topics: stars studies; performance and silent cinema; queer cinema and queer theory; sexual, gender, and national identity in British, European, and Hollywood cinemas, within frameworks of cultural analysis and theories of representation; the construction of disability on screen, crip theory; representations of the normative body and its contestations.



I am currently supervising: