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Dr Elisabetta Girelli

Senior Lecturer in Film Studies

My most recent and current research focuses on silent film, stardom, performance, cultural analysis and discourses, sexuality and gender, subversion and difference. 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: http://www.wsupress.wayne.edu/books/detail/montgomery-clift-queer-star

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.

I am continuing to expand my interest in the creation of meaning in silent film performance; one of my latest published articles focuses on John Gilbert in The Merry Widow (1925), exploring the ways he performatively negotiates his dominance of the film text. My latest publication is on director/actor Erich von Stroheim in two of his silent films, Blind Husbands (1919) and Foolish Wives (1922).

I have recently completed two pieces. One is an essay 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. The second is a theoretically-informed study of the performance of the Russian star Ivan Mozzhukhin in The Late Mathias Pascal (Marcel L’Herbier, 1926).

I’m currently working on a new project, focused on Anna Pavlova in The Dumb Girl of Portici (Lois Weber, 1915).




'Our Bravest and Most Beautiful Soldier': Pola Negri, Wartime, and the Gendering of Anxiety in Hotel Imperial (1927).

Recent publications:

The Male Body as Vacillation: Disability, Gender, and Discourse in The Men, in Screen Bodies, 3:1, 2019.

'Beauty in the Lap of Horror': the Gothic Appeal of Erich von Stroheim in Blind Husbands (1919) and Foolish Wives (1922)' in Palgrave Communications, special issue on Studies in the Horror and the Gothic, 2017.


'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.

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; crip theory; representations of normativity and its contestations.



I am currently supervising: