Home » Dr Paul Flaig


Dr Paul Flaig

Lecturer in Film Studies

My research focuses on transformations of film and film history across transnational space and anachronistic time, tracking appropriations of cinematic genres and stars in diverse cultural, medial and historical contexts. I am interested in the ways films move beyond themselves in terms of how they are not only understood or interpreted, but also in how they might be radically re-purposed and re-conceived through philosophical speculation, archival re-mixing or technological transformation. I focus especially on theories and histories of film comedy and in particular on American slapstick and screwball cinemas of the twenties and thirties as they were interpreted and appropriated by contemporary filmmakers, critics and avant-gardists in Europe and North America as well as by recent new media artists, advertisers and activists in contemporary digital culture.

I am currently completing a monograph entitled Weimar Slapstick: American Eccentrics, German Grotesques and Hollywood Comedy Re-Functioned, which examines the influence and appropriation of American slapstick and cartoon comedies across visual, intellectual and political cultures of Germany’s Weimar Republic. I have also written several essays on theories of film comedy, re-reading foundational texts in the philosophy of comedy (Freud, Lacan, Adorno, Benjamin, Cavell) vis-a-vis works by Chaplin, Disney, Pixar, the Marx Brothers, Capra, Keaton and others, the most recent of which is entitled “Bergson’s Boffo Laughter” and which will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Cinema and Media Studies (JCMS).  I am also working on a new project entitled Slapstick After Fordism, which extends my interests in comedy into an examination of slapstick’s legacies in recent world cinema, literature and new media. I have already written a preliminary essay on this theme, “Slapstick after Fordism: WALL-E, Automatism and Pixar’s Fun Factory,” which was published in animation.

I am co-editor of the recent, award-winning essay collection New Silent Cinema (Routledge / AFI Film Reader, 2015), which examines contemporary and historical returns to early and silent film across popular and avant-garde cinemas, art, literature and new media. My own contribution to New Silent Cinema has initiated a new project entitled Yesterday’s Hadaly, which maps the conditions and possibilities of a feminist media archaeology, focusing especially gendered voices telephonically circulating between antique, analog and digital mediascapes, from Homer’s Sirens to Edison’s phonographic dolls to Apple’s Siri. I developed some of these ideas in a publication for a recent issue of Camera Obscura, entitled “Yesterday’s Hadaly: On Voicing a Feminist Media Archaeology.”

I am currently co-editor of Professional Notes for JCMS, the official publication of the Society for Cinema & Media Studies (SCMS).



Weimar Slapstick: American Eccentrics, German Grotesques and Hollywood Comedy Re-Functioned (in manuscript)

Co-editor, New Silent Cinema (Routledge AFI Film Reader, 2015).

Articles and Chapters

“Yesterday’s Hadaly: On Voicing a Feminist Media Archaeology,” Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies 33:2 (September 2018).

“Lacan’s Harpo,” re-published in The Comedy Studies Reader, edited by Nick Marx and Matt Sienkiewicz (University of Texas Press, 2018).

“‘A Fairytale for Grownups’: Cinematic and Financial Crises in Die Koffer des Herrn O.F.,” Continuity and Crisis in German Cinema 1928-1936, edited by Barbara Hales, Mihaela Petrescu and Valerie Weinstein (Camden House, 2016).

“The Great Stoneface as Ruin: From The Buster Keaton Story to Film,” Lasting Screen Stars: Images that Fade and Personas that Endure, edited by Lucy Bolton and Julie Wright (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).

“Slapstick after Fordism: WALL-E, Automatism, and Pixar’s Fun Factory,” animation: an interdisciplinary journal 11.1, Special Issue on Animation and Politics edited by Eric Herhuth (March 2016).

“Supposing that the Archive is a Woman,” New Silent Cinema (Routledge AFI Film Reader, 2015).

“Introduction: Celluloid Specters, Digital Anachronisms” (with Katherine Groo), New Silent Cinema (Routledge AFI Film Reader, 2015).

“Humor Your Symptom!” a: the journal of culture and the unconscious XI (2014).

“Life Driven by Death: Animation Aesthetics and the Comic Uncanny,” Screen, 54:1 (Spring 2013).

“The Creature in the Cinematic Machine,” Biblion: The Boundless Library, No. 2 (2012).

“Lacan’s Harpo,” Cinema Journal, 50:4 (Summer 2011).

“Brecht, Chaplin and the Comic Inheritance of Marxism,” The Brecht Yearbook, Vol. 35 (2010).

Reviews, Entries, Interviews and Blog Posts

“The Weimar Beiprogramm,” forthcoming in German Cinema: A Critical Filmography to 1945, edited by Todd Herzog and Todd Heidt (Caboose Books, 2017).

“The Promise of Chaplin,” The Promise of Cinema blog (http://www.thepromiseofcinema.com, May 2016), edited by Anton Kaes (Berkeley) and Michael Cowan (St. Andrews).

“‘The Biggest Kuleshov Experiment Ever’: A Conversation with Guy Maddin about Seances,” New Silent Cinema (Routledge AFI Film Reader, 2015).

“The Living Nickelodeon and Silent Film Sound Today: An Interview with Professor Rick Altman,” New Silent Cinema (Routledge AFI Film Reader, 2015).

“Passion (Lubitsch, 1919),” “Deception (Lubitsch, 1920)” and “Viktor and Viktoria (Schünzel, 1933),” The Directory of World Cinema: Germany Volume 2, edited by Michelle Langford (Intellect Books, 2013).

Research supervision

I would welcome projects from students working in silent and early film studies, media theory and archaeology, film comedy, German cinema, animation, film theory (especially psychoanalysis and the Frankfurt School).

I am currently supervising: