CfP: A hundred years of Film theory. Münsterberg and beyond: Concepts, Applications, Perspectives

Ort: University of Leipzig, Germany
Datum: 29th June 2016 –- 2nd July 2016
Deadline: November 15, 2015

A century after Hugo Münsterberg´s pioneering publication of 1916, The Photoplay. A Psychological Study, an international and interdisciplinary conference will look at audiovisual media from a broad variety of perspectives and disciplines. The conference will highlight Münsterberg´s achievements as a scholar, who began his academic career at the University of Leipzig before going to Harvard, via the Universities of Heidelberg and Freiburg. The interdisciplinary character of the conference reflects the wide range of visions and interests that Hugo Münsterberg pursued in the course of his life.

Münsterberg´s scientific interests reached from philosophy to different fields of psychology and found a symbiosis in his studies on the new medium of film in the last years of his life. Münsterberg´s work is noted for the independent and pioneering development of Wundtian experimental psychology based on fundamental concepts in philosophy and physiology. This was his later groundwork for behaviorism as well as for application oriented psychological sub disciplines. In addition to his manifold interests and activities as a scholar, Hugo Münsterberg played a significant role in the political trials and tribulations in pre WWI. At his time and still today, the views on his role as a German in the prewar period vary extremely between a German-US bridge constructor and a spy for the German Empire.

Held at the University of Leipzig, Germany, and sponsored by the International Association for Media and History (iamhist) as well as the Zentrum für Wissenschaft und Forschung|Medien (ZWF), the conference will host a ceremony to celebrate Münsterberg’s achievements, who began his career as a professor at the University of Leipzig before going to Harvard.

Papers in five thematic areas are welcome:


This area focuses on the role of this early film theory and takes a new look at canonical works and examines forgotten theorists, ideas and debates.

Presentations may feature original analyses of individual texts or theorists’ works from a variety of angles. Proposals may include analyses of specific theorists, development of schools of thought, dissemination of theory (e.g. in trade and specialist journals or academic writing), approaches to media social theory and early ways to implement theory into practice. Papers based on primary sources (archival documents, contemporary journals, etc.), international perspectives and comparative approaches are strongly welcomed.


This area invites analyses of individual films using Münsterberg’s ideas, including considerations of film in comparison to other art forms, film reception, the relevance of aesthetic and technical means in the medium of film, and the value of cinema’s mimetic ability to represent reality. Paper topics might also examine Münsterberg’s life and work, as well as the impact and applications of his ideas. This area welcomes interdisciplinary approaches, and papers, which discuss the transnational influence of Münsterberg’s published work in both Germany and America, as well as in other countries.


This area investigates the psychological foundations of film reception studies. It addresses various forms of reception research from preview audiences, panels, focus groups, numerous forms of test marketing to more recent uses of social media and gaming. We are particularly interested in studies applying basic psychological concepts to practical reception phenomena. Proposals may include analyses of individual case studies, the development of certain methods (like physiological measures, eye-tracking, real-time-response measurement etc.), the dissemination of results, the implications of reception studies on film marketing and production, as well as ways of putting psychological theory into practice.


Presentations may feature analyses of individual academics or critics working for the film business or other sponsors, investigate the role of consultants, or take a closer look at how journalists or critics influenced production from the early pre-production stages through distribution, promotion, and reception.


This area investigates the ways in which the boundaries of the cinematic experience have been redefined throughout the history of moving images from early fairground attractions to multiplex cinemas, to yet more contemporary developments, i.e. in movie theatres or at home. This area particularly welcomes papers based on primary sources (archival documents, contemporary journals, interviews, etc.). Proposals may include case studies of films, screening facilities, distribution and promotion, as well as the changing role of cinema within global, national, regional, or local contexts.

Paper submission is now open until Sunday, November 15 2015.

For updates and further information, see the conference website:

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