Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 11-9-2012

Peer Reviewed



Despite decades in the university, the state of the film studies discipline is still much contested. This paper aims to trace film studies—albeit in a limited manner—from the minuscule stirrings of the discipline to its current state of uncertainty. By evaluating the establishment of the discipline’s boundaries and their subsequent shifts, film studies is revealed to have been most unfortunate in its timing. Just as film studies could have emerged as a fully-fledged discipline, the university’s own definition shifted, from an institution centered on culture to one centered on excellence. This shift in the university left film studies struggling to contend with a new objective—one which lacked empathy toward disciplines that cannot bring wealth or status to the university. Thus, film studies became a phantom discipline and its future is uncertain. Film studies may either gain credibility and strength, or it may become broken up into so many fragmented pieces that film will either exit the university in a hushed moment of defeat or be absorbed into various disciplines in the form of topics classes as well as a tool to bolster discussion. If film studies wishes to remain within the university, its best option may be to gradually redefine itself.


university of excellence, university of culture, library service, film studies, phantom discipline, postmodern, legitimation, media studies, boundaries, cultural studies, filmmaking

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Copyright © 2012 Holly J. Petersen

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.