David Bordwell

  • Jacques Ledoux Professor of Film Studies, Emeritus
  • Film
Expertise and Activities: 

Although I retired in the summer of 2004, I retain an active engagement with the Film area. I retain an office in the building and participate in the weekly Film Colloquium. I'm a consultant with the Cinematheque and the Wisconsin Film Festival, and I occasionally give guest lectures in courses. I expect to hold office hours once a week when I'm in town. I'm available for advice about research projects and the areas of film studies I work in: American cinema, Asian cinema, stylistics, narrative theory, and cognitive film theory. I study films as works of art, treating them as designed to elicit effects from audiences and as exploring what the medium is capable of. I study Hollywood cinema, from the beginning to the present, as well as cinemas of Europe (especially Scandinavia) and Asia (especially Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan). I'm interested in the history of film, particularly film technology and technique. I also try to build theories of how people make sense of movies, especially theories with some grounding in empirical research in perception, story comprehension, and comparable domains (ie, "cognitive" theories). I try to bring into my research relevant studies in adjacent arts, particularly literature, music, and the visual arts. My wife, Kristin Thompson, is also a film researcher and quasi-professional Egyptologist.


  • Ph.D. University of Iowa, 1974
  • M.A. University of Iowa, 1971
  • B.A. SUNY Albany, 1969


  • Fellowship , NEH , 2000
  • Fellowship , American Council of LearnedSocieties , 2000
  • Fellowship , Guggenheim Foundation , 2000
  • Fellowship , Fulbright Foundation , 2000
  • Honorary doctorate , University of Copenhagen , 1997
  • Chancellor's Outstanding Teaching Award , University of Wisconsin - Madison , 1984


  • 2012. Film Lectures 2000. Munich: Verlag der Autoren .


  • 2006. The Way Hollywood Tells It: Story and Style in Modern Movies. Berkeley: University of California Press .
  • 2005. Figures Traced in Light: On Cinematic Staging. Berkeley: University of California Press .
  • 2002. Film History: An Introduction, 2nd ed.. McGraw-Hill .
  • 2000. Planet Hong Kong: Popular Cinema and the Art of Entertainment. Cambridge: Harvard University Press .
  • 2000. Film Art: An Introduction, Sixth edition. New York: McGraw-Hill .
  • 1997. On the History of Film Style. Cambridge: Harvard University Press .
  • 1996. Post-Theory: Reconstructing Film Studies. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press .
  • 1993. The Cinema of Eisenstein. Cambridge: Harvard University Press .
  • 1989. Making Meaning: Inference and Rhetoric in the Interpretation of Cinema. Cambridge: Harvard University Press .
  • 1988. Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema. London: British Film Institute .
  • 1985. The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul .
  • 1985. Narration in the Fiction Film. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press .
  • 1981. The Films of Carl-Theodor Dreyer. Berkeley: University of California Press .