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Research Training Program 2279 “Configurations of Film” 

Information for Applicants for Ph.D. Scholarships


The German Research Foundation has awarded funding to the Research Training Program “Configurations of Film,” housed at the Institute of Theater, Film and Media Studies, part of Division 10, at the Goethe University Frankfurt. Starting on July 1, 2020, up to 12 PhD positions will be financed for 18 months, with a possible extension for another 18 months (TV-L 13, 65% / salary range: 28,850.18€ – 33,756.72€).


Program Focus  


Scalable across a variety of formats and standardized in view of global circulation almost from the beginning, the moving image has always been both an image of movement and an image on the move. Over the last three decades, digital production technologies, communication networks and distribution platforms have taken the scalability and mobility of film to a new level. Beyond the classical dispositive of the cinema, new forms and knowledge of cinema and film have emerged, challenging the established approaches to the study of film. The conceptual framework of index, dispositive and canon, which defined cinema as photochemical image technology with a privileged bond to reality, a site of public projection, and a set of works from auteurs from specific national origins, can no longer account for the current multitude of moving images and the trajectories of their global movements. The term “post-cinema condition,” which was first proposed by film theorists more than a decade ago to describe the new cultural and technological order of moving images, retained an almost melancholic attachment to that which the cinema no longer was. Moving beyond such attachments, the concept of “configurations of film” aims to account for moving images in terms of their operations, forms and formats, locations and infrastructures, expanding the field of cinematic knowledge beyond the arts and the aesthetic, while retaining a focus on film as a privileged site for the production of cultural meaning, for social action and for political conflict in the 21st century.


Since Fall 2017, twelve doctoral students and two postdoctoral fellows have explored and expanded our understanding of configurations of film in both a contemporary and historical perspective, combining film and media theory with media history. Their research projects address key problems in the development of new analytical frameworks for the study of film in terms of its various generative principles and as a medium in permanent transformation. The program encompasses three main research areas: Formation, Usage and Localization.


– “Formation” refers to the twin aspects of form and format. The existing scholarship has tended to privilege the study of film types: fiction, documentary and experimental. Questions of format has played a rather peripheral role and has been discussed primarily in terms of material support or aspect ratio. Among other things, the process of relocation raises the question of how, or under what conditions, moving images move, more specifically the material conditions that enable a certain degree of mobility, such as a moving image’s stability and scalability in different storage media. Along with infrastructure, format emerges as a key condition of possibility for the global circulation and flow of moving images. Accordingly, under the rubric of “formation,” the program proposes to study the complex interaction of format and form and of technology and aesthetics as they play out across a variety of configurations of film.


– “Usage” designates the modes of presentation, institutional frameworks and the utilization of film. Films can enable an aesthetic experience, whether in the cinema, in public space or on a smartphone, but they can also result in a productive corporate culture in industrial organizations or they can be used for pedagogical purposes in educational institutions. The use of film in these contexts cannot be understood through ideological or instrumental arguments alone, as the aesthetic dimension remains integral to film presentation. Even in those situations in which the aesthetic dimension of film is relegated to a rather marginal role, this program is interested in exploring the underlying interaction between aesthetic and other social, political and economic motivations.


– “Localization” concerns the spatial dimension of a given configuration of film. In particular, the program proposes to study the processes through which the moving image transforms spaces into concrete places and affects institutional frameworks, whether in the cinema, museum or on online platforms. As Gaston Bachelard argues, spatial ordering is the first step in every form of scientific inquiry. Taking stock of the locations of film thus marks an important step not only in the study of a given configuration of film, but in terms of the development of a new set of categories through which we can understand configurations of film both in their multiplicity and their commonalities.


The aim of the program is to train excellent PhD students who will ultimately contribute toward the development of new, productive research paradigms for the next generation of film and media scholars. The program combines approaches from American Studies, Film Studies, Media Studies, Musicology, Philosophy and Theater Studies at the Goethe University, Frankfurt, and brings the neighboring universities of Mainz, Marburg and Mannheim as well as the University of Art and Design in Offenbach am Main into the scholarly network. It builds on three master programs at Goethe University as well as on long-standing collaborative projects and efforts among the participating senior researchers. PhD students in the program will benefit from world-class library holdings at the Goethe University and the German National Library, as well as from affiliations with the German Film Institute and the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation in Wiesbaden. In addition, the program collaborates with the film studies departments at Yale University and Concordia University in Montreal. We encourage prospective candidates to review the program’s past and present research projects and initiatives on our website:


Admission Requirements 


Applicants for Ph.D. scholarships must hold a master’s degree in film studies, media studies or one of the other participating or related fields and disciplines (above all American Studies, Musicology, Philosophy and/or Theater Studies). Applicants should have their master’s degree in hand by the start date of the contract (July 1, 2020).


Excellent written and spoken command of English is required. Applicants whose first language is not German must demonstrate proficiency in German (CEF C1), plus a basic knowledge (CEF B1) of one other language to be admitted to the program.


Applicants should be capable of developing an original research question that contributes to the overall topic and concerns of the program. They should be self-motivated scholars who can conduct productive research and successfully complete a dissertation project based on their chosen topic within the three-year time frame of the contract.


“Configurations of Film” is a research collective and PhD candidates must complete their theses in residence in Frankfurt. We consider doctoral residency to be a substantial vehicle for community building and professionalization that fosters sustained participation with peers and faculty in scholarly activities. PhD candidates take an active role in the day-to-day activities of the Kolleg. They will join committees and actively contribute to the organization of events such as conferences and workshops, reading groups and guest lectures, screening series and field trips. The residency allows PhD candidates to position themselves at the forefront of new original scholarship as well as within Frankfurt’s rich cultural scene.


We are committed to promoting the careers of underrepresented applicants. Women, individuals with disabilities, as well as applicants of underrepresented sexual orientations, minority groups and socioeconomic classes are especially encouraged to apply.


Application Materials


– Curriculum Vitae.


– Diplomas and Transcripts. Copies of undergraduate and graduate transcripts as well as of all relevant diplomas (bachelor’s degree and master’s degree).


– Letter of Motivation. The Letter of Motivation explains why the applicant wants to pursue their proposed dissertation project in this particular program. Applicants should illustrate how their previous scholarship, related university work, extra-curricular activities, and professional experiences have helped shape their current research interests and choice of dissertation topic.


– Abstract of the Ph.D. Project. The abstract should be two to three pages long (1.5 spacing), plus bibliography. It should clearly describe the topic, research question, methodology and primary materials of the project. The abstract should indicate the ways in which the proposed project constitutes an original contribution to the program’s field of study by situating the project in the existing literature and by demonstrating that the research question has either not yet been addressed or that it has been inadequately addressed in the existing scholarship. The abstract should also explain how the project connects to one or more of the program’s three main research areas and indicate how it will contribute to the overall goals of the program. After exploring the scholarly interests of the participating senior researchers, applicants should, if possible, indicate researchers with whom they would like to collaborate and whom they could envision as potential advisors of the dissertation. The program allows for cotutelle and co-supervision arrangements with international partner universities.


Admission Procedure 


Applications should be submitted in PDF format by December 19, 2019 to the following e-mail address:


Applicants will be notified once the application has been received.


The participating senior researchers will make a first selection of candidates in early January and interviews will be conducted in Frankfurt or via Skype by the end of January 2020.