Leana Hirschfeld-Kroen

Undergraduate Discipline

Film History

AB, Princeton University. PhD, MA, MPhil, Yale University. After graduating from Princeton, Hirschfeld-Kroen spent a year in Berlin on a DAAD research fellowship, exploring the fictional lives of media-machines, and a summer interning at the Museum of the Moving Image in the Film Programming department. Most recently, she worked as a curator for the Yale Film Colloquium and Film archive assistant. Academic interests include eccentrics and machines, classical Hollywood history, the semiotics of tap dancing in early sound film, urban phantasmagorias, modern cosmological imaginaries, postwar French slapstick cinema, hysterical decaying aristocrats in British cinema, restless women, sound studies, celebrity studies, deaf studies, and media archaeology. SLC, 2022–

Undergraduate Courses 2022-2023

Film History

Arcades, Trains, and Hysterics: 19th-Century Foundations of Film

Open, Seminar—Fall

This seminar will examine film history and analysis through a proto-cinematic lens inspired by the Arcades Project, Walter Benjamin’s montage-style compendium of Parisian modernization. With this canonical academic experiment as catalyst, we will excavate the 19th-century technocultural foundations of film, placing a particular emphasis on the train, department store, factory, metropolis, and mental life. How did these modern developments shape the materiality and content of early films? And what do they have to tell us about film today? Alongside weekly screenings, we will read classic texts of critical theory (Marx, Freud, Simmel, Benjamin, Kracauer, Adorno); modern/modernist fiction (Poe, Baudelaire, Zola, Pirandello, Keun, Du Bois); and new cultural history on hysterical performance, shell shock cinema, human motors, spectacular realities, and slapstick modernism. We will also watch films directed by Charlie Chaplin, René Clair, Jacques Tati, Chantal Akerman, Boots Riley, and Bong Joon-ho. In this class, students will get an overview of European modernity studies and learn to read films media-archaeologically, tying them to the major industrial shifts, perceptual transformations, and hybrid forms from which cinema emerged as a dominant mass medium.


The Movie Musical

Open, Lecture—Fall

Long dismissed as shallow mass entertainment, the movie musical remains an understudied genre despite its century-long popularity, global scope, and recurring role in film history. This lecture course offers a layered cultural history of the movie musical from the 1920s to the present, approaching it as a uniquely intermedial, transnational perspective from which to study film. Students will learn to read movie musicals through a mixture of formal analysis and material history. We will read canonical scholars, as well as more recent multidisciplinary work on the movie musical as a site for ideological contestation; performance politics; and aesthetic, narrative, and technological experimentation. In particular, we will highlight the genre’s power for hiding labor behind spectacles of seemingly spontaneous mass performance and rehearsing modern social conflicts through heterosexual couple-driven, dual-focus plots (Jets vs. Sharks, town vs. city, etc.). Other topics include: the roots of the movie musical in vaudeville, minstrelsy, opera, and ballet; the musical’s relationship to new cinematic technologies, labor forms, and industrial practices; the musical’s relationship to questions of gender, sexuality, and race; and the musical as a globally circulating and mutating “mass” cultural form. While much of our focus will be on classical Hollywood (1920s-1960s), we will also watch films from France, the Soviet Union, England, East Germany, Mexico, India, and Australia.


The Working Girl Around the World

Open, Lecture—Spring

Since the Lumière brothers filmed their female employees leaving the factory in 1895, the "working girl" has become a fixture of global cinema. This lecture course approaches this archetypal modern character as a foundational figure for film history and an important vernacular link for national film industries competing with Hollywood. We begin by asking: What is a working girl? How has the category changed over the course of the 20th century, as the category has circulated around the globe? And how, despite its fraught ideological construction, can we turn the category into a tool for intersectional feminist film history? With these questions in mind, we launch our investigation in the United States and Europe—and then move onto the Soviet Union, Japan, China, India, South Korea, Mexico, Senegal, and Cameroon—by reading classic film theory, short fiction, and local histories of film culture and gendered labor alongside films about shopgirls, dancing girls, telephone girls, factory girls, office girls, laundresses, and maids. Topics to be discussed include working girls as moviegoers, cultural imperialism and vernacular modernism, migration and mass reproduction, sex work, workplace romance, and contradictions of capital and care. In this class, students will conduct comparative, multimedia analyses of film texts and read global film history through the globalization of modern gendered labor.