Film and Media Studies Program

Charles Musser

Professor of Film Studies

Address: 53 Wall Street, Room 217
Phone: 203-432-0152

Charles Musser teaches courses on film historiography, American cinema, documentary film, digital media and photography. He also serves as Director of the Summer Film Institute. His book The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907 (1990) received the Jay Leyda Prize in Cinema Studies, the Theater Library Association Award for best book on Film, TV and Radio, the Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize for outstanding book in Media Studies and other awards. His other books include Before the Nickelodeon: Edwin S. Porter and the Edison Manufacturing Company (1991), High-Class Moving Pictures: Lyman H. Howe and the Forgotten Era of Traveling Exhibition, 1880-1920 (with Carol Nelson, 1991), and Edison Motion Pictures, 1890-1900: An Annotated Filmography (1997). The latter received Honorable Mention, Katherine Kovacs Prize for Outstanding Book in Media Studies (1998) and Honorable Mention, Theater Library Book Award for Best Book on Motion Pictures, Radio and Television.  More recently, he co-edited Oscar Micheaux and His Circle: African American Filmmaking and Race Cinema of the Silent Era (2001) with Jane Gaines and Pearl Bowser, which included his prize-winning essay “To Redream the Dreams of White Playwrights: Resistance and Reappropriation in Oscar Micheaux’s Body and Soul." He is currently working on several book projects, which include a study of Paul Robeson’s film work, and the ways in which film transformed theatrical culture.


        Professor Musser has worked extensively in documentary, beginning with a two-year “apprenticeship” as first assistant editor on Peter Davis’s Oscar-winning Hearts and Minds (1974). He went on to produce and direct the prize-winning An American Potter (1976) and Before the Nickelodeon: The Early Cinema of Edwin S. Porter (1982), which premiered at the New York Film Festival. He taught the first university-level course devoted to filmmaker Errol Morris and went on to make a feature-length documentary portrait: Errol Morris: A Lightning Sketch (with Carina Tautu, 2012).  His recent essays on documentary include “Carl Marzani & Union Films: Making Left-wing Documentaries during the Cold War, 1946-53,” The Moving Image, 9:1 (Spring 2009), “Truth and Rhetoric in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11,” in Mathew Bernstein, ed., Michael Moore: Filmmaker, Newsmaker, Cultural Icon (University of Michigan Press, 2010) and Political Documentary, YouTube and the 2008 US Presidential Election: Focus on Robert Greenwald and David N. Bossie,” Studies in Documentary Film 4:1 (2010), 199-210.



        Musser has also worked extensively in the Public Humanities.  He is film historian for the Thomas A. Edison Papers and presently curates an intensive, annual weekend of film screenings with filmmakers for the International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven. He has curated and programmed shows at such venues as the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the New-York Historical Society, UCLA Film and Televsion Archives, and the Giornate del Cinema Muto (Pordenone, Italy).  He has received the Prix Jean Mitry (1996), the George Eastman House Society International Scholar Award (1992) and is an Academy Film Scholar (2005). For more information see his website: