Professor Rob King Explores A Renewed Vision of Silent Cinema in Upcoming Book

Josephine Simonian
September 22, 2023

Professor Rob King has co-edited, along with Charlie Keil, The Oxford Handbook of Silent Cinema. The book will be published in early 2024 by Oxford University Press. 

The Oxford Handbook of Silent Cinema includes 34 chapters written by three dozen top scholars and examines a medium that quickly established itself as the premier form of mass entertainment by the 1920s. 

The Handbook tackles a variety of related topics, including the invention of cinema as both technology and medium; the intermedial development of film aesthetics and genres; nontheatrical and non-commercial uses of cinema; the political economy of Hollywood mass culture; film and global modernities; and silent cinema's publics and counter-publics.

To King, this collection represents “the largest single project [he has] ever worked on, ten years in the making, nearly three dozen contributors, and over 800 pages in length. It consists of brand-new scholarship by both new and established film historians. The essays seek to rethink film history’s earliest years from a comparative media perspective, exploring cinema’s place in relation to the mediascape of the late-nineteenth/early-twentieth centuries.” 

Rob King is a film historian with interests in American genre cinema, popular culture, and social history. Much of his work has been on comedy. His award-winning The Fun Factory: The Keystone Film Company and the Emergence of Mass Culture (University of California Press, 2009) examined the role Keystone’s filmmakers played in developing new styles of slapstick comedy for moviegoers of the 1910s. His recent follow-up, Hokum! The Early Sound Slapstick Short and Depression-Era Mass Culture (University of California Press, 2017), challenges the received wisdom that sound destroyed the slapstick tradition. He has published articles on early cinema, class, and comedy in a number of anthologies and journals, and is the co-editor of three anthologies: Early Cinema and the “National” (John Libbey & Co., 2008), Slapstick Comedy (Routledge, 2010), and Beyond the Screen: Institutions, Networks, and Publics of Early Cinema (John Libbey & Co., 2012).