Oliver C. Speck

Associate Professor of Film Studies



Dr. Oliver C. Speck is currently Associate Professor teaching Film Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA. Prior to joining VCU in 2007, he taught at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. His areas of expertise are film studies, especially European Cinema, and German language and literature. His teaching interests also include film theory, genre studies and cultural studies. As Graduate Program Director of the M.I.S. Concentration in Cinema and Language, he oversees a new two-year graduate program that gives students from the US and Europe the unique opportunity to study film at VCU, the University of Messina and the University of Cordoba.

Professor Speck’s scholarly writing focuses on narrative strategies and the representation of memory and history in French, German and other European cinemas. He has published articles on Jacques Rivette, Jean-Luc Godard, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Tom Tykwer and Michael Haneke. In his first book, Der unter-sagte Blick: Zum Problem der Subjektivität im Film (The Under-written Gaze: The Problem of Subjectivity in Film) published in 1999 in Germany, he discusses the value and limits of models of narratology, of Freudian psychoanalysis and of the “dispositif”-theory, aspects of the latter not having been discussed in Germany up to then.

The structural analyses and fundamental problematic of subjectivity found in The Under-written Gaze receive amplification and a fresh focus in Dr. Speck’s book, Funny Frames: The Cinematic Concepts of Michael Haneke (Continuum: New York, 2010). Taking its cues from the cinematic innovations of Michael Haneke as they appear in the specificity of their cultural-historical context, Funny Frames explores how a political thinking manifests itself in the oeuvre of the Austrian-born director, suggesting that the constant shifting of frames of reference in his films is needed to open up ethical perspectives. Taking into account the current discussions about virtuality, realism and cinema, the study takes up impulses from Deleuze’s and Derrida’s philosophies to create a unique and very political perspective on Haneke’s entire oeuvre.

Dr. Speck, together with Robert von Dassanowsky, is also the co-editor of a volume, New Austrian Film (Berghahn Books, New York: 2011).

Oliver Speck’s current research focuses on films that treat virtual reality as an alternative consciousness (e.g. Total Recall, The Matrix, eXistenZ), comparing them to films that introduce a notion of the virtual as developed by Gilles Deleuze in his two cinema books (e.g., Groundhog Day, Run Lola Run, The Third Generation). Since the virtual holds potential for political change, but should not be confused with the possible, films can help to think a “community to come” as Giorgio Agamben conceptualizes it (Hero, Miracle in Milan and Our Daily Bread).

Speck portrait taken by Double Image Studio