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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

Dr Libby Saxton, BA, MPhil, PhD


Reader in Film Studies

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 8328
Room Number: Arts One 1.05


My research focuses on film, photography and the philosophy of images and ethics. It addresses questions including:

· What unique insights does the medium of film offer into the ethical dimensions of the relationship between the self and the other?

· How do films and photographs bear witness to and remember genocide and colonialism?

· How does cinema elucidate religious and philosophical critiques and defences of images?

· What can filmic images tell us about iconic photographs and vice versa?

My work examines film through philosophical and photographic lenses. I am particularly interested in cinema’s connections to theories of ethics and of the political power of images. These concerns have informed my research on filmic legacies of the Holocaust and colonial violence, cinematic and philosophical critiques of institutional power, and the significance of iconic images. This work has paid special attention to Francophone material, some of which is unavailable in English translation and has received little attention in Anglophone film studies. For example, one of my recent publications explores the relevance of Marie-José Mondzain’s writing on the contemporary import of Byzantine image theory to the enduring debate about belief in film.

Drawing on accounts of religious and secular icons from eclectic fields including philosophy, art history, photography studies and star theory, my latest book evolved out of a collaboration with Guy Westwell and Jeremy Hicks on the theme of iconic camera images. No Power Without an Image: Icons Between Photography and Film reveals multifaceted connections between seven celebrated photographs of political struggles and cinema in all its forms. Pursuing these pictures through the ‘paper cinema’ of magazines, via newsreels and film journals, into documentary, fiction and experimental films, the book explores new ways of thinking about the confluence of still and moving images. This research has led to further projects on post-war humanist photography and film and more-than-human iconicity.

My work benefits from regular dialogue with researchers, students at all levels and guest speakers at the wide-ranging events run by the Centre for Film and Ethics which I have co-led with Yasmin Fedda since 2019. I have also enjoyed contributing to public events run by organisations including the Ciné-Lumière at the French Institute, the Goethe Institute, Belfast Exposed Photography Gallery, the Jewish Film Festival and the Open City Documentary Festival.

I have worked with colleagues from Film, Drama and Modern Languages and Cultures at Queen Mary and the University of Edinburgh on teams which have supervised six PhD theses to completion. These dissertations and those I am currently co-supervising deal with diverse aspects of and approaches to film, including the ethics of film viewing and criticism, new extreme cinema, the haptic and intermedial dimensions of recent Holocaust films, queer time and space in contemporary Greek cinema, and Heideggerian film philosophy.

I have been Head of the Film Department (2012–14) and, for shorter periods, Director of Research for Film (in 2017 and 2021).


FLM5203 What is Cinema? Critical Approaches

FLM508 Memories of the Holocaust and Colonialism in French Cinema

FLM6207 Film and Ethics

FLM6202 Film Studies Research Project

SMLM035 MA Film Studies Core Course

SMLM005 and FLM7200 MA Dissertation and Final Project


Research Interests:

  • · film philosophy

    · film and ethics

    · film and photography / still and moving images

    · the Holocaust and colonialism in cinema

    · concentrationary art

    · witnessing and testimony

    · memory

    · iconic images

    · the philosophy of images

    · religious theories of images

    · film and religion / belief

    · film and work

    · paper cinema



· No Power Without an Image: Icons Between Photography and Film (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2020)

· Holocaust Intersections: Genocide and Visual Culture at the New Millennium, co-ed. with Axel Bangert and Robert S. C. Gordon (Oxford: Legenda, 2013)

· Film and Ethics: Foreclosed Encounters, co-authored with Lisa Downing (London; New York: Routledge, 2010)

· Haunted Images: Film, Ethics, Testimony and the Holocaust (London: Wallflower, 2008)

· Seeing Things: Vision, Perception and Interpretation in French Studies, co-ed. with Simon Kemp (London, Bern: Peter Lang AG, 2002)


Journal Special Issue

· ‘Religion in Contemporary Thought and Film’, co-ed. with Anat Pick, Paragraph, 42: 3 (November 2019). Every year the Paragraph editorial board chooses to publish one of its Special Issues as a stand-alone Edinburgh University Press book; our SI was selected as the book for 2019.


Selected Journal Articles and Book Chapters

· ‘Make Believe: Marie-José Mondzain and Cinema’s Christian Economy’, Paragraph, 42: 3 (November 2019), 301–15

· ‘The Falling Soldier and Film’, Screen, 57: 3 (2016), 353–61, in dossier on iconic images with introduction co-authored with Jeremy Hicks and Guy Westwell

· ‘Passion, Agamben and the Gestures of Work’, in Cinema and Agamben: Ethics, Biopolitics and the Moving Image, ed. Henrik Gustafsson and Asbjørn Grønstad (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014), pp. 55–70

· ‘Between God and the Machine: Buñuel’s Cine-Miracles’, in A Companion to Luis Buñuel, ed. Rob Stone and Julián Daniel Gutiérrez-Albilla (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 414–30

· ‘Terms of Engagement: Algeria, France and the Middle East in Barbet Schroeder’s L’Avocat de la terreur and Philippe Faucon’s Dans la vie’, Modern and Contemporary France, special issue ‘France and Algeria in Contemporary Visual Culture’, ed. Joseph McGonagle and Edward Welch, 19: 2 (May 2011), 209–22

· ‘Night and Fog and the Concentrationary Gaze’, in Concentrationary Cinema: Aesthetics as Political Resistance in Alain Resnais’s ‘Night and Fog’, ed. Maxim Silverman and Griselda Pollock (Oxford; New York: Berghahn, 2011), pp. 140–51 (winner of 2011 Kraszna-Krausz Prize for the best book on the moving image)

· ‘Holocaust Writing and Film’, in Cambridge History of French Literature, ed. William Burgwinkle, Nicholas Hammond and Emma Wilson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 671–9

· ‘Horror By Analogy: Paradigmatic Aesthetics in Nicolas Klotz’s and Elisabeth Perceval’s La Question humaine’, Yale French Studies, special issue ‘Noeuds de mémoire: Multidirectional Memory in Postwar French and Francophone Culture’, ed. Michael Rothberg, Debarati Sanyal and Max Silverman, 118/119 (2010), 209–24

· ‘Close Encounters with Distant Suffering: Michael Haneke’s Disarming Visions’, in Auteurism from Assayas to Ozon: Five Directors, ed. Kate Ince (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008), pp. 84–111

· ‘History, Memory, Fiction in French Cinema’, in Teaching Holocaust Literature and Film, ed. Robert Eaglestone and Barry Langford (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), pp. 102–13

· ‘Fragile Faces: Levinas and Lanzmann’, Film-Philosophy, special issue ‘The Occluded Relation: Levinas and Cinema’, ed. Sarah Cooper, 11: 2 (August 2007), 1–14

· ‘Secrets and Revelations: Off-screen Space in Michael Haneke’s Caché’, Studies in French Cinema, 7: i (January 2007), 5–17

· ‘Anamnesis and Bearing Witness’, in For Ever Godard: The Work of Jean-Luc Godard 1950–2000, ed. Michael Temple, James S. Williams, and Michael Witt (London: Black Dog, 2004), pp. 364–79

· ‘Through the Spy-Hole’, in Exposure: Revealing Bodies, Unveiling Representations, ed. Kathryn Banks and Joe Harris (London, Bern: Peter Lang AG, 2004), pp. 143–55

· ‘Anamnésis: Godard/Lanzmann’, Trafic: revue de cinéma, 47 (Autumn 2003), 48–66

· ‘The Forbidden Real of French Filmic Testimony’, in Reading and Writing the Forbidden: Essays in French Studies, ed. Helen Roberts, Hugh Roberts and Bénédicte Facques (Reading: 2001 Group, 2003), pp. 91–102

· ‘Surrendering Possession? Images and Ethics after Auschwitz’, in Possessions: Essays in French Literature, Cinema and Theory, ed. Julia Horn and Lynsey Russell-Watts (London, Bern: Peter Lang AG, 2003), pp. 199–215


Students Supervised to Completion

· Isabel Rocamora, ‘Cinema and Heidegger: The Call to Being in Ozu, Antonioni, Tarr’. Passed 2019 (co-supervisor)

· Oliver Kenny, ‘Ethics and Politics in New Extreme Films’. Passed 2018 (first supervisor)

· Victoria Walden, ‘Beyond the Unrepresentable: Haptic Encounters with Holocaust Memory in Contemporary Cinema’. Passed 2017 (first supervisor)

· Jacqueline Stirling, ‘The Spanish Film Adaptation of Golden Age Drama from Francoist Autarky to Alliance with the USA, 1946-1954’. Passed 2017 (second supervisor)

· Marios Psaras, ‘Family, Nation and the Medium under Attack: Queer Time and Space in Contemporary Greek Cinema’. Passed 2015 (second supervisor)

· Alex Lichtenfels, ‘Ethic of Film: Viewing, Criticism and Performance’. Passed 2012 (first supervisor)


Current Students

· Archie Wolfman, ‘Travelling Memory and Sound Design in Contemporary Holocaust Cinema’ (first supervisor)

· Alice Pember, ‘“In Her Hips are Revolutions”: The Dancing Girl in Cinema’ (second supervisor)

· Chris Dymond, ‘Contemporary Experimental Cinema and Non-anthropocentrism’ (second supervisor)

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