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Stephen Prince (In Memoriam)

Stephen Prince, Professor

Stephen Prince, Professor
Stephen Prince, Professor

School of Performing Arts

Until his death on December 30, 2020, Stephen Prince had been a professor of cinema in Virginia Tech’s School of Performing Arts for 32 years. He also served as president of the Society for Cognitive Study of the Moving Image.

Prince received his Ph.D. from the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. He was a former editor of the prize-winning journal Projections: The Journal for Movies and Mind and a former president of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, the world’s largest organization of film scholars and film academics. He was also the book review editor of Film Quarterly for 11 years.

Prince wrote many highly regarded books that examined cinema in its historical, aesthetic, social, and technological contexts. His books on director Akira Kurosawa, movie violence, digital images, and the political history of cinema have been praised by a range of journals, including Film Quarterly, American Cinematographer, Library Journal, Choice.

His essays on film theory attained a classic status and were widely reprinted and anthologized. These include “True Lies: Perceptual Realism, Digital Images and Film Theory,” “The Discourse of Pictures: Iconicity and Film Studies,” “The Emergence of Filmic Artifacts: Cinema and Cinematography in the 21st Century,” and “Dread, Taboo and The Thing: Toward a Social History of the Horror Film.”

In addition to his scholarly writings, he scripted and recorded numerous audio commentaries on DVD and Blu-Ray of films by directors Akira Kurosawa (Red Beard, Ikiru, Stray Dog, Ran, Kagemusha); Sam Peckinpah (Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Straw Dogs, Cross of Iron); and many others.

  • Digital cinema history and style
  • American film history
  • Violence in motion pictures
  • Japanese cinema
  • Digital visual effects
  • PhD, University of Pennsylvania
  • MA, University of Pennsylvania
  • BA, University of Maryland
  • Past President of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies
  • Alumni Award for Excellence in Research 2012
  • Digital Cinema (2019)
  • A Dream of Resistance: The Cinema of Kobayashi Masaki (2017)
  • An Introduction to Film Genres (2014)
  • Movies and Meaning: An Introduction to Film (2013)
  • Digital Visual Effects in Cinema: The Seduction of Reality (2011)
  • Firestorm: American Film in the Age of Terrorism (2010)
  • Kurosawa at 100 (2010)
  • Screen Decades: Hollywood in the Eighties (2007)
  • The Horror Film (2004)
  • Classical Film Violence: Designing and Regulating Brutality in Hollywood Cinema, 1930-1968 (2003)
  • A New Pot of Gold: Hollywood Under the Electronic Rainbow, 1980-1989 (2000)
  • Screening Violence (2000)
  • Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1999)
  • The Warrior’s Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa (1999)
  • Savage Cinema: Sam Peckinpah and the Rise of Ultraviolent Movies (1998)
  • Visions of Empire: Political Imagery in Contemporary American Film (1992)

What do you most enjoy about your work?

The lively interaction with students, and the opportunity to share the great works of cinema history with students.

Name a play, film, or recording that has influenced you and that you would recommend to others?

The films of Charles Chaplin, Akira Kurosawa and John Ford.  All the possibilities of cinema are contained in their work.

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