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Nicholas Baer

Assistant Professor of German

5323 Dwinelle


Film theory and history, digital media, aesthetics, critical theory, intellectual history, philosophy of history


Nicholas Baer received his B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. in Film & Media and Critical Theory from the University of California, Berkeley. He was a Harper-Schmidt Fellow in the Society of Fellows at the University of Chicago, and he held faculty appointments at the State University of New York at Purchase, University of Groningen, and Utrecht University before joining Berkeley’s Department of German in 2023.

Baer’s research has been supported through yearlong grants from the Fulbright Program, German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and Leo Baeck Institute / German Academic Scholarship Foundation (Studienstiftung). He has been an invited fellow at the Erich Auerbach Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of Cologne, Alfried Krupp Institute for Advanced Study in Greifswald, and Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research (ZeMKI) at the University of Bremen. In 2022, he delivered the Siegfried Kracauer Lecture in Film and Media Theory at Goethe University Frankfurt. During the 2023/24 academic year, he will spend a week as a Visiting Professor at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne.

Baer’s first book, Historical Turns: Weimar Cinema and the Crisis of Historicism (University of California Press, forthcoming in 2024), examines the relation between cinema and the “crisis of historicism” widely diagnosed by German philosophers in the early twentieth century. In his new book project, The Ends of Perfection: On a Limit Concept in Global Film and Media Theory, he traces the conceptual history of perfection in global film and media theory. He has also co-edited two volumes of film and media theory: The Promise of Cinema: German Film Theory, 1907–1933 (University of California Press, 2016) and Unwatchable (Rutgers University Press, 2019).

Baer is a series editor of “The Key Debates: Mutations and Appropriations in European Film Studies” (Amsterdam University Press), for which he is currently co-editing a volume with Annie van den Oever on the philosophy of technology. He was awarded the Karsten Witte Prize for best film essay of the year from the Gesellschaft für Medienwissenschaft, and his writings have been translated into six languages. To view his publications, please click here.

Selected publications


Historical Turns: Weimar Cinema and the Crisis of Historicism. Oakland: University of California Press, forthcoming in 2024.

Unwatchable. Co-edited with Maggie Hennefeld, Laura Horak, and Gunnar Iversen. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2019.

The Promise of Cinema: German Film Theory, 1907–1933. Co-edited with Anton Kaes and Michael Cowan. Oakland: University of California Press, 2016.

-Recipient of the 2017 Award of Distinction for Best Edited Collection from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies and the 2017 Limina Award for the Best International Film Studies Book from the Editorial Board of Cinéma & Cie: International Film Studies Journal.

Journal Issues:

“#Rumors.” Co-edited with Maggie Hennefeld. Special issue, NECSUS_European Journal of Media Studies 11, no. 1 (Spring 2022).

-Recipient of the 2023 Honorable Mention for Best Edited Collection from the British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies.

“Coronavirus and Cinematic Experience.” Co-edited with Julian Hanich. Theme week, In Media Res (June 14–20, 2020).

Selected Articles and Book Chapters:

“Relativist Perspectivism: Caligari and the Crisis of Historicism.” In How Film Histories Were Made: Materials, Methods, Discourses, edited by Malte Hagener and Yvonne Zimmermann. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, forthcoming in 2023.

“Die Gerüchte sind wahr: Über Klatsch und Tratsch in F. W. Murnaus Filmen.” In Film-Konzepte: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, edited by Julian Hanich and Michael Wedel. Munich: edition text+kritik, forthcoming in 2023.

“An Animated and Animating Medium: On Hegel, Adorno, and the Good of Film.” In What Film Is Good For: On the Values of Spectatorship, edited by Julian Hanich and Martin Rossouw, 300–313. Oakland: University of California Press, 2023.

“Unity in Suffering.” In “70 Years Minima Moralia,” edited by Samir Gandesha, Thijs Lijster, Guilel Treiber, and Tivadar Vervoort. Special issue, Krisis: Journal for Contemporary Philosophy 41, no. 2 (2021): 72–74.

“Transnational Imaginaries: The Place of Palestine in Gershom Scholem, Franz Kafka, and Early Cinema.” In Transnational German Studies, edited by Rebecca Braun and Benedict Schofield, 213–228. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2020.

“F. W. Murnau.” In The German Cinema Book, 2nd ed., edited by Tim Bergfelder, Erica Carter, Deniz Göktürk, and Claudia Sandberg, 189–191. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020.

“Cinema and the Anthropocene: A Conversation with Jennifer Fay.” Film Quarterly 71, no. 4 (Summer 2018): 80–86.

“Natural History: Rethinking the Bergfilm.” In “Doch ist das Wirkliche auch vergessen, so ist es darum nicht getilgt”: Beiträge zum Werk Siegfried Kracauers, edited by Jörn Ahrens, Paul Fleming, Susanne Martin, and Ulrike Vedder, 279–305. Wiesbaden: Springer, 2017.

“Proposal: Mass and Propaganda. An Inquiry into Fascist Propaganda (Siegfried Kracauer, 1936).” Film Studies 16 (Spring 2017): 6–15.

-Reprinted in Siegfried Kracauer: Selected Writings on Media, Propaganda, and Political Communication, edited by Jaeho Kang, Graeme Gilloch, and John Abromeit, 49–55. New York: Columbia University Press, 2022.

“American Idiot: Rethinking Anti-Intellectualism in the Age of Trump.” Public Seminar, August 25, 2017.

“The Rebirth of a Nation: Cinema, Herzlian Zionism, and Emotion in Jewish History.” Leo Baeck Institute Year Book 59 (2014): 233–248.

-Recipient of the 2015 Karsten Witte Prize for best film essay of the year from the Gesellschaft für Medienwissenschaft and the 2014 Anne and Benjamin Goor Prize in Jewish Studies from UC Berkeley’s Center for Jewish Studies.

“The Cinematographic Archive: Selections from Early German Film Theory.” Co-edited with Anton Kaes and Michael Cowan. October 148 (Spring 2014): 27–38.