Peter Verstraten is a University Lecturer at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society.
Fields of interest
- (Film) Narratology
- Modernism and postmodernism
- Psychoanalysis (and film)
- Questions of medium-specificity / word-image relations
- Dutch narrative cinema
Humour and Irony in Dutch Post-war Fiction Film will be published at Amsterdam University Press, January 2016. If Dutch cinema is examined in academic studies, the focus is usually on pre-war films or on documentaries, but the post-war fiction film has been sporadically addressed. Many popular box-office successes have been steeped in jokes on parochial conflicts, vulgar behaviour and/or on sexual display, to which Dutch people have often felt ambivalent. At the same time, something like a ‘Hollandse school’, a term first coined in the 1980s, has manifested itself more firmly, with the work of Alex van Warmerdam, pervaded in deadpan irony, as biggest eye-catcher. Using seminal theories of humour and irony as an angle, my study scrutinizes a great number of Dutch films on the basis of categories, like low-class comedies, neurotic romances, deliberate camp, cosmic irony, grotesque satire. Hence, Humour and Irony in Dutch Post-War Fiction Film makes surprising connections between films from various decades: Flodder and New Kids Turbo; Spetters and Simon; Rent a Friend and Ober; De verloedering van de Swieps and Borgman; Black Out and Plan C; De mantel der liefde and De vierde man. A more extensive version of De vierde man as an ironic adaptation of Gerard Reve's novella was published in Journal of Dutch Literature, an Open Access Journal for which I also wrote an article on the transcendental style of Bruno Dumont's Hadewijch, inspired by texts from the well-known medieval mystic. The work of Alex van Warmerdam has been discussed in an article for the Australian-based (cinephile) journal Senses of Cinema. A brief version of this article has been published in the book-series Dit wil je weten, published by Maven. My other contributions were on Psycho and the changed taste of cinema in the era of total availability.
Among my key publications is the study Film Narratology. An English edition was published by University of Toronto Press in 2009. The original Dutch version was published by Vantilt (in Nijmegen) in 2006 with a second revised and extended edition in 2008. Starting from Mieke Bal´s Narratology (1997), this study aims to apply her well-established method, originally developed within literary studies, to the field of film studies, keeping in mind that, to paraphrase Seymour Chatman, ‘there are certain things that novels can do and films cannot – and vice versa.’
Some other notable essays which explicitly address the relation between literature and film, are ‘A Cinema of Modernist Poetic Prose. On Antonioni and Malick’ in Image & Narrative (2012), an article on Bruno Dumont’s film Hadewijch in Journal of Dutch Literature (2012), an article on early film fairy tales in Relief (2010), an article on Godard’s Le mépris, one on Jonze’s Adaptation. (‘Cinema as a Digest of Literature’, 2012), and two on novelizations (about Kramer’s Ja zuster, nee zuster and Paul Verhoeven’s biography of Jesus) .
Another publication that warrants mention is the volume Shooting Time: Conservations on Cinematography (Rotterdam: Post Editions) in november 2012, which I edited with two directors of photography, Richard van Oosterhout and Maarten van Rossem. Hence, this book is a unique cooperation between an academic scholar and those who practice the craft of filmmaking. The general aim of the volume is to consider how (recent) technological developments affect the work of directors of photography. In addition to a foreword, focusing upon the debate of analog and digital cinema, the volume also features a lengthy essay I wrote on the history of style in art cinema. I consider this essay as some sort of position piece on what the study of film in Leiden entails. Other publications examine the relation between modernism and postmodernism, like the book Celluloid echo’s (Nijmegen: Vantilt, 2004). Some articles on this subject are dedicated to Godard’s Pierrot le Fou (2005, and one forthcoming) and one to Bergman’s Persona versus Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2009).
Kernthema’s in de filmwetenschap is a book-length study with the aim to give an overview of tendencies within film studies from its nascent years in the 1960s until the present (2008, Amsterdam: Boom). This book contains a chapter on ‘psychoanalysis and film’, a subject to which I dedicated some essays for the series P sychoanalyse en Cultuur. One of these discussed the cinema of both Tarkovsky and Apichatpong, another one focussed upon the cinema of Frans Weisz. Another one discussed the relation between film and photography from a psychoanalytical perspective. In addition to this, I have some articles which explore this relation between film and photography in particular. In an essay for Parmentier I closeread the gallery film Not She made by the Rotterdam based art photographer Ine Lamers and for HTV News I analyzed Elbert van Strien’s Wereld van Stilstand.
Finally, I have a keen interest in genre cinema. My dissertation was on westerns, Screening Cowboys (Nijmegen: Vantilt, 1999). Further, I published articles on the melodrama – Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life (in 2000) – on screwball comedy and the melodrama of the unknown woman, on postmodern romances – Paul T. Anderson’s Punch-drunk Love – on the futuristic disaster film – among others Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men – on science fiction – Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth (forthcoming) – on the genre of the French historical reconstruction film – Gance’s Napoléon and Dreyer’s La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc – and on cult cinema (forthcoming).
Other articles include a variety of subjects like ‘repetition and remake’; ‘James Bond as a tamagotchi’ and a reading of The Artist via Chaplin’s sound cinema. Further, writings on striking films like Three Monkeys (Nuri Bilge Ceylan), Caché (Michael Haneke), Rescue Dawn (Werner Herzog), Palindromes (Todd Solondz) Stellet Licht (Carlos Reygadas), El Rebozo de mi Madre (Itandehui Jansen), Oogverblindend (Cyrus Frisch), The Fall (Tarsem Singh), Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky), The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan).
I am Assistant Professor as well as chair of Film and Literary Studies in Leiden. I am head of the programme of Film and Photographic Studies since 2010. When I came to Leiden in 2000, I also started working as a film lecturer in Media and Culture at the University of Amsterdam until May 2003. I also taught courses at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam (2010) and at the Emerson College, an auxiliary branch of a private University from Boston, located in a castle in Well (Limburg) in 2003. After the conferral of my doctorate at the University of Amsterdam in 1999, I worked as a quiz-editor for the IdTV television station for the programmes ‘Stop de Tijd’ (NCRV) and ‘Triviant’ (TROS)
I teach among others:
- Theories of Film (MA Film and Photographic Studies)
- Literature and film
- Film history
- Approaches to Film
- Methodological Concepts in Literature and Art History (ResMa, with Anja Novak)
- Film Narratology (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009) [translation of Handboek filmnarratologie (Nijmegen: Vantilt, 2008)
- Shooting Time: Conversation on Cinematography (Rotterdam: Post Editions, november 2012), co-edited with Richard van Oosterhout and Maarten van Rossem
- Kernthema’s in de filmwetenschap (Amsterdam: Boom, 2009)
- ‘A Cinema of Modernist Poetic Prose: On Antonioni and Malick,’ Image & Narrative 13 (2): pp. 117-132.
- Celluloid echo's: cinema kruist postmodernisme (Nijmegen: Vantilt, 2004)
No relevant ancillary activities