Department of Film, Television, and Media Professor Abel, who has just retired to become Emeritus Professor of International Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Michigan, held here the position of Robert Altman Collegiate Professor of Film Studies from 2002 to 2013 and was Chair of the FTVM Department from 2005 to 2009. 

With more than ten books authored and edited as well as more than one hundred essays, Professor Abel has made foundational contributions to the field of early cinema studies. After completing the definitive books on French national cinema in any language, Professor Abel proceeded to problematize the very idea of national cinema, particularly in relationship to American film culture, and open up our understanding of cinema as mass entertainments in two more volumes—a third one is forthcoming. Methodologically, Professor Abel showed us that some of the answers to our field’s biggest questions were hidden in plain sight in the pages of any number of local newspapers. Richard has applied a similar internationalist and comparative perspective to the several anthologies and reference works that he has edited. His Encyclopedia of Early Cinema (2005; 2010) and, more recently, the encyclopedic, multi-volume reference source, Early Cinema (2013), have no comparison in the world of publishing—either in the US or elsewhere. He has brought together hundreds of authors from all over the world, judiciously edited their various entries and essays, and put these distinct pieces into conversation with one another. These books bridge national film historiographies that are too often separate, making lasting contributions to scholarship in cinema studies as well as related fields.

Professor Abel came to the University of Michigan from Drake University, where he held the post of Ellis and Nelle Levitt Distinguished Professor of English. In addition to receiving Theatre Library Association Awards (2006, 1995, 1985) for three of his books and writing awards from the Society for Cinema Studies (1998, 1985, 1983), he was also awarded multiple fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, from the Guggenheim Foundation, and from the American Council of Learned Societies. His longtime service to the Society (which he served as President from 1987 to 1989) and many contributions to Cinema Journal throughout the past thirty years (both in terms of published articles and longstanding Editorial Board membership) hardly complete a career that has been professionally inspirational in its combination of brilliant scholarship and tireless dedication to the discipline.

The award will be presented in Seattle on March 21st, 2014.

Congratulations, Professor Abel!