The Joseph and Elizabeth Robbie Professor of Film, Television, and Theatre
B.A., University of Michigan
M.A., University of Iowa
Ph.D., Yale University
Crafton received the Distinguished Career Achievement Award, the highest honor from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS), in March 2019. He held the first endowed professorship in film studies at the University of Notre Dame. He received his doctorate in History of Art from Yale University in 1977. He taught at Yale and the University of Wisconsin before arriving at Notre Dame in 1997.
As an archives administrator, Crafton was the founding director of the Yale Film Study Center (1982-1986) and directed the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theatre Research (1987-1994). He has been the chairperson of the Department of Film, Television and Theatre and also chaired the Department of Music at Notre Dame. He served in 2012-13 as the interim director of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies.
Emeritus since 2017, Crafton taught a variety of courses in media history, criticism, and theory. His previous research was published in The Talkies: American Cinema’s Transition to Sound, 1926-1931 (1999), an expansive treatment of the cultural and industrial history of this decisive period; Emile Cohl, Caricature, and Film (1990), a monograph on the French cinema pioneer and inventor of animation cinema; and Before Mickey: The Animated Film, 1898-1928 (1982, revised 1993), which was the first survey of animation in the silent cinema.
His most recent book, Shadow of a Mouse: Performance, Belief, and World-Making in Animation (2013), won the SCMS Anne Friedberg Innovative Scholarship Award of Distinction. The committee commented, “This study takes us on a deep and provocative journey through cinematic animation through the concept of ‘animation performativity.’ Blending insights from film theory, film history, and performance studies, Crafton opens up intriguing new perspectives on animation (particularly the 1930s work of the Disney studio) and interrogates issues of audiovisual style, embodiment, affect, politics, and production. Written in probing, thorough, and consistently witty prose, this book will transform the study of animation, and offers substantial theoretical challenges to media studies more broadly.”
Crafton wrote a short play, "Winsor and Gertie," in 2018, which incorporates Winsor McCay's pioneering animated film and vaudeville performance. He was a consultant on the reconstruction of the animation by the Cinémathèque québécoise and the National Film Board of Canada in Montreal. He has written many scholarly articles and contributed chapters to several edited volumes.
Additional awards for his scholarship have come from the Jean Vigo Institute (France) and the International Animation Festival in Zagreb. In 2001, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences named him an inaugural Academy Film Scholar. He has received major fellowships, including two from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He was the 2007 recipient of the University of Notre Dame’s Presidential Award. In 2014-15 he was a Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.