PhD in Cinema & Media Studies

still image from the movie Chomsky vs Chomsky: First Encounter with text overlay
The PhD in Cinema & Media Studies is a dynamic program in which students pursue innovative and interdisciplinary research into the full range of sound and moving image media practices and traditions.

Each year the program selects a small group of 4-5 exceptional students who will join a lively intellectual community at York University, attend innovative research events, and receive close attention from faculty supervisors.

We welcome applicants with educational backgrounds in Film Studies, Media Studies, Communications, Cultural Studies, Art History, English, Women’s Studies, Queer and Sexuality Studies, Comparative Literature, Philosophy, Education, History, Area Studies, and other disciplines that nurture theoretical, historical and critical frameworks of research in sound and moving image media.


Domestic PHD students receive more than $23,000/year along with healthcare benefits and other forms of research support. With York University’s emphasis on access in higher education, our graduate students pay the lowest graduate tuition in Ontario.

In recent years, most Cinema & Media Studies (CMS) PhD students have received additional funding through awards like SSHRC Doctoral Awards ($20K & $35K/year), Elia Scholars Award ($30K/year), GFAD ($20K/year), OGS ($15,000/year), and Susan Crocker and John Hunkin Scholarship in the Fine Arts ($12,500/year), in part due to the Program's emphasis on strong professional development, including grant writing.

Two current CMS PhD students hold Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships ($50K/year), Canada's top award for graduate student academic and leadership excellence, Alison Humphrey and Claudia Sicondolfo.

Utilizing Augmented Reality, Cinema and Media Studies PhD student Lia Tarachansky and Research Chair Dr. Mary Bunch are creating a series of emplacements of ten virtual objects, 3D scanned from the archive of thousands of artifacts of St. John’s Ward, Toronto’s first multicultural neighborhood, and geo-located to the present site. Home to Jewish, Irish, and Chinese refugees and migrant workers, as well as those escaping enslavement in the USA, St. John’s Ward was a vibrant community, demolished to make way for the city’s political, legal, and economic centre. The research-creation project will raise pertinent questions about the unique possibilities of AR technology as an accessible, virtual annotation to space and landscape.

black and white archive photo dated 1916 showing a poor family in Toronto from the Toronto Archives

City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 32, Item 421


Our renowned faculty, who number among Canada’s finest cinema and media studies researchers and practitioners, offer a diverse selection of courses and in-depth mentoring that provide students with a core formation in the critical and interpretive analysis of a broad range of cinema and contemporary media. The PhD in Cinema & Media Studies (CMS) offers three fields of specialization based on faculty research: Cinema and Cultural Theory; National and Transnational Cinema; and Cinema and Technologies of the Image. In addition to these areas of expertise, faculty members pursue wide-ranging research in documentary and experimental film and media; digital media (including augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR); and film history.

John Greyson's International Dawn Chorus Day is a zoom call between birds on six continents -- sharing news and opinions about the 2020 deaths of Egyptian queer activists/artists Shady Habash and Sarah Hagazi. IDCD premiered at the Berlinale in 2021, and is currently on the festival circuit, screening at Hot Docs, Inside/Out, and the AFI Doc Fest.

Many of our faculty pursue interdisciplinary research methodologies, including research creation. Three faculty members are current or former Canada Research Chairs and all of our faculty participate actively in international and Canadian conferences and publications.

Dr. Manfred Becker is working with the studio of Edward Burtynsky on the audio-visual component of a photobook that will feature Ed Burtynsky's images of the European death camps, to be published in 2022 by Steidl, Germany.


Teaching, publication, and professional academic development are key components of this minimum four-year degree. After completing course work and comprehensive exams, students write a research dissertation that makes a decisive intervention in the discipline. Several students incorporate research creation as part of their courses and dissertations.

The PhD prepares students for academic and research careers in cinema and media studies and related fields like cultural and visual studies and communications research. Students’ highly developed historical and contemporary knowledge of cinema and media work is applicable to careers in the arts, entertainment and other media-related research areas.

PhD students benefit from York University’s rich tradition of being at the vanguard of interdisciplinary research, social justice, knowledge mobilization and emerging technology, and directly participate in the many research-intensive initiatives and media labs housed in the School of Arts, Performance, Media and Design (AMPD) and across campus:

York University's Department of Cinema & Media Arts was the film department established in Canada, providing excellent teaching opportunities for our doctoral students. We are situated in the centre of film culture in English Canada. Toronto provides students with exceptional exposure to film screenings (from TIFF Bell Lightbox to numerous repertory cinemas), festivals (more than 100 film festivals occur each year, including the Toronto International Film Festival, Hot Docs, and Images Festival), and resources (research collections, studios, and industry offices).

Recently completed PhD dissertations include:


  • Reşat Fuat Çam, Virtual Reality Aesthetics and Boundaries in New Media Art Practices
  • Clint Enns, The Poetry of Logical Ideas: Towards A Mathematical Genealogy of Media Art
  • Eli Horwatt, "Inventories of Limbo": Post-Minimal Aesthetics in Cinema From the Readymade to Institutional Critique
  • Chase Joynt, Transitioning Publics
  • Lee Knuttila, Trolling Aesthetics: The Lulz as Creative Practice
  • Zoran Maric, In the Name of the People: Yugoslav Cinema and the Fall of the Yugoslav Dream
  • Cameron Moneo, Dissertation in Which There Appear Lost Punchlines, Dreadful Puns, Low Resolution, etc.: On the Failure of Humour in Avant-garde Film and Video
  • Malcolm Morton, Seeing the Spell: Baroque, Decadence, and a Cinema of Digital-Animated Liberation
  • Jessica Mulvogue, Catastrophe Aesthetics: Affective Epistemologies of Climate Change in Experimental Media Art
  • Tamas Nagypal, Film Noir as the Sovereign-Image of Empire: Cynicism, White Male Biopolitics, and the Neoliberal Cinematic Apparatus
  • Birgit Schneidmueller, The Dynamic Story Mosaic: Defining Narrative Strategies in Transmedia Environments
  • Caroline Verner, Smashed Typewriters and Sour Smoke: A Historical Poetics of the Screenplay 

For more information, please contact:
Graduate Program Director Michael Zryd— 

Comment on “PhD in Cinema & Media Studies