When I completed grad school in 2015, I was awarded a Media Studies Award from Oxford Bibliographies (Oxford University Press) for my work in cult cinema.
After nearly three years (because academic publishing moves at a glacial pace), Oxford finally posted my bibliography for cult cinema. Here’s the intro:
Though relatively young in the world of film studies, the research and analysis of cult cinema and cult film culture continues to grow as a robust, interdisciplinary field of scholarship that crosses critical theory, media studies, sociology, psychology and even theology. While some scholars see this scholarly versatility as an advantage for studying cult film, others suggest that it is symptomatic of cult cinema itself, which has no universal definition.
Ernest Mathijs and Xavier Mendik, two of the leading scholars of cult film, suggest that these films are unified by their shared transgression of “common notions of good and bad taste.” Other scholars and historians, such as Umberto Eco, suggest that that for a film to earn cult status, it must merely have “some archetypal appeal.” For even others, such as Bruce Kawin, cult films are best understood as generic subcategories, subdivided into broad “programmatic” and “inadvertent” categories. Under this rubric, cult films on one end of the spectrum are deeply exploitative or blasphemous, while others are experimental, reverent, or just plan “bad”—or, colloquially, “so bad it’s good.”
By fundamentally defying simple categorization or consensus, cult film studies are equally as diverse and often conflicted. Similar to how the appeal of cult cinema is the result of a sophisticated and well-read media diet, affective scholarship of the field must be similarly liberal, requiring a deep background ranging from classical film and media studies to philosophy and theology and, ultimately, industry and economics. This bibliography should serve as a broad entry point to the field, representing scholarship that either directly or tangentially complements an understanding of cult movements and countercultural media while remaining applicable to an even broader range of cultural research, criticism, and conversation.