Professor Laurence Edward Simmons

MA (Auckland), PhD (Wellington)


The study of film, television and media studies did not exist as an option when I began my academic career in New Zealand and like many film and media teachers of my generation I migrated from the study and teaching of literature to the teaching of film although I had long been interested in the visual arts. I completed a BA at The University of Auckland with a major in English and Italian and a Masters degree in Italian in 1974. In that year I left for Italy and taught as an ‘assistente esterno’ at the Università degli Studi di Pavia for 3 years. I returned to New Zealand from Italy in 1977 to take up a New Zealand Postdoctoral Scholarship, was appointed as Junior Lecturer in Italian at Victoria University in 1978, and then took up a position as Lecturer in Italian at The University of Auckland in 1980. In the 1980s, I created and taught a number of papers of a cultural studies and interdisciplinary nature: Italy in the 20th Century, Major Themes in Italian Renaissance Culture, Breaking the Frame, Italy on Screen, Popular Italian Culture and in 1996 I took over the Headship of the Italian Department.

In 1992 with another colleague I helped set up a small interdisciplinary Centre in Film, Television and Media Studies at The University of Auckland. This unit grew rapidly and has now become the Department of Film, Television and Media Studies and I moved across to this new Department on a full-time basis in 2005. Film, Television and Media Studies has grown at The University of Auckland on the firm basis that the history and theory and the practice of its various disciplines should constantly inform each other.

I held a visiting fellowship at the Terza Università di Roma in 1998, and, together with a Senior Fulbright Scholarship, visiting fellowships at UC Santa Barbara and SUNY Stony Brook in 2003. In early 2006 I was awarded a Visiting Fellowship at the Humanities Research Centre at ANU, and I took up a three-month fellowship at the Centre for Research into the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Cambridge in May 2006. In 1999 I was responsible for organising the successful visit of French poststructuralist philosopher Jacques Derrida to New Zealand and a conference associated with that event. I organised a visit for March 2001 of media theorist and philosopher Jean Baudrillard and curated an accompanying exhibition of his photographs as well as another international conference associated with this visit. In August 2001 I organized a similar visit of Slovenian psychoanalyst and philosopher Slavoj Zizek and a conference around his work. Three volumes of edited essays have appeared from these visits: Derrida Downunder (2001), Baudrillard West of the Dateline (2003), From Z to A: Zizek at the Antipodes (2004). In 2003 I organised the visits of Professors Germaine Greer and Meaghan Morris to New Zealand, and in 2005 that of the distinguished American cultural theorist Fredric Jameson.

Research | Current

  • Film, television and cultural theory
  • New Zealand cinema

My research and publication interests embrace three different areas: contemporary art and film; Italian Renaissance culture and Italian film; and critical theory (including film, media and television theory) and visual culture. These seemingly divergent fields are connected by my interest in the relationship that exists between textuality and visual images, as well as the by application of contemporary critical theory to literary, film and visual texts. I have published regularly in all three of these areas and where possible I try to ensure that my research develops directly out of or has a symbiotic relationship with courses that I teach at both undergraduate and graduate level.

Important for my academic development is the fact that I have long been drawn to contemporary (European) ideas and forms of critical theory, in particular the work of Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, Gilles Deleuze and Giorgio Agamben. I have consciously tried to find ways of introducing forms of theory into local academic and cultural debate and I believe that there has been a consistent intellectual progression in my work to date from my early writings on art to the engagement with post-structuralist theory in the 1980s and 1990s which has made possible my work in cultural and visual studies and more recently my interest in the role of public intellectuals in contemporary society.

Teaching | Current

COMMS 302 Visual Communication

MEDIA 213 Cinema of Aotearoa New Zealand

MEDIA 313 Cinema of Aotearoa New Zealand

MEDIA 716 Love in / Loving the Cinema

Postgraduate supervision

Emma Kelly, "The Adventures of Jonathan Dennis – A Biographical Study of the Founding Director of the New Zealand Film Archive" (PhD thesis in progress with Annie Goldson).

Cassandra Barnett, "Perception, Politics and Pleasure in Contemporary New Zealand Media" (PhD thesis in progress with Misha Kavka).

Irene Hee-Sung Lee, "Film Adaptation" (PhD thesis in progress with Misha Kavka).

Phoebe Fletcher, "Body Politics: War and Nationalism in the American Splatter Horror" (PhD thesis in progress with Nabeel Zuberi).


  • Associate Dean - Postgraduate
  • Associate Dean - International

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Simmons, L. (2018). Gordon Walters Photographs. Pages: 20.
  • Ghazal, A. M. (2018). Egyptian Cinema and the 2011 Revolution The University of Auckland. ResearchSpace@Auckland.
  • Simmons, L. (2017). Adam Smith’s ‘Impartial Spectator’ and John Webber’s Ship Cove. Third Text, 31 (5-6), 699-714. 10.1080/09528822.2018.1433116
  • Simmons, L. (2016). Reasoning the disaster. Filozofski Vestnik, 37 (2), 213-234.
  • Simmons, L. (2015). Gordon Walters: Gouaches and a painting from the 1950s.
  • Simmons, L. (2015). Erewhon: Filming nowhere. Pacific Journalism Review, 21 (2), 33-43.
  • Simmons, L., & Walters, G. Gordon Walters: gouaches and a painting from the 1950sStarkwhite Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand. 21/9/2015 - 24/10/2015 Related URL.
  • Simmons, L. (2015). Working through images. In P. Shand, L. Simmons (Eds.) Erewhon : Gavin Hipkins (pp. 25-31). Mangere, Auckland: Mangere Arts Centre. Related URL.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Peter Shand


Contact details

Primary office location

HSB - EAST - Bldg 201E
Level 5, Room 515
New Zealand

Web links