Tell us a little bit about your background
I grew up with parents who read voraciously and a grandmother who loved movies. They introduced my sister and I to all kinds of literature and films, many that our peers weren’t allowed to absorb or had never even heard of. I think this gave me the sense that these things were special—that I had access to a world of information not available to others my age. I was particularly interested in spending time with my grandma, a retired teacher who loved Alfred Hitchcock movies and always let me watch them (and other scary movies that my mom disapproved of) with her. We would pick apart Rear Window, The Birds, and many others, commenting on everything from the uses of lighting and music to gender expression to Grace Kelly’s impeccable wardrobe.
My grandmother valued education above almost anything else. When she was still teaching, she wrote a master’s thesis but was told she would be fired for having more education than her male boss if she defended it. So, she didn’t. I think she would have fought harder for her degree, but she was a single mother who needed to support her son. I suppose part of me wanted to finish what she started. I dedicated my master’s thesis to her and, while she died before I could finish my PhD and become a Hitchcock scholar, I know she’d be thrilled. She always said that a good story should make you laugh, cry, or think, and I consider that an important part of my pedagogy.
How do the students at Booth UC inspire you?
Gosh, these students. They’ve gone through so much through the pandemic, and that’s on top of the other more general difficulties that come with being a student. Booth students consistently impress me with their hard work and their care for one another. I taught an article this term that I was sure would be controversial, but my students handled their debates with curiosity and gentleness and really made me feel as though society is going to be okay. I’ve met more brave people in my courses than I imagined I would, and they inspire me to do my best for them.
What topic is particularly exciting for you to teach at Booth UC and why?
I came to Booth eager to teach film studies, which I love, but lately I’ve been loving my Representative Literary Works courses. It’s so exciting to dig into topics and themes in literature and draw connections between past eras and historical contexts and our own. I particularly love showing my students that issues of race, gender, and class have been alive and well for centuries and seeing them identify so strongly with authors they had previously never heard of. Watching them discover the importance of the humanities in their lives is very rewarding.
What gives you inspiration/motivation in your field?
So many things! Lately I’ve been really invested in ideas of spectatorship and biases cinematic audiences have. I love watching movies from the 30s, 40s, and 50s, but it’s been even more fun lately to connect them with contemporary films and see how the ways in which we watch movies change with our politics and senses of identity. I also belong to the Film Studies Association of Canada and the Popular Culture Association, and participating in the conversations that come out of those groups always spurs me on to keep drawing connections and putting my ideas out there.
How does your research and/or teaching help “Education for a Better World”?
Over the past few years, I’ve made decolonizing my syllabus and including marginalized voices an ongoing priority. By introducing students to the voices of people of colour, members of the LGBTQ+ community, disabled people, and others not only shows my students different perspectives on issues often taken for granted, but decenters the white, straight, non-disabled voices that have historically had the floor. Showing my students that those typically seen as marginalized have always written and have always made art demonstrates the inequity in our society and, often, in our pedagogy and hopefully teaches them to seek out different perspectives in whatever they do.
Outside of your work at Booth UC, what are you interested in?
I love to read and watch movies, and I write a quarterly (and usually highly irreverent, but thoughtful) movie review for Geez magazine with my friend Charlie. I’m also part of an intersectional feminist book club that has pledged to read only marginalized authors. Through that, I’ve discovered many great writers, including the fabulous (and Winnipeg’s own) Katherina Vermette, whose new book I’m dying to read. Otherwise, you can generally find me introverting at home with my partner, Aaron, and my cat, Pancakes.