Associate Professor, Media & Communications and Film Studies
One of my favorite things about teaching film is that students start to see the artistry behind a medium that’s often viewed as just entertainment. Many students in other majors take Introduction to Film Analysis as an elective, and if I’ve done my job, they will be pausing movies they’re watching with their friends to point out innovative camerawork or editing! They also come away with a sense of the myriad ways that films reflect and comment upon the culture and time period from which they come. In my other courses, which include Film History, African American Cinema and Melodrama, we dive deeper into specific film movements and genres to understand the way the medium has evolved and see why certain films have made big impacts on viewers. Some of my courses contribute to the Africana studies and American studies programs, in keeping with my commitment to study film as an expression of culture as well as an art form.
Research, Scholarship or Creative/Artistic Interests
The vividness and emotional impact of visual storytelling is what first drew me to academic study of film. I wanted to explore how those qualities were used by filmmakers to give voice to marginalized groups or to expose viewers to life experiences and places different than their own. These linked interests led me to specialize in the representation of race and cultural difference in American film and how cultural issues are symbolized by places and geographical relationships like travel. I research and write about both mainstream Hollywood films and lower-budget independent films to see the variation in the stories we watch. My book Cinematic Geographies and Multicultural Spectatorship in America demonstrates the way that iconic American places―Indian Country, the inner city, the South, and the suburbs―were used in popular film of the post-civil rights era to express a growing interest in multiculturalism. It also theorizes the way that cinematic form and narrative offer viewers a sense of travel between on-screen places and of dwelling in place. My other published essays focus on recent urban and suburban films by directors of color and on understanding cinema’s ability to conjure virtual experiences of travel and mapping.