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Department of English

Jean Walton

Jean Walton Professor of English, Women's Studies, Film Media, and Comparative Literature

Ph.D. State Univerity of New York, Buffalo
M.A. State University of New York, Buffalo
B.A. Simon Fraser University

Office: 109 Swan Hall
Phone: 401-874-7437 / 9467
E-Mail: shirleyjwalton@gmail.com
Office Hours: TBA, Fall 2014

Jean Walton was trained as a specialist of Modern and Postmodern literature at SUNY/Buffalo, publishing articles through the eighties and early nineties on Beckett, Nabokov, and performer Sandra Bernhard. Her interest in psychoanalysis, feminist film theory, and queer theory led her to interrogate the failure of psychoanalysis to address processes of racialization, even as its central texts rely on tropes of racial "blackness" in order to make arguments about sexual or gender difference. This work culminated in a book-length study of racialized assumptions in Jean Walton book jacketthe work of Joan Riviere, Melanie Klein, poet H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), Marie Bonaparte, and Margaret Mead (Fair Sex, Savage Dreams: Race Psychoanalysis, Sexual Difference (Duke UP, 2001); and an article exploring similar issues in Radclyffe Hall’s lesbian classic, The Well of Loneliness (in Palatable Poison: Critical Perspectives on The Well of Loneliness, Columbia UP, 2001).

Currently, Walton is writing a book about activist media, the politics of land use and urban development, and fledgling environmental and “sustainable development” movements in 1970s Vancouver.  Focusing on two embattled communities on Vancouver’s tidal fringes, “Mudflats Turf Wars” is conceived as a crossover “Memoir/Histoire,” and will include reflections on Walton’s own teen years as an American ex-pat in Canada, as well as an in-depth study of the Canadian National Film Board’s “Challenge for Change” program as it intervened in the municipality where she lived.  The Challenge for Change program was an experimental, state-funded film and video initiative; it sent “social animators” (along the lines of Saul Alinsky) to train citizens across Canada to use media as a tool for addressing inequities in their social and economic milieu, and to play a more active role in the political decision-making process.  In the Vancouver area, this program focused specifically on “Land Use” issues, such as sub-par housing, lack of services, and the sacrifice of agricultural land and other natural resources to industrial development.  It is hoped that this study of a specific time and place will have much to offer to current day digital activists as they confront the land use, environmental, and class issues of today, not only in Canada but the U.S. as well.  

news article imageThe “Mudflats” project, insofar as it focuses in part on the politics of human and industrial “waste,” has affinities with another area of research for Walton: the body and its peristaltic processes.  “Modernity and the Peristaltic Subject” (in Neurology and Modernity: A Cultural History of Nervous Systems, 1800-1950, eds. Salisbury and Shail, Palgrave MacMillan) considers the temporality of the visceral autonomic system, especially as it is susceptible to disciplining structures (such as toilet training and habit clinics).  “Female Peristalsis” (differences) explores how women manage and attach significance to the movement of substances through their bodies, even as their bodies are moved through social, political, domestic, erotic, and ideological systems. Sites of investigation include psychoanalysis, industrial and domestic time and motion studies, and the history of "colonic health.”

Recent film publications include “Donald Sutherland: the Politics and Erotics of Submission” (for Hollywood Reborn: Movie Stars of the 1970s) and “Thomasina, Thomasina,” a creative nonfiction exploration of 1960s Disney movie, for Hotel Amerika.

Walton has published articles on race, psychoanalysis, gender and the body in Critical Inquiry, Discourse,  and various edited volumes; and essays on Beckett and Nabokov in New Orleans Review, Contemporary Literature, and College Literature; She was Co-editor of the Queer Utilities issue of College Literature; She was a recipient of a Fulbright Lectureship to Moscow in 2001; received an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship in 1997-8; and a URI Council for Research Grant to attend The Dartmouth School of Criticism and Theory, Summer 1995. Before joining the faculty at URI, Walton taught at Fordham University in the Bronx (1988-93).

Undergraduate Courses:

Film Theory: Movie Manifestos (a survey of political filmmaking); Film Genres: Scenes from the Seventies (American Culture and Cinema of the 1970s); Film Theory: Fetishism, Paranoia, Melancholia; History of Film: Part I; Women and Film; Modernism and the Great War; Literary Theory and Criticism (emphasis on poststructuralism, psychoanalysis, Foucault and theories of the body); Women Writers and the Great War; Gay and Lesbian Literature; Introduction to Literary Studies.

Graduate Courses:

British Texts after 1900: Neurological Modernity; Modernism and The Great War; History and Theory of the Body; Time, Motion and the Body in Cinema; Contemporary Critical Theories: the Subject of Poststructuralism; Studies in European Texts: Fetishism, Paranoia, Melancholia; Beckett and the Politics of Disembodiment.