The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T +44 (0)1227 764000
Dr Tamar Jeffers McDonald
- 01227 82(3435)
Hollywood, romantic comedy and American film history are the focus of Tamar Jeffers-McDonald’s teaching and research.
Hollywood, stardom, film genres (including romantic comedy, the costume transformation movie, the Gothic, melodrama and horror) and American film history are the focus of Tamar Jeffers McDonald's teaching and research.
I first studied English at Somerville College, Oxford, before turning to cinema and taking a diploma (Birkbeck), MA (Westminster) and then PhD (Warwick) in film. My thesis at Warwick was on filmic strategies for representing virginity in 1950s Hollywood, considering the emergence of the then-topical figure, the desirous virgin, and contrasting this figure with the sexually experienced Career Woman, often played by Doris Day.
Having taught part-time sessions at Birkbeck and Warwick, I began teaching film full-time in September 2003 at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College. In 2006 I joined the film department at Oxford Brookes and in 2007 arrived at Kent.
Between leaving Oxford and starting at BCUC (now Bucks New University) I worked as Administrator for an architectural charity, and then was Managing Editor for a social science journal, Human Relations, for nearly a decade. This latter job provided me with a useful range of skills transferable to academia, including giving me a very sharp proof-reading eye.
In autumn term 2011 I became Director of Graduate Studies for the School of Arts. This role presents many challenges but also has its rewards, chiefly in that it enables me to meet and encourage a large group of students to consider undertaking postgraduate research, and become involved in their different research projects.back to top
(forthcoming, 2013) Doris Day Confidential: Hollywood Sex and Stardom. London: I B Tauris. ISBN -1848855826.
(forthcoming, 2013) ‘Don’t You Feel Like Cryin’? Romance and Tears in Dirty Dancing’ in Yiannis Tzoumakis and Sian Lloyd, (eds), Dirty Dancing, Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
(2012) ‘The View from the Man Cave’ in Andrew Horton and Joanna Rapf, (eds), The Blackwell Companion to Comedy, Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
(2012) ‘Costume and Film Adaptation’ in Deborah Cartmell (ed.) The Blackwell Companion to Literature, Film and Adaptation. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
(2011) ‘Mad Men and Career Women’ in Scott Stoddart (ed.) Analyzing Mad Men: Critical Essays on the AMC Series, Jefferson, NC: McFarland. ISBN: 978-0-7864-4738-1.
(2010) Hollywood Catwalk: Reading Costume and Transformation in American Film. London: I B Tauris. ISBN: 1-848850409. 256pp.
(2010) ‘Performances of desire and inexperience: Doris Day’s fluctuating filmic virginity’ in Tamar Jeffers McDonald, ed, Virgin Territory: Representing Sexual Innocence in Film. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. ISBN-13: 978-0814333181. 304pp.
(2009) ‘Mother’s Day: Taking the mother out of motherhood in The Thrill of it All'’, in Elaine Roth, Heather Addison, Mary Kate Goodwin-Kelly (eds) Motherhood Misconceived: Representing the Maternal in US Films. New York: State University of New York Press: 29-42. ISBN13: 978-1-4384-2812-3.
(2009) ‘Hommecom: engendering change in American romantic comedy’ in Stacey Abbott and Deborah Jermyn (eds) Falling in Love Again: Romantic Comedy in Contemporary Cinema. London: I. B. Tauris. 146-159. ISBN: 1-845117719.
(2007) Romantic Comedy: Boy meets Girl meets Genre. London: Wallflower Press. ISBN: 1-905674-02-3. 134pp.
(2007) ‘Carrying concealed weapons’: gendered makeover in Calamity Jane. Journal of Popular Film and Television. Winter, Vol 35, 179-186. ISSN: 0195-6051-0195-6051.
(2006) ‘Very little wrist movement’: Rock Hudson acts out sexual heterodoxy. Canadian Journal of Communication, Special Issue on ‘Sex/Sexualities’. Vol 31, 843-860. ISSN: 0705-3657-0705-3657.
(2005) ‘Under All Those Dirndls’: Pillow Talk’s Repackaging of Doris Day, in Rachel Moseley (ed) Fashioning Stars: Dress, Culture, Identity. London: British Film Institute. 50-61. ISBN: 1844570681.back to top
In my work I am always interested in challenging assumptions and questioning tired truisms. My current monograph therefore poses as a central question, amongst others, “Why do we assume Doris Day always plays a virgin?” In previous work (the edited collection Virgin Territory, 2010, and the 2007 Rock Hudson article) I have examined what ‘playing a virgin’ might mean and consist of; now I am turning my attention to how this dominant idea has been circulated, through studying the film fan periodicals which advanced and then froze Day’s stardom.
Currently my main publishing projects are the monograph on Doris Day, and a further monograph re-examining melodrama as a genre. I am also continuing work on the contemporary romantic comedy, costume and performance.
My Doris Day research has benefitted enormously from the researches permitted by an AHRC-funded period of Study Leave, taken in spring 2011 and involving work in the archives of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles, and the Library of Congress.
My previous monograph, Hollywood Catwalk, examined the role of the sartorial transformation in American mainstream film, finding that exactly the same tropes and visual effects had been used to tell the story of the transforming woman – since it is usually a woman who changes –from the beginning of Hollywood until the most recent examples. My interest in the symbolic and narrative functions of costume, as well as its ability to give audience members enormous pleasure, continues to feed into my research and informs my current work on the genres of the Gothic and melodrama.back to top
As a Hollywoodian, all the modules that I teach are in American cinema, and, as a historian, I attempt in all of them to return the films studied to their particular historical and social contexts. Close analysis of individual scenes and moments therefore sits alongside historical contextualization in my seminars. All my current teaching at Kent links to my research interests, ensuring that students are being taught with up-to-date knowledge and real passion in areas that particularly fascinate me.
Previous modules I have taught at Kent include Film Style, and a module looking at the work of Female Performers in Hollywood. In Film Style we worked not only to discuss and analyse the specific aspects of each film being examined (such as performance, camera work, sound, mise-en-scene, costume) but also to put this in its precise time period, so that, for example, Public Enemy was viewed in line with contemporary developments in sound technology and Footlight Parade in the context of the Hays Code. In the performance module we sought to address the performance modes and actions of the female performers studied but also to look at how their performances fitted or clashed with then-contemporary assumptions about appropriate behaviour, goals and desires for women.
Currently courses I am teaching include an undergraduate module on The Gothic in Film, which continues my fascination with specific historical contextualization and combines it by tracing the persistence of tropes and images concerned with the figure of the Woman in Jeopardy, and a Masters module in Film History, which focuses on different genres in order to test and contest theories of and ways of 'doing' Film History through concentrating on the changing perceptions of melodrama.back to top
I am particularly interested in supervising projects in the following areas, stardom, and performance, especially of female actors; film genres, especially romantic comedy, melodrama, horror and the Gothic; representations of sexuality and virginity; film costume.
I am currently supervising PhDs on: representations of Italian-American masculinity in Hollywood films of the 1970s; the Uncanny in film; the Hollywood romantic star couple; the Production Code, film fan magazines and female stars of the 1930s; contemporary horror.back to top