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.back to top
Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository
In my work I am always interested in challenging assumptions and questioning tired truisms. One of my recent monographs therefore posed as a central question “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; in this full length work, Doris Day Confidential: Hollywood, Sex and Stardom (2013) I turned my attention to how this dominant idea was been circulated, through studying the film fan periodicals which advanced and then froze Day’s stardom.back to top
As a Hollywoodian, most of 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 two modules looking at the work of Female Performers, one in World Cinema and the other 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 two performance modules 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 my modules include The Gothic in Film, an undergraduate couse that 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. I also teach the Masters module Film History, in which students and I explore various ways to conduct historical investigations of film topics.back to top
In my work I am always interested in challenging assumptions and questioning tired truisms. My latest 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; in Doris Day Confidential I turned my attention to how this dominant idea was initiated and circulated, through studying the film fan periodicals which advanced and then froze Day’s stardom.
The book’s research on movie magazines has further encouraged my fascination with these publications, and I intend to continue working on them on further projects. In 2013 I was involved in an exhibition on these publications at the library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles, which travels to Kent in autumn 2014. It was a privilege to explore the Library’s extensive periodical collection and to select some of its gems for display. I have also presented conference papers on movie magazines and in autumn 2014 established an international network of researchers interested in these publications.
Currently my main publishing projects are a monograph re-examining melodrama, and the advance work on an edited collection on movie magazines.
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 teaching on the genres of the Gothic and melodrama.
I am particularly interested in supervising projects in the following areas: film costume; film genres, especially romantic comedy, melodrama and the Gothic; representations of sexuality and virginity; stardom, and performance, especially of female actors.
Phds I am supervising at the moment include one on representations of Italian-American masculinity in Hollywood films of the 1970s; and another on the Uncanny in film.