Judith Buchanan

Profile

Biography

Judith Buchanan had an academic background in Early Modern literature before retooling as a film specialist. She broke off in the midst of her Oxford doctoral studies to go to the US on a Fulbright to study film and make films in New York, in the process turning a private passion into her central academic interest. After returning to complete her Oxford doctorate she then held a Junior and subsequently a Senior Research Fellowship at Worcester College, Oxford and taught film in the English Faculty of the University of Oxford.

When, in 2000, the English Department at York expanded its areas of cultural enquiry to include film, she was delighted to come to York to be part of shaping the new enterprise. Since her work often straddles questions of both literary and filmic production and reception, she finds it an ongoing pleasure to teach and research film within a literary arena. She enjoys finding points of easy and organic relation between ways of theorising these two vibrant modes of cultural expression while equally valuing the precision of allowing film studies its own intellectual space as a separate discipline marked by its own histories, codes and conventions. These interests sit at the heart of the Film and Literature MA she launched to promote ways of thinking about these two influential media in engagement with each other (through adaptation, imitation, dialogue, exchange, resistance).

Through her research and through the work of her project ‘Silents Now’, Judith works to make silent cinema both publicly accessible (through DVD releases and public screenings) and critically current (through scholarly research and publication). She works regularly with composers, musicians and actors to mount public screenings of rare archival film prints from the silent era in arts cinemas and other venues in the UK and abroad, including at the National Film Theatre, York Theatre Royal, at the invitation of the American Film Institute and in the ruins of Middleham Castle.  In recent years she has given invited papers overseas at the Universities of Notre Dame (US), Bern (Switzerland), Agder (Norway), Berlin’s Deutsches Historisches Museum (Germany), Lausanne (Switzerland), Cologne (Germany), Beijing (China) and Xianning (China), and invited lectures in the UK in Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Exeter, Lancaster, Kent, KCL, UCL and St. Andrews. She has been the grateful recipient of British Academy, AHRC and Erasmus research funding, of a Fulbright scholarship and of visiting fellowships at the Folger Library, Washington DC and the University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

She is currently Director of the Humanities Research Centre at the University of York, which coordinates, promotes and gives common identity to the interdisciplinary research life of the University’s eight Arts and Humanities departments and many humanities-based interdisciplinary centres.

Research

Overview

Research interests range across Shakespeare performance histories and British and American cinema. These include:

  • Shakespeare in performance (stage and screen) from the C19th to the present.
  • Shakespeare across media (in film, fine art, ballet and across other literary, artistic and performative cultural forms).
  • silent cinema and its relations to the other arts (literature, theatre (legitimate and popular), fine art, music etc).
  • the meaning of an actor on screen - the relationship between actor and role: extra-cinematic identity and screen persona pitted against the local specifics of character and story.
  • the representation of women on screen (in particular, but not exclusively, in the silent era).
  • the pre-history of cinema (nineteenth century optical toys and visual amusements, theatrical contexts, music-hall/variety repertoires, the Magic Lantern etc).
  • the transmission of narratives across media and moment including the self-renewing life of core cultural myths and fairytales in film and literature.
  • the body on screen, and cinematic disruptions to the integrity of the body on screen.
  • cinematic exhibition contexts of the early cinema period, including the role of the ‘lecturer’ at moving picture shows.
  • cinema’s material legacies (programmes, commercial tie-ins, memorabilia etc).
  • transmedial configurations (literary processes as configured in the cinema; cinematic processes as configured in literature; fine art as configured in cinema etc).
  • literary adaptation in the cinema (from 'high cultural' or 'pop cultural' origins, theoretical considerations, case-studies).
  • points of collaboration and cross-fertilisation between the cinema and the stage (adaptation, borrowing, imitation and response in both directions).
  • The Bible in performance (stage and screen) from the C19th to the present.
  • questions of authorship in the cinema (and in other artistic and commercial media) as individually/collaboratively/institutionally inscribed in a body of work: how theorised, mythicised and marketed.

Current projects

Current projects include:

  • Staging the Frank Benson 1910 film of Richard III in the ruins of Middleham Castle, voiced by a cast of 10 professional actors and accompanied by live music
  • Research for a book on wordless Shakespeare
  • Research for a paper on fine art and early cinema
  • Research for a paper on nonsense and early cinema
  • Research for a paper on Shakespeare’s Romances on film

Supervision

Judith warmly welcomes enquiries from potential research students. Students interested in studying any aspect of Shakespearean performance (historical or contemporary, in theatre, film or other media), or any aspect of film history, theory or criticism that connects with her own research interests - in particular in relation to silent cinema, the cultural transmission of stories across medium and moment, and/or cinema's vibrant relations with other modes of cultural expression - should email her for a preliminary, informal discussion at: judith.buchanan@york.ac.uk.

Current PhD students working with Judith are studying Charlie Chaplin, the medicalised body in early cinema, Magic Lantern cultures in Britain, and transvestism in the cinema.

Judith Buchanan: (c) John Houlihan

Contact details

Prof. Judith Buchanan
Department of English and Related Literature
University of York
Heslington
York
Y010 5DD

Tel: 44 1904 323337