department of english

114 Swan Hall, 60 Upper College Road, Kingston, RI 02881

Main Office: 401.874.5931 - Graduate Office: 401.874.4663

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Jean Walton

  • Professor, Affiliated Professor of Gender and Women's Studies, and Film Media, Undergraduate Advisor
  • British and European Modernism; Film and Culture; Gender, Race, Sexuality, Urban Politics
  • Phone: 401.874.2016, Office: 108 Swan Hall
  • Email:


Jean Walton was trained as a specialist of Modern and Postmodern literature at SUNY/Buffalo, publishing articles in the 80s and 90s on Beckett, Nabokov, and performer Sandra Berhnard in New Orleans Review, Contemporary Literature, College Literature, and other edited volumes. She was also co-editor of the Queer Utilities issue of College Literature. 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 project, whose initial arguments appeared inCritical Inquiry, Discourse, and other edited volumes, culminated in her book Fair Sex, Savage Dreams: Race, Psychoanalysis, Sexual Difference (Duke UP, 2001), a study of racialized assumptions in the work of Joan Riviere, Melanie Klein, poet H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), Marie Bonaparte, and Margaret Mead. She has also published an article on racialized tropes 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 working on a book about visceral subjectivity in the wake of metabolic rift. Set against the backdrop of the nineteenth century split between depleted agricultural fields and polluted urban centers, of human waste gone astray, of the rise of a bourgeois fecal habitus, this book examines three case studies of women whose wayward intestinal systems intervene in larger social, affective, and political networks, and who assert a visceral grammar of desire and resistance. Walton examines psychoanalytic, medical and memoir accounts of these women’s experiences to ask questions about bodily temporality, willed versus autonomic agency, and the gendered politics of modern regularity within larger metabolic social and economic systems. Articles from this project have already been published as “Female Peristalsis” in differences, “Modernity and the Peristaltic Subject” in Neurology and Modernity: a Cultural History of Nervous Systems, 1800-1950, eds. Salisbury and Shail, Palgrave MacMillan, and (in a more popular vein) “The Peristaltic Pleasures of Candy Crush” in Hobo Pancakes.

Her interest in representations of waste and sustainability has led to another project on activist media, the politics of urban development, and fledgling environmental movements in the Canadian West. Her article “Media Activists for Livability: An NFB Experiment in 1970s Vancouver” (Jump Cut, Summer 2012) explores the National Film Board’s “Challenge for Change” program as it sent “social animators” to train residents in a working-class Vancouver neighborhood to use video and other media strategies to ameliorate sub-par housing, lack of services, and the sacrifice of agricultural land and other natural resources to industrial development.

While researching Western Canada in the seventies, Walton also completed Tidelines, a memoir/histoire of figurative and literal “squatters” living on Vancouver’s liminal waterfronts—including her own transient family. Drawing on the intimate voice of her teenage diaries—a precocious mix of wry wit, disputatious logic, and gnawing self-doubt—Walton recounts her family’s transition from Nixon’s America to Trudeau’s Canada, and counterpoints the tale of her father’s alcoholic monologues and her own emerging feminist consciousness with the utopian history of Vancouver’s North Shore squatters on the Maplewood Mudflats.

Walton’s recent film publications include “Animating Voices, Onscreen and Off, in Kathleen Shannon’s ‘Working Mothers,’” Vocal Projections: The Voice in Documentary, Co-editors Maria Pramaggiore and Bella Honess Roe (forthcoming), “Donald Sutherland: the Politics and Erotics of Submission” (in Hollywood Reborn: Movie Stars of the 1970s) and “Thomasina, Thomasina,” a creative nonfiction exploration of a 1960s Disney movie, for Hotel Amerika.

Walton was the recipient of a Fulbright Lectureship to Moscow in 2001; received an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship (ACLS) in 1997-98; and a URI Council for Research Grant to attend the Dartmouth School of Criticism and Theory, Summer 1995. Before joining the faculty at URI, she 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 1; 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; GWS 500: Grad Seminar in Feminist Theory; History and Theory of the Body; Time, Motion and the Body in Cinema; Seminar in Media: Challenge for Change, or, Studies in Activist Documentary; Contemporary Critical Theories: the Subject of Poststructuralism; Studies in European Texts: Fetishism, Paranoia, Melancholia.


British and European Modernism; Film and Culture; Gender, Race, Sexuality, Urban Politics


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

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