Jean Walton


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 Bernhard in New Orleans Review, Contemporary Literature, College Literature, and co-editing the Queer Utilities issue of College Literature (1997). 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 in Critical 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).

Walton’s latest book, Dissident Gut: Technologies of Regularity, Politics of Revolt (Edinburgh University Press, 2024) investigates 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 peristaltic 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, 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 new projects 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.

Her literary nonfiction book: Mudflat Dreaming: Waterfront Battles and the Squatters Who Fought Them in 1970s Vancouver (New Star Books, 2018) explores two settlements on Vancouver’s waterfront fringes in the 1970s: Bridgeview, a working-class neighborhood on the south bank of the Fraser river, mired in a decades-long battle with local council for basic amenities, and the Maplewood Mudflats squatters, a counter-cultural village of shacks on stilts raised above the tides on the city’s North Shore. The book traverses the intersecting domains of activist and documentary film, waterfront environmentalism, urban politics, utopian experiments, working class struggle, Canadian Studies, and Pacific Northwest Regional literature.

Walton is co-author with Mary Cappello and James Morrison of Buffalo Trace: A Threefold Vibration (Spuyten Duyvil, 2018). Multi-perspectival, polyphonic, Buffalo Trace is comprised of three long-form essays, reflections on the authors’ queer and intellectual coming-of-age while grad students at SUNY/Buffalo’s Doctoral program in the eighties.

Recent film publications include “Animating Voices, Onscreen and Off, in Kathleen Shannon’s ‘Working Mothers,’” in Vocal Projections: The Voice in Documentary, (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018), “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 (2010).

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).


British and European Modernism; Film and Culture; Gender, Race, Sexuality; Urban Politics; New materialism; Modernity and the body


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

Courses Taught

Film Theory: Movie Manifestos (a survey of political filmmaking); Film Genres: Scenes from the Seventies (American Culture and Cinema of the 1970s); Film Theory; History of Film; Women and Film; Modernism and the Great War; Literary Theory and Criticism; Women Writers and the Great War; Gay and Lesbian Literature; Introduction to Literary Studies.

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: Activist Documentary; Contemporary Critical Theories; Studies in European Texts: Fetishism, Paranoia, Melancholia.