Robin Blaetz - Faculty Award for Teaching

Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - 11:45

Posted: February 27, 2008

About her approach to teaching, Robin Blaetz, associate professor and chair of film studies, has this to say: "Each fall I begin by telling my 40 students that as lifelong members of a predominantly visual culture they already know everything that I'm going to tell them over the course of the semester. I then proceed to change most of their notions about the function of the moving image by breaking down and identifying the complex workings that had looked to them so transparent as to be nonexistent. The highest compliment that I receive is that I have ruined movies for them and that their friends will no longer accompany them to the cinema so as to avoid their vociferous critical analysis."

And about Robin, one student has this to say, "Robin said she was from Pittsburgh, but it was hard to imagine her being from anywhere on the planet. She's more like an entity sent to Earth by some strange and magical force!" In fact, she does seem to have come from Pittsburgh. She graduated summa cum laudefrom Ohio University and received both her M.A. and Ph.D. in cinema studies from New York University. She joined Mount Holyoke College in 2001, and has spearheaded the introduction of a Five College major in film studies.

Robin has taught on an uncanny range of topics such as the history of film, horror and science fiction, women and film, the musical film, Soviet cinema, German Expressionism, documentary film, or Bresson-Resnais-Godard. Is there anything left for those craving the passive bliss of entertainment? Not clear. Does it matter? What is clear is that students flock to her classes eager to exchange passive bliss for the true pleasure of learning how to see what it is that one is looking at. She is "fantastic, brilliant, amazing." Another opines, "I think everyone should take a course with her, especially people who know nothing about film and slag it off." She is "overwhelming at times" but always "engaging, participatory and interdisciplinary, infectious." "She carefully ties in history, politics, philosophy, literature, and history, you name it, to provide an elegant and informed context of the films."

Robin's scholarship is widely recognized for her seamless integration of critical social and historical readings of cinema with an expert's eye for the technical aspects of film production and form. This is an approach she has used brilliantly in interpreting American avant-garde and experimental cinema and, in particular, independent women filmmakers. Her two dozen articles, essays, and reviews, some in French and Italian, have appeared in peer-reviewed journals, as chapters in textbooks, and in edited volumes. Her own pathbreaking book Visions of the Maid: Joan of Arc in American Film and Culture explores the ways in which androgyny, virginity, and sacrificial victimhood were evoked in relation to the changing roles of women during war. It was selected as the CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title in 2002. Her recently published anthology Women's Experimental Cinemais hailed as the "definitive volume on U.S. women's experimental cinema [that] fills a significant and long lamented gap within film studies, and in feminist film studies in particular." It promises to reverse the virtual disappearance of women's experimental films from the field of film studies and delicately addresses the irony in which the academic feminist focus on films about women has obscured women's films.

Robin, we don't care where you came from--we are all truly honored to have you with us.

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