Barry Grant is having a busy year. In the spring, he was honoured for 34 years of teaching, research and overall service with an award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT). A few months later, with adjunct professor Joan Nicks, he celebrated the release of the book Covering Niagara: Studies in Local Popular Culture, a book they co-edited. Then, in the late summer, it was announced that Grant, a professor in Communications, Popular Culture and Film, will be the recipient of Canada's highest academic honour with his election to the Royal Society of Canada (RSC).
A professor with the Faculty of Social Sciences since 1975, Grant is in the Department of Communications, Popular Culture and Film. His main research interest is in cinema, in particular film genres, with a special focus on science fiction, horror and documentary film. Grant also studies New Zealand cinema and popular music.
A native of New York City, Brock has been “a great place for me to teach and do my research,” said Grant. “I believe it is particularly important that people learn to be ‘cineliterate’. Movies, television and other forms of popular culture are typically regarded as ‘entertainment’ not ‘art’, so people often think there is no need to study these cultural forms. I have been committed to learning and teaching about them precisely for this reason.”
Despite a busy teaching schedule, Grant’s research has most recently resulted in four books, including a monograph on the original 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers film, which is considered both science fiction and horror. The book is one of the “Film Classics” series put out by the British Film Institute, and including such other writers as Salman Rushdie and Camille Paglia.
Grant and fellow Brock professor Jeannette Sloniowski are working on a second edition of Documenting the Documentary: Close Readings of Documentary Film, an anthology which has been widely used as a textbook at the undergraduate level. It has been more than a decade since the volume was published, so this new edition will bring the book up to date with new essays on such recent films as Borat.
Shadows of Doubt: Negotiations of Masculinity in American Genre Films, to be published by Wayne State University Press, offers a way of looking at representations of gender, particularly of masculinity, in popular films. Whereas masculinity in popular films is usually seen as a series of crises, Grant has a different approach, in which genre films offer an ongoing dialectic with audiences about evolving models of masculinity. To demonstrate the thesis, the book offers a series of close readings of popular films, from D.W. Griffith’s Broken Blossoms in 1919 to Katherine Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, a war film from 2008.
The CAUT award also honours community work, and Grant’s last project might fall a bit into this category just as much as the research category. He has partnered with Brock professor emeritus Joan Nicks to compile an anthology called Covering Niagara: Studies in Local Popular Culture. The book is a compilation of research arising out of Popular Culture Niagara, a consortium of researchers, including faculty and graduate students, studying the rich and diverse popular culture of the Niagara region. The book is currently in print, with an expected launch this spring.
“I am thrilled to receive this important award, which acknowledges all the dimensions of academic life, and truly humbled to be regarded by my colleagues across Canada as being worthy of receiving it.”
Besides the book, he founded the Brock University Film Series
15 years ago, and was its president and co-programmer with Nicks from 1995 to 2008. Other community work has included hosting the Niagara Indie Film Fest, volunteering with the Elderhostels program at Ridley College and writing a column, In Camera, for the St. Catharines Standard
from 1997 to 2004. He also acts as a consultant to Silicon Knights
, a local video game developer.
Here are a few of the items discussed by Grant in a recent interview with The Brock News:
Q. What interested you about film studies and popular culture? What made you choose it as a career?
A. My doctorate was in 19th century American literature, but even while I was still in graduate school, I grew increasingly interested in the film studies, which at that time was an exciting new discipline taking concepts from literature, theatre, and art history. I had always liked movies, so I became increasingly involved in the academic study of cinema.
Q. What do you enjoy about teaching?
A. Eventually I made the shift from literature to film studies because of the pervasiveness of the visual media in our culture.
Q. What moments stand out for you as being highlights in your career?
A. Rather than highlights, what stands out for me in my career are those ongoing moments when real teaching and learning is going on. These are the most intense and most gratifying moments in anyone’s academic career. In addition, for me, presenting James Cameron and Atom Egoyan with honorary degrees at convocation was a thrill. Also very gratifying was witnessing the gathering support of my leadership from my colleagues when I was president of the Faculty Association during a difficult period in contract negotiations with the University administration.