Queen's Film and Media

Film and Media Studies
Film and Media Studies

Frank Burke head shot

I must begin this update of my web bio with crushingly sad news. My dear friend and co-editor, Marguerite Waller, was diagnosed with a serious illness just before Christmas and passed away March 11. She enriched the lives of so many she encountered; her impact on mine was incalculable. Much of what follows was touched by her genius and love. My sorrow is matched only by gratitude for having enjoyed the gift of her presence.

I am a New Yorker by birth, a Canadian by good fortune, and an Italian in my dreams. To nourish the dreams, I have spent a good deal of time in Rome and in Tuscany. My PhD is from the University of Florida in English literature, though I wrote my dissertation on Federico Fellini. From 1972-75, I taught at the University of Kentucky (American literature primarily), where I started a film program within the English department. From 1975-87, I taught at the University of Manitoba (primarily film but some American and genre literature), where I was involved in the development of an Honours program in film. In 1987 I moved to Queen's, where I taught film in relation to postmodernity, ideological criticism, cultural studies, poststructuralist theory, and gender, with a strong emphasis on Italian culture and the interrelationships among Italian film, Hollywood, and American culture.

My research has been devoted to Italian, American, and Italian-American cinema, with a frequent focus on Fellini. I have published five books on Fellini’s films in English and have contributed to Italian volumes on the director. I provided the audio commentary, along with the late Peter Brunette, for the Criterion Collection 2006 DVD (and 2016 Blu-ray) release of Fellini's Amarcord, as well as a solo commentary for Criterion Collection’s 2016 Blu-ray/DVD release of Fellini’s Roma.  I will be doing the commentary for Criterion’s Blu-ray/DVD of Fellini’s Il Bidone, which will be part of a boxed set of Fellini films honouring the centenary (2020) of Fellini’s birth.

With Margie Waller and with Marita Gubareva (free-lance journalist, translator, and editor), I have just published (2020) Wiley Blackwell's A Companion to Federico Fellini. The 575-page volume comprises over 50 contributors covering every aspect of Fellini’s work, cinematic and otherwise. I have just published (2020), with Intellect (UK) and the University of Chicago Press, Fellini’s Films and Commercials: From Postwar to Postmodern (400 pages), an updated version of my book on the director. 

I have been invited to present on Fellini’s Book of Dreams in Rimini (Fellini’s birthplace) and to provide a keynote address for the "Fellini 2020" Conference at the University of Toronto. I will be lecturing on Fellini for TIFF (the Toronto International Film Festival) in conjunction with their full retrospective of his films later this year. I will be presenting the Companion to Federico Fellini and Fellini’s Films at Cinema Ritrovato (the Cineteca di Bologna), at the Palazzo Paolina in Viareggio, at the MAXXI Museum in Rome, and at the Taormina Film Fest—all in June, COVID-19 permitting.

In terms of non-Fellini work, in August 2011, I lectured on Ermanno Olmi's Il Posto and Italian Neorealism at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, Toronto and published several essays on the Italian sword-and-sandal film of the 1950s and 1960s.  My Wiley Blackwell A Companion to Italian Cinema (edited volume, 648 pp.) was published in May 2017 and presented at Harvard in January 2018.

Thanks to Marita Gubareva, she, Amy Hough-Dugdale (Scripps College), and I are in contact with Lora Guerra, the Russian wife of the late Tonino Guerra. 2020 is also the centenary of Guerra’s birth. Guerra was a famed screenwriter for Fellini, Antonioni, Tarkovsky, and others, and a major writer of fiction and poetry—as well as a noted visual artist. He has left an important artistic imprint in both Italy and Russia. With the support of Lora, we  are organizing a special issue on Guerra for the Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies.

In terms of non-scholarly work, from 1996 to 1998 I served as president of the Queen's University Faculty Association, and I contributed to the association in various other capacities before and after. I have been board chairman of a Montessori school and day care dedicated to providing free tuition for children, board vice chair of a neighbourhood housing corporation, and vice president of a community development association.

I have been the single parent of two daughters, now grown and living in Toronto. Tyler is an artist, parent, graphic designer, and author of the recently published children’s books Bill Bowerbird, Where Are You Now?, and (with Random House, US) The Last Loose Tooth. Wylie directed the Gail Appel Institute of the Hincks-Dellcrest Centre (Toronto), dedicated to the advancement of children’s and families’ mental health, and managed the Centre’s transition when it became part of the Hospital for Sick Children. She just completed her MBA at Queen’s University and  is a Talent Management Consultant for the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Ontario.

I am the adoptive parent of a teenage son, Gabe, whose physical stature even as a young child earned him the nickname "Ercolino" or "little Hercules" among my Italian friends. He is now 6'2" and a mountain of muscle: "Ercolone". Once he reached a certain size, he began bequeathing to me the clothes he outgrew. Fortunately, he is very stylish (he is a budding fashion designer); unfortunately, his clothes are now way too large for me. He is among many fine things, a high school football titan.