Queen's Film and Media

Film and Media Studies
Film and Media Studies

Frank Burke picture


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 current interests embrace the writings of Alfred North Whitehead, Isabelle Stengers, Steven Shaviro, Rosi Braidotti, Gilles Deleuze, and Félix Guattari—all in the context of reimagining our relation to our world and environment.

My research till now 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 the Criterion Collection’s 2016 Blu-ray/DVD release of Fellini’s Roma and for Criterion’s Blu-ray/DVD of Fellini’s Il Bidone. All three are part of Criterion's exquisite boxed set honouring the centenary (2020) of Fellini’s birth.

With the late feminist film scholar Marguerite Waller and with the journalist, translator, and editor Marita Gubareva, I have just published 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 also 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 1996 book on the director. 

COVID-19 forced the cancellation or postponement of numerous 2020 book presentations in Italy, but I was still able to present the Companion for a webinar hosted by the Italian Cultural Institute in Los Angeles, in conjunction with UCLA and USC, as well as (virtually) at the Cinema Ritrovato Festival in Bologna. I provided a keynote address for the “Fellini 2020” Conference at the University of Toronto and have created a 50-minute “masterclass” on Fellini for the Italian Ministry of External Affairs and the Region of Emilia-Romagna.

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. I have written on Dario Argento, Michelangelo Antonioni, Lina Wertmüller, Mario Camerini, Roberto Rossellini, William Friedkin, Sam Peckinpah, Michael Cimino, horror cinema, experimental cinema, and Canadian cinema.

I am currently organizing, with Amy Hough-Dugdale, a special issue on Tonino Guerra for the Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies. Guerra was an esteemed screenwriter for, among others, Antonioni, Fellini, and Andrei Tarkovsky, as well as a noted poet, novelist, visual artist, and environmentalist. I am also editing a special section of the journal Italica on Fellini.

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, Etsy entrepreneur 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 recently 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, Gabriel, 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; unfortunately, his clothes are now way too large for me. On the other hand, he is a brilliant fashion designer and his creations are helping do a major dad makeover. He is also a high school football titan who has been offered a scholarship to play university ball at Wilfred Laurier University.