Queen's Film and Media

Queen's Film and Media

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Frank Burke head shot

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.

Things have taken an exciting turn recently, but before addressing that I will summarize my research, which has been devoted to Italian, American, and Italian-American cinema, with a frequent focus on Fellini. I have published three 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 2006 dvd (and 2016 blu-ray) release of Fellini's Amarcord, as well as a solo commentary for Criterion’s 2016 blu-ray/dvd release of Fellini’s Roma. In 2008, I lectured on Fellini’s commercials at Berkeley, leading to a 2011 monograph-length study published in Italian and in English. In 2013, I gave a keynote address, “Fellini in Historical Perspective,” at the University of Toronto Conference, “Federico Fellini, disordinato e appassionato genio del cinema italiano,” and in 2015, I delivered a special session on Anglo-American television appropriations of Fellini at the Intersezioni conference in Florence.

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 pseudo-mythological sword-and-sandal film of the 1950s and 1960s. I met with William Friedkin at the 2013 Venice Film Festival, and contributed an essay on the postmodern dimension of his work to the Italian film journal Cabiria—Studi di Cinema, which I represented at the Festival. My Wiley Blackwell Companion to Italian Cinema (edited volume, 648 pp.) was published in May 2017 and presented at Harvard in January 2018, providing the basis for an interview for Harvardiana, posted on La voce di New York.

With Marguerite Waller (University of California, Riverside) and Marita Gubareva (free-lance journalist, translator, and editor) I am editing the Wiley Blackwell Companion to Federico Fellini, to appear in 2019 and link up with the centenary of Fellini’s birth in 2020. This book and the centenary are the source of the exciting turn noted above. With Marguerite, I am involved with the Fondation Fellini in Switzerland and the Comune of Rimini (Fellini’s birthplace) to develop major projects worldwide celebrating Fellini’s creative work, cinematic and otherwise. I am working with cultural partners in Toronto to see that something major happens there, and both the Fondation Fellini and the mayor of Rimini have promised support and involvement. Plans for the various worldwide events include: a retrospective of Fellini’s films; an interactive exhibit of drawings, costumes, and audiovisual materials; a virtual dreamspace of holograms drawn from Fellini’s Book of Dreams; a musical event inspired by Fellini’s work; and a series of roundtable discussions that would accompany and, in a sense, gloss the events around the centenary. It is hoped that the events in Toronto would draw participants from Canadian art and culture, making the events a celebration not only of Fellini but of our national creativity.

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 since. 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 Ontario. Tyler is an artist, parent, graphic designer, and author of the recently published children’s book Bill Bowerbird. She has just received an advance to publish a children’s book with Random House US. Wylie has directed the Gail Appel Institute of the Hincks-Dellcrest Centre, dedicated to the advancement of children’s and families’ mental health. The Institute recently merged with the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and Wylie decided to leave her position and enrol in the Executive MBA Program at Queen’s. 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. Little only briefly, he quickly began bequeathing me the clothes he so quickly outgrew. Fortunately, he is very stylish; unfortunately, his clothes are now too large for me. Tempus fugit. As of the (fleeting) moment he is a high school football titan.